Luke 16:1
And he said also to his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused to him that he had wasted his goods.
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(1) There was a certain rich man, which had a steward.—There is, perhaps, no single parable that has been subjected to such various and discordant interpretations as this of the Unjust Steward. It seems best to give step by step what seems to be a true exposition of its meaning, and to reserve a survey of other expositions till they can be compared with this.

The word “steward” had, we must remember, been already used by our Lord in Luke 12:42, and had there pointed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, to the office of the Apostles and other ministers, as dispensers of divine truths, and perhaps also, of the means of grace. So St. Paul, whose language is, as we have seen in so many instances, always important in connection with St. Luke’s vocabulary, speaks of himself and his fellow-labourers as “stewards of the mysteries of God.” He has learnt, may we not say, from the parable, that “it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful” (1Corinthians 4:1-2). We start, then, with this clue. The Unjust Steward represents primarily the Pharisees and scribes in their teaching and ministerial functions. But though spoken in the hearing of the Pharisees, the parable was addressed, not to them, but “to the disciples.” And the reason of this is obvious. They, too, were called to be “stewards;” they, too, collectively and individually, would have to give an account of their stewardship. But if this is what the steward represents, then the rich man, like the “house-holder” in other parables, can be none else than God, who both appoints the stewards and calls them to account. In the further extension of the parable it is, of course, applicable to all who have any “goods” entrusted to them, any gifts and opportunities, any vocation and ministry in the great kingdom of God.

The same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.—(1) The Greek word for “was accused” commonly carries with it the idea of false, calumnious accusation. Probably, however, the idea connected with it, as seen in the word diabolos, or devil, which is derived from it, is that of malignant accusation, whether the charge were true or false. It is conceivable that it may have been purposely chosen to suggest the thought that the great Adversary was at once tempting the double-minded teachers to their life of hypocrisy, and exulting at their fall. If we ask why this was only suggested and not more directly expressed, as it would have been if some one accuser had been named, the answer is found in the fact that the one great Accuser has many mouth-pieces, diaboli acting under the diabolos (the Greek word stands for “false accusers” in Titus 2:3), and that there was no lack of such comments, more or less malevolent, on the inconsistencies of the professedly religious class. (2) There is an obvious purpose in using the same word, in the hearing of the same persons, as that which, in Luke 15:13, had described the excesses of the Prodigal Son. The Pharisees had heard that parable, and even if they had caught the bearing of the language which portrayed the character of the elder son, had flattered themselves that they were, at all events, free from the guilt of the younger. They had not “wasted their substance in riotous living.” Now they were taught that the “goods” committed to them might be wasted in other ways than by being “devoured” in company with “harlots.” They were guilty of that sin in proportion as they had failed to use what they had been entrusted with for the good of men and for God’s glory.

Luke 16:1. And he also, &c. — To give a further check to the maliciousness of the Pharisees, and the obstinacy with which they opposed every thing that was good, he delivered, while they were still present, the parable of the crafty steward, whom he proposed as an example of the dexterous improvement which worldly men make of such opportunities and advantages as fall in their way for advancing their interest. By this parable, Jesus designed to excite his disciples to improve, in like manner, the advantages they might enjoy for advancing their own spiritual welfare; and particularly to spend their time and money in promoting the conversion of sinners, which, of all the offices in their power, was the most acceptable to God, and the most beneficial to man. He said also to his disciples — Not only to the scribes and Pharisees, to whom he had been hitherto speaking, but to all the younger as well as the elder brethren, to the returning prodigals, who were now his disciples. A certain rich man had a steward — To whom the care of his family, and all his domestic concerns, were committed: Christ here teaches all that are now in favour with God, particularly pardoned penitents, to behave wisely in what is committed to their trust. And the same was accused unto him, &c. — Some of the family, who had a real concern for their lord’s interest, observing the steward to be both profuse in his distributions, and negligent in taking care of the provisions of the family, thought fit to inform their lord, that he was wasting his goods. Dr. Whitby quotes Rab. D. Kimchi, on Isaiah 40:21, commenting as follows, “The fruits of the earth are like a table spread in a house; the owner of this house is God; man in this world is, as it were, the steward of the house, into whose hands his Lord hath delivered all his riches; if he behave himself well, he will find favour in the eyes of his Lord; if ill, he will remove him from his stewardship.” And thus, adds the doctor, “the scope of this parable seems to be this: that we are to look upon ourselves, not as lords of the good things of this life, so as to get and use them at our pleasure, but only as stewards, who must be faithful in the administration of them.”16:1-12 Whatever we have, the property of it is God's; we have only the use of it, according to the direction of our great Lord, and for his honour. This steward wasted his lord's goods. And we are all liable to the same charge; we have not made due improvement of what God has trusted us with. The steward cannot deny it; he must make up his accounts, and be gone. This may teach us that death will come, and deprive us of the opportunities we now have. The steward will make friends of his lord's debtors or tenants, by striking off a considerable part of their debt to his lord. The lord referred to in this parable commended not the fraud, but the policy of the steward. In that respect alone is it so noticed. Worldly men, in the choice of their object, are foolish; but in their activity, and perseverance, they are often wiser than believers. The unjust steward is not set before us as an example in cheating his master, or to justify any dishonesty, but to point out the careful ways of worldly men. It would be well if the children of light would learn wisdom from the men of the world, and would as earnestly pursue their better object. The true riches signify spiritual blessings; and if a man spends upon himself, or hoards up what God has trusted to him, as to outward things, what evidence can he have, that he is an heir of God through Christ? The riches of this world are deceitful and uncertain. Let us be convinced that those are truly rich, and very rich, who are rich in faith, and rich toward God, rich in Christ, in the promises; let us then lay up our treasure in heaven, and expect our portion from thence.His disciples - The word "disciples," here, is not to be restricted to the twelve apostles or to the seventy. The parable appears to have been addressed to all the professed followers of the Saviour who were present when it was delivered. It is connected with that in the preceding chapter. Jesus had there been discoursing with the scribes and Pharisees, and vindicating his conduct in receiving kindly publicans and sinners. These "publicans and sinners" are here particularly referred to by the word "disciples." It was with reference to "them" that the whole discourse had arisen. After Jesus had shown the Pharisees, in the preceding chapter, the propriety of his conduct, it was natural that he should turn and address his disciples. Among them there might have been some who were wealthy. The "publicans" were engaged in receiving taxes, in collecting money, and their chief danger arose from that quarter - from covetousness or dishonesty.

