Commending A Crook – Luke 16

Jesus often taught earthly stories with heavenly meanings, called parables. And usually the stories He told were clear in meaning. But the parable of the “Unjust Steward” upon first glance appears to find the Lord commending a crook. For in it we find Jesus seemingly condoning the dishonesty of an unrighteous manger. Yet in truth, Jesus uses the story to teach the importance of caring about our futures. And to warn against the worship of wealth above God.

The story begins with a wealthy man who hires a steward to manage his finances. When accusations arise against the steward, the wealthy man fires him, asking for a final account of his records. Panicked because his hands are too soft for physical labor and his pride too big to beg, the steward concocts a plan. A way to secure his future so that when he is, “removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.” (vs. 4) He calls together those who owe the rich man money. And after asking what each one owed, he made new, fraudulent bills reducing the amount due.

So what does the wealthy man do when he discovers he’s been cheated? He gives the “unrighteousness steward” a pat on the back for being so clever. To which Jesus follows with, “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.”(vs. 9) Wait…what? Did Jesus just say that we are to model the behavior of a thief? Well…yes and no.

We know of course that Jesus isn’t telling us to emulate the dishonesty of the steward. But He is telling us to practice the shrewdness of the steward in providing for the future. “The sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.” (vs. 8). As wicked as he was, the steward knowing he was going to have to give an account to his master, was shrewd enough to first secure his future. Jesus instructs us to do the same.

Romans 14:12 reminds us that one day, “each of us will give an account of himself to God.” And before that day comes, unlike the steward who set his sights on wealth for earthly gain, we as Christians need to be setting our sights on wealth for heavenly gain. Storing up for ourselves, “treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matt. 6:20)

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (vs. 13) Each of us are God’s stewards. And the wealth He blesses us with, whether it be in the form of money, the ability to teach, a tender heart, or a giving spirit, He expects us to be faithful in managing for the glory of His kingdom. Righteously serving God with our riches, also keeps wealth from taking God’s place in our hearts and leading us  into trouble. For as 1 Timothy 6:10 warns, “the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

So until the day when we stand before God, may we each, as the Lord’s just stewards, joyfully and faithfully continue to go about the Master’s business. And my we remember, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Col. 3:23-24)

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