A parable from Jesus
“And 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. And 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. Then 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. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then 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. And 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. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. He 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. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? No 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.” (Lk. 16:1-13).
At first appearance this parable presents some inconsistencies. Is it right to cheat an employer? Then why did Jesus say that the employer commended the “unjust” steward? Why did He say the manager had done wisely through further mismanagement, yet end the parable with the condemnation against greed and the love of money?
Is Jesus a traitor to righteousness? Was He wishy-washy, a pleaser of whatever audience was before Him?
In reality, the Jesus who spoke this parable is the same one who upset so many paradigms of the day. And His words still overturn many apple carts. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Heb 13:8). His discernment was deeper than Solomon’s; He was filled with the Spirit of wisdom without measure. (Is. 11:1-9).
So what was He saying in this parable? I think we need to zero in on a few key verses to catch Jesus’ real thrust.
“The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” Who are the “children of light”? The Jews professed to be this. “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.” (Rom 2:17-20).
The Jews boasted in their light. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Is. 8:20). “Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (Jn. 9:41). They were blind to truth but thought they were seeing it. They thought they had great light, and they did in their holy oracles, but that light had not migrated into their hearts. They had a mixture of light and darkness; truth with error were indistinguishable; good was evil and evil was good. They had hot and cold mixed together, their light and dark were both alike, grey.
Here lies the favorite condition into which Satan loves to bring the children of God. Coax them away from pure righteousness. If he can’t persuade them into hedonism, start mixing error into their understanding of God; disconnect them from true loyalty and commitment to His Law and will; break their love to Him and keep them from a breaking of their heart and from simple conversion. Without conversion they will fall deeper and deeper into error, all the while believing they have the fullness of truth.
But without a total choice one way or the other, to purity or toward carnal perversity, a confusion results, so that the children of complete darkness can think clearer in the ways of evil, and thus are wiser than the children of professed light.
So we see that when Jesus was speaking about the unjust steward and compared him to the children of light, He was speaking of the Jews in their duty to serve the world, and in particular, the religious leaders of the nation, whose duty was to exemplify that service to a world in darkness.
Jesus didn’t call the Jews “professed” children of light; nor did He lump them in with the children of darkness. He wasn’t sarcastic by naming them children of light; but rather He was being gracious in His undeserved respect toward them. He was also being discrete in this way; He saw no need to bring on premature persecution upon His disciples and on followers from afar.
He also used the phrase “children of light” metaphorically, in a general sense. They had been the children of light, as a nation, to keep the truth of God in the world. “For salvation is of the Jews.” (Jn. 4:22). For a few more years this was the truth. But the end of their probation was closing in on them quickly.
Another part of the parable gives key light on deciphering its meaning. “And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” (Vs. 9). This refers back to the way the unjust steward connived his way to swing from one position of prestige to another. “I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.” (Vs. 4). When Jesus came preaching the pure, stinging truth, and the religious leaders were exposed in their pretentious falsehoods. Throughout their lives and during His public ministry, they had had multitudinous opportunities to confess their errors and mistakes, to humble themselves before the Lord and fall from the prestige of the people. Their fall would have been only temporary for the humble of the nation, although it would have resulted in perpetual rejection by the proud majority. The high privilege of joining those who “dig” and “beg” was theirs, allowing the Lord to lift them up in due season. But they had not learned to trust God; through their lives they had lived apart from Him and true piety that would have led them to Him. One chance after another they took for granted and treated despitefully the Spirit of grace. Like King Saul, they never cultivated the spiritual life, and now when the big test came, they were wholly unprepared for it.
The religious leaders, the rabbis, priests, Levites, Pharisees, were not serving God; they served man, their only purpose in life was to keep up their reputation before the people. Politics, not spirituality, was the source of their motivation. Thy might as well have been priests of Baal. What was the difference? Baal worship resulted from the same decline in spirituality and rise in rebellion during the days following Noah and Shem. The two religions, Judaism and Baal worship, were identical, only separated by two thousand years. Both were fakes of the true worship of God. Both profess the truth. But neither succeeded in attaining the peace from a knowledge of God’s true character, and the power to become the sons of God.
From the beginning, the problem God has had to deal with in those who desire to be His followers is the human tendency to allow others things to compete with His love. This is basic idolatry. Ancient idolatry is alive and well in the modern world, even in the sophisticated world of the developed nations; even in Protestant America; and even in the evangelical Protestant churches.
Once idolatry has dissolved and weakened the soul of the church toward convicting truth, its relation to God’s love becomes only sentimental. Spurious, empty, and superficial, the church becomes enamored with love, though having lost hold on what true love is. The unwillingness to admit the truth in their hearts keeps them in proud sanctimoniousness, imitating true religion, going through the motions, living an empty, purposeless life without God. Yet, they love to look good; they love to seem moral; they live or die around their reputations.
Their religion of one of show. They walk around, “mincing as they go,” like they are modeling the finest clothing. (Is. 3:16). But the truth is that all their “righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (Is. 64:6). They cluster together in their temples, “measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves.” (2Cor. 10:12).
Yet they love to look moral. It gives them some sense of being to link their name with the holy God. “Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.” (Is. 58:2). There is no worse apostasy than pharisaical apostasy. There is no more painful slap in God’s face. This is Satan’s ultimate insult to the Father. “And He said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.” (Lk. 16:15).
They prayed the best prayers. They mouthed the most pious sayings. “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men” (Is. 29:13).
What to do with the religious rebel? God had already sent His prophets to “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” (Is. 58:2). He had already punished them in a Babylonian captivity. Yet He would reason with them and still give them one more chance! He would come personally, in the flesh, and talk to them as He had done with Abraham. Some heard Him gladly; but, the mainstream still would not bow their pride to the truth. They were beyond reason. “For thus saith the LORD, Thy bruise is incurable.” (Jer. 30:12).
God’s solution to the deceived hearts: Hand them over to Satan. “Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” (Isa 29:14). Long had they been warned, “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.” (Is. 6:9-12).
The Lord gave them over to a reprobate mind. Yet, He did this only partially, with the caveat that at any time they would return to Him and avoid the weeping in their hearts, the gnashing of teeth, and the pain in the pits of their stomachs, He was more than ready to take them back again, humbled. Like He had done to Nebuchadnezzar for 7years, they could come out from under His wrath—His rejection and His separation from them—and be converted like the Babylonian king had been. That no flesh should glory in God’s presence.
So the rich Man in the parable commended the unfaithful servant. He would rather have the servant showing his true colors, and depart into the blackness of Satan’s oblivion, than continue in superficial service and deception. The Jewish religious leaders made the right choice by throwing their loyalty completely on the devil’s side. Their decision cleared the religious air of the confusion they had been causing. They would make it easier for the less discerning to see their true characters. They would cut themselves off from God and be received into the lost world’s everlasting habitations.
His message to Satan’s wily religious deception was exposed by Christ’s parable; yet, He left His Father’s original Law still in tact. The high and holy principles of honesty are still the great love of His heart. “He 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.
If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
No 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.…
The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.” (Lk. 16:10-18).
This parable is for us as much as it was for the Jews.
“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Rev 3:14-22).