Jesus always adapted his instructions to the circumstances of his hearers, and it was proper, therefore, that he should give "these disciples" instructions about their "special" duties and dangers. He related this parable, therefore, to show them "the danger of the love of money;" the guilt it would lead to Luke 16:1; the perplexities and shifts to which it would drive a man when once he had been dishonest Luke 16:3-7; the necessity of using money aright, since it was their chief business Luke 16:9; and the fact that if they would serve God aright they must give up supreme attachment to money Luke 16:13; and that the first duty of religion demanded that they should resolve to serve God, and be honest in the use of the wealth intrusted to them. This parable has given great perplexity, and many ways have been devised to explain it. The above solution is the most simple of any; and if these plain principles are kept in view, it will not be difficult to give a consistent explanation of its particular parts. It should be borne in mind, however, that in this, as well as in other parables, we are not to endeavor to spiritualize every circumstance or allusion. We are to keep in view the great moral truth taught in it, that we cannot serve God and mammon, and that all attempts to do this will involve us in difficulty and sin.

A steward - One who has charge of the affairs of a family or household; whose duty it is to provide for the family, to purchase provisions, etc. This is, of course, an office of trust and confidence. It affords great opportunity for dishonesty and waste, and for embezzling property. The master's eye cannot always be on the steward, and he may, therefore, squander the property, or hoard it up for his own use. It was an office commonly conferred on a slave as a reward for fidelity, and of course was given to him that, in long service, had shown himself most trustworthy. By the "rich man," here, is doubtless represented God. By the "steward," those who are his professed followers, particularly the "publicans" who were with the Saviour, and whose chief danger arose from the temptations to the improper use of the money intrusted to them.

Was accused - Complaint was made.

Had wasted - Had squandered or scattered it; had not been prudent and saving.


Lu 16:1-31. Parables of the Unjust Steward and of the Rich Man and Lazarus, or, the Right Use of Money.

1. steward—manager of his estate.

accused—informed upon.

had wasted—rather, "was wasting."Luke 16:1-13 The parable of the unjust steward.

Luke 16:14-18 Christ reproveth the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who

were covetous, and derided him.

Luke 16:19-31 The parable of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar.

Ver. 1-8. Hierom of old thought this parable was very obscure; and Julian and other apostates, together with some of the heathen philosophers, took occasion from it to reproach the doctrine of Christ, as teaching and commanding acts of unrighteousness. But there will appear no such difficulty in it, nor cause of reproach to Christ and his doctrine from it, if we consider what I have before hinted, that it is no more necessary to a parable that all the actions in it supposed be just and honest, than that all the parts of it be true in matter of fact, whether past or possible to be; for a parable is not designed to inform us in a matter of fact, but to describe to us our duty, under a fictitious representation: nor doth every part of a parable point at some correspondent duty to be done by us; but the main scope for which it is brought is principally to be attended to by us, and other pieces of duty which may be hinted to us, are to be judged of and proved not from the parable, but from other texts of holy writ where they are inculcated. The main things in which our Saviour seemeth desirous by this parable to instruct us, are,

1. That we are but stewards of the good things God lends us, and must give an account to our Master of them.

2. That being no more than stewards intrusted with some of our Master’s goods for a time, it is our highest prudence, while we have them in our trust, to make such a use of them as may be for our advantage when we give up our account.

Thus we shall hear our Lord in the following verses expounding his own meaning. To this purpose he supposed a rich man to have a steward, and to have received some accusation against him, as if he embezzled his master’s goods committed to his trust. Upon which he calleth him to account, and tells him that he should be his steward no longer. He supposes this steward to be one who had no other means of livelihood and subsistence than what his place afforded him, a than not used to labour, and too proud to beg. At length he fixed his resolution, to send for his master’s debtors, and to abate their obligations, making them debtors to his master for much less than indeed they were; by this means he probably hoped, that when he was turned off from his master he should be received by them. He supposes his master to have heard of it, and to have commended him, not for his honesty, but for his wit in providing for the time to come. What was knavery in this steward, is honest enough in those who are the stewards of our heavenly Lord’s goods, suppose riches, honours, parts, health, life, or any outward accommodation, viz. to use our Lord’s goods for the best profit and advantage to ourselves, during such time as we are intrusted with them. For though an earthly lord and his steward have particular divided interests, and he that maketh use of his lord’s goods for his own best advantage cannot at the same time make use of them for the best advantage of his master, yet the case is different betwixt our heavenly Lord and us. It hath pleased God so to twist the interest of his glory with our highest good, that no man can better use his Master’s goods for the advantage of his glory, than he who best useth them for the highest good, profit, and advantage to himself; nor doth any man better use them for his own interest, than he who best useth them for God’s glory. So as here the parable halteth, by reason of the disparity betwixt the things that are compared. And though the unjust steward could not be commended for the honesty, but only for the policy, of his action, yet we who are stewards of the gifts of God, in doing the like, that is, making use of our Master’s goods for our own best profit and advantage, may act not only wisely, but also honestly; and indeed Christ in this parable blames men for not doing so:

The children of this world (saith he) are wiser in their generation than the children of light. By the children of this world, he meaneth such as this steward was, men who regard not eternity or the concerns of their immortal souls, but only regard the things of this life, what they shall eat, or drink, or put on. By

the children of light, he meaneth such as live under the light of the gospel, and receive the common illumination of the gospel; though if we yet understand it more strictly, of those who are

translated out of darkness into marvellous light, it is too true, they are not so wise, and politic, and industrious for heaven, as worldly men are to obtain their ends in getting the world. He saith,

the men of this world are wiser in their generation, that is, in their kind, as to those things about which they exercise their wit and policy, than the children of God.

And he said also to his disciples,.... The Syriac version adds, "a parable", as the following is; and which is directed to the disciples, as those in the preceding chapter are to the Pharisees; and who also are designed in this; though it is particularly spoken to the disciples, because it might be of some use to them, with respect, to the stewardship they were in. The Persic and Ethiopic versions read, "Jesus", or "the Lord Jesus said": and which is to be understood, though not expressed; for the parable was delivered by him, and is as follows:

there was a certain rich man: by whom God is meant, who is rich in the perfections of his nature, in the works of his hands, in his government, and the administration of it, in providential goodness, and in the large revenues of glory due to him from his creatures; for all temporal riches are from him; and so are all the riches of mercy, grace, and glory:

which had a steward; by whom is designed, not all mankind; for though all men are, in a sense, stewards under God, and are entrusted with the good things of life, the gifts of nature, endowments of mind, health, strength of body, time, &c. yet all cannot be meant, because some are distinguished from this steward, Luke 16:5 nor are the disciples intended, though the parable is directed to them; and they were stewards of the mysteries and manifold grace of God; and one among them was an unfaithful one, and was turned out of his stewardship; but the character of an unjust man will not suit with them: and besides, this steward was of the children of this world, Luke 16:8 but the Pharisees are meant: for these are taken notice of as gravelled at this parable, Luke 16:14 and to them agrees the character of the men of this world, who were worldly wise men; as also that of a steward; these are the tutors and governors mentioned in Galatians 4:2 who had the care of the house of Israel, the family of God, under the legal dispensation; and to whom were committed the oracles of God, the writings of Moses, and the prophets; and whose business it was to open and explain them to the people.

And the same was accused unto him, that he had wasted his goods; put false glosses upon the Scriptures; fed the family with bad and unwholesome food, the traditions of the elders, called the leaven of the Pharisees: made havoc of the souls of men; and made the hearts of the righteous sad: and hardened sinners in their wicked ways: and fed themselves, and not the flock; and plundered persons of their temporal substance; of all which they were accused by Moses, in whom they trusted; by his law which they violated; and by their own consciences, which witnessed against them; and by the cries of those whom they abused, which came into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.

And he said also unto his disciples, {1} There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.

(1) Seeing that men often purchase friendship for themselves at the expense of others, we are to be ashamed if we do not please the Lord or procure the good will of our neighbours with the goods which the Lord has bestowed on us freely and liberally, making sure that by this means riches, which are often occasions of sin, are used for another end and purpose.

Luke 16:1. After Jesus has given, as far as Luke 