Parables of Jesus: Unrighteous Steward
What do you call a hippies wife?
Last week y’all got to hear from my friend Mark Nelson from the Weatherford Baptist Student Union. I heard he did a wonderful job teaching the parable of the prodigal son.
Today we are going to look at the parable to the unrighteous steward. This is probably one of the most difficult of Jesus’ parables. The problem is that Jesus uses a negative example to share a positive lesson. One commentator put it this way. Jesus teaches a good lesson from a bad example.
Let’s pray and ask God to speak to us from His word and teach us what He wants us to learn this morning.
Jesus begins by telling His disciples about a rich man who had a manager who was reported for squandering his possessions.
Before we get too far into this parable I want to ask if anyone here has ever had a bad boss?
I know I have. And I have learned some of the best lessons from the worst bosses. I learned how not to treat people, how not to run a business as well as several others.
This is how Jesus uses the parable we are studying today.
What is a steward?
Steward is someone who is charged with taking care of someone else’s possessions.
This man was likely not a slave, but a free man who was given an opportunity to serve this rich man.
Why was he unrighteous?
He squandered his master’s possessions
There were no annual audits required so someone must have noticed something was awry and went to the rich man and told him to check it out.
He may have embezzled
He may have lived extravagantly
He may have been irresponsible
He was lazy – he reasoned that he wasn’t strong enough to dig
Likely he was accustomed to working a white collar job, he didn’t want to work hard with his hands. I think he was unwilling, not unable.
He also didn’t want to beg in order to survive. He would likely have to beg from some of the same people he was responsible for managing the debt owed to his master. That would have been incredibly awkward.
All Stewards will be Called to Give an Account
This unrighteous steward was called out for not using the resources he was entrusted with properly. Here is the lesson Jesus was teaching His disciples – God has given us our life, our time, our finances, it all belongs to Him. Every second, every breath, every penny belongs to Him.
What are we doing with His resources?
Are we using them for His glory or ours?
At the end of our life we will all give an account of how we lived.
Those who have trusted in Christ for salvation and received His forgiveness of sin by the grace of God will enter into His presence and then we will be judged for what we have done with our life, time and finances. God will reward us with jewels in our crowns that we will in turn cast at the feet of Jesus.
At the end of our lives, we are looking for Jesus to say to us, well done my good and faithful servant!
Those who have rejected Christ will be judged by their works and will come up short. Rather than entering into the presence of God, they will be eternally separated from Him. The Bible tells us that there is simply no other way to God except through the Son.
There is no other name on heaven or earth by which men are saved, only the name of Jesus!!
A Good Lesson from a Bad Example
The unrighteous steward chose to prepare for his future.
Jesus says the steward summoned every one of his master’s debtors and asked them how much was owed.
With each one he reduced the debt down by a significant amount.
Take the first example, he owed 100 measures of oil.
One measure of oil was about 8-9 gallons.
That would make the total owed between 800-900 gallons of oil.
That would have taken around 150 olive trees to create that much oil.
Estimated value was around 1000 denarii which is approximately 3 years wages for a laborer! And the unrighteous steward cut that bill in half!
The second debtor owed 100 measures of wheat.
One measure of wheat was around 11 bushels.
That would take a field of 100 acres to get that much wheat.
Estimated value would have been between 2500 and 3000 denarii.
And the unrighteous steward cut it by 20%.
Think about this, this steward is about to lose his position and he isn’t strong enough to dig and is too proud to beg so he uses his resources and does a favor for the ones who owe his master a lot of money.
Think how grateful they would be for his act of generosity.
Think how upset the rich man must have been when he found out he was scammed out of thousands of dollars!
Notice how the unrighteous steward uses his position to prepare for his own future.
Reciprocation was a huge part of the Jewish culture.
If someone did you a favor, you were obligated to return the favor.
He knew that if he reduced the debt of these families, he would never lack for a place to stay. They will welcome him into their homes. It’s a bad example, but a good lesson.
Jesus is teaching His disciples to think about the eternal future.
The lesson is to use the earthly resources to store up treasures in heaven.
Shrewd Manager Praised
The master didn’t praise his dishonesty, but his zeal for working hard.
The Greek word translated shrewdly means common sense, practical intelligence, being prudent.
In the Greek translation of the OT in Genesis 3:1 the serpent is described with this word, also translated crafty. This carries a negative connotation with it.
This manager definitely acted in a self serving way, however oftentimes this word shrewd is used with a positive connotation as in prudence. That is the point that Jesus is making in this parable.
Believers should use their prudence to make wise decisions with the resources God is given them. They shouldn’t be greedy or selfish with them, but think of ways to use them for God’s glory.
Let’s check out the rest of the passage.
I have to admit that I struggled with v.9.
What does Jesus mean by make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness?
The wealth of unrighteousness is referring to money. It’s the dollars that we use while on earth that the rest of the world uses.
They use it for their own good and to fulfill the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Jesus is saying that believers can use the money of this world to make friends for the future in heaven.
That means we spend it on things with eternal significance
Missions, evangelism, outreach.
It means using the world’s resources to reach others for Christ so that we will have friends who will also dwell with us with Jesus in eternity.
The highlight of the text is found in v.10.
Many people believe that they just need to pray for God to bless them with greater wealth. Some also argue that they will tithe when they have more to give.
That is contrary to the Scriptures.
Jesus teaches that we must be faithful with a little before we will be entrusted with more.
If you aren’t tithing on what you make now, what makes you think you will tithe when you make more?
If you aren’t generous with your resources, having more won’t change that. If you are generous with little, God is able to trust you with it and He may bless you with more. The motivation has to be generosity, not greed though. God can tell the difference.
We are to be content with what we have and be thankful for it.
Finally, Jesus ends with a statement about a servant cannot serve two masters. It’s impossible. We can have both God and money, but we can’t serve both. You can only have one master.
Have you been a faithful steward?
What will Jesus say to you when you see Him face to face?
Well done my good and faithful servant
Or depart from me I never knew you.
How are you using the Time, Talents, Resources God has blessed you with?
Remember, you spend your time and money on what is important to you.