The Parable of the Dishonest Manager Luke 16:1-13

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Puritan Board Sophomore
I read Luke 16 before but I suppose I never gave it much thought until now. What does it mean? I have checked out a few commentaries but they don't seem to really explain it well in my opinion.

I struggle with the following two statements:
1. Luk 16:8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.
2. Luk 16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

It seems like he is comparing and contrasting the principles of the world to the principles of the kingdom of God. Curious to know how others have interpreted this passage.

Also, what is your favorite commentary on Luke?


Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
I think the point is that unbelievers are very good and diligent and doing the work of Satan. If only Christians were half as diligent at doing the work of God.


Puritan Board Junior
Unbelievers are perfectly loyal to their master, sin; they obey quickly, joyfully, without question, and craftily. It's insanity to be so devoted to wickedness, and shameful to be so crafty in it, yet they are devoted and crafty.

We're not nearly so sensible with our spiritual privileges, so it would be a good thing for us to learn to love and serve God with as much dedication and fervency as the wicked serve their idols. Be as great of worshippers as they are idolaters.

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I remember reading a sermon by Justo Gonzalez on this passage -- he said something like (if not verbatim): 'We've all been fired'. Basically his take was that the change of order is key to understanding the parable. Our stewardship here is ending.
The unjust steward used his terminating situation and its material resources (albeit dishonestly) with a goal of being received into other houses.
If only the children of light would be as shrewd in their goals with material resources; as conscious of how quickly this stewardship is coming to an end; and anxious to use it in order to be received into an *eternal* home.

-- perhaps more simply, around that key of all being fired, the parable seems to turn on a contrast of what is unjust and what is righteous:
In the parable, the steward is unjust, using equitable arrangements to be received into temporal homes.
In application to us, the whole arrangement is unjust. A righteous steward should be able to use it in light of its impermanence to be received into an eternal home.

A note that I'd like to understand more about the 'unrighteous mammon' bit. I've often thought that our whole economic system -- including the groceries I buy etc. -- is probably compromised by injustice, unfair wages, etc. But it's impossible to live in the world, to buy and sell, and not be part of that oppression of people somewhere. I wonder if it relates to all of that.

edit -- maybe one of the implications of the 'unrighteous mammon' bit is that the world is broken in ways we can't fix, no matter how wisely we use our stewardship. The unjust steward employed his stewardship 'mercifully' after he was fired. Perhaps that points to how merciful we should be with our resources, in our awareness of eternity's impinging. But precisely in that awareness -- we aren't discouraged. It's a given that our efforts will not establish righteousness or make the broken system whole. The establishment of righteousness will be a gift of God's mercy.
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a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I had a further question, if it's okay to add it to this thread instead of forming another. Does this parable link up to the just preceding one of the Prodigal Son (a child and heir, who ‘wasted’ [same word] his substance in prodigal living, and wound up enslaved). What is in view in our stewardship in 16:8-12 is not 'true riches' -- in some sense, it's squalor -- it's not even properly our own. Maybe the first part of being 'shrewd' and faithful is evaluating what is and isn't our real inheritance. Otherwise we wind up mastered by what we should be stewards of?

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
I would say the point is that our time here is short. We should be strategic with what little time we have left here, desperate even, doing all we can to spend our money and our time and other opportunities we have in this world on things that will last beyond our short time here and into the next life.

Don't get hung up on the fact that the guy we are to emulate is dishonest. That is not the key point. Rather, like him, we temporarily possess worldly things that typically come by worldly means and get used for worldly purposes. But our eyes should be on the life to come. We should consider how these worldly things ("unrighteous wealth") might be used for more lasting purposes.

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
The way evil fits in is not so much that we should be like the manager in his evil (clearly, we should not), nor even that we should be better and avoid his evil. The dishonesty and evil is more a general a reflection of the world and the times we find ourselves in. The application comes close to Ephesians 5:16, "make the best use of the time, because the days are evil."
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