The parable of the unjust steward in Luke 16:1-13 is one of Jesus’ most controversial and confusing teachings because it seems like He commanded the steward’s dishonesty, right? Wrong. The master did, but Jesus called him dishonest (Luke 16:8).
If Jesus wasn’t commending the steward, what was He doing? Jesus was contrasting two groups—unbelievers and believers. He was saying unbelievers do some things better than believers. The rest of Luke 16:8 makes this clear: “The sons of this world [unbelievers] are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light [believers]” (ESV). Let’s consider those four things.
First, the Steward Took Seriously that He Would Give an Account
The steward learned he was going to have to stand before his master and “give an account of his management,” or stewardship, and he took that seriously. Some unbelievers take more seriously than they’ll stand before an earthly, human master—whether a boss or employer—and give an account than believers take seriously that they’ll stand before their Master, the God of heaven and earth, and give an account.
Second, the Steward prepared for the future, but He is telling us to learn from his planning and foresight. The steward said, “When I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.” He used his present circumstances to prepare the best future for himself.
It’s sad when unbelievers prepare for their temporary futures better than believers prepare for their eternal futures. How tragic is it when unbelievers work harder for their earthly lives than believers work for their heavenly lives?
Third, the Steward Knew He Had a Narrow Window of Time to Use His Master’s Resources
The steward learned he had a little time before he would lose his job, and he took advantage of this window. We too have a narrow window of time. Our lives are short (Job 7:7, Psalm 102:3, 144:4, James 4:14). We should use the little time we have before “losing our jobs,” which is to say before our lives come to an end. As Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). We must take advantage of the narrow window we have.
The steward used what he had at his disposal, which happened to be the resources the master entrusted to him. Similarly, what do we have at our disposal? Because we’re stewards, we have the resources the Master has entrusted to us. Not only our finances, but also our time, relationships, possessions, money, talents, abilities, and gifts. Are we using these resources to
Fourth, the Steward Worked Hard
Think of how hard unbelievers work to make money and get ahead. All the overtime—early mornings, late evenings, and 60-, 70-, even 80-hour workweeks. All the sacrifices—sleep, relationships, health, enjoyment, pleasure, and hobbies. Jesus’ point can be summarized this way: What if Christians worked as hard for God’s kingdom as unbelievers work for their earthly kingdom?
We should ask ourselves: How much effort do we invest in our relationship with Christ? We go to church on Sunday, but what about Monday through Saturday? How much time do we spend serving Him? What have we sacrificed for the Lord, such as enjoyment, pleasure, or hobbies? Are there early mornings or late evenings we’ve given Him in prayer and Bible reading?