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The Parable of the Dishonest Manager

Rev. Michael Calvert, Ph.D., August 18, 2019
Part of the The Parables of Jesus series.

Not all of the parables of Jesus are easy to understand or apply. Some are readily interpreted and applied because Jesus Himself gives us the meaning. For example, the parable of the sower recorded in Matthew 13 is immediately explained by Jesus such that there is little doubt about its meaning. And other parables of our Lord are so very simple that no explanation is even needed. This would apply to the parable of the mustard seed (also in Matthew 13), and the parable of the lamp (Luke 8).

But then, there are some parables that are deeply mysterious, seemingly obscure, and even confusing to us. Such is the case with the parable that we will examine this coming Lord’s Day.

In Luke 16 we find what has been called the most perplexing of Jesus’ parables, the parable of the dishonest manager (16:1-9). Some even find this parable to be embarrassing for Christians, since it appears that Jesus endorses dishonesty (see v. 9).

The parable itself is actually quite entertaining, for in it we meet a man who has to think very quickly on his feet in order to get out of a big jam. According to Jesus, he demonstrates the quality of shrewdness, a character trait that, oddly enough, should be found in all disciples (vv. 8-9).

Despite the apparent difficulties with this story, it is nonetheless aimed primarily at Jesus’ disciples (16:1), and, therefore, it has much to teach us as well. It will be a rich blessing, if not a challenge, to explore this parable together on Sunday!

Luke 16:1-13

1And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. 2And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. 3Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. 4I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 5So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 6And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. 8And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. 9And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. 10He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? 13No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (KJV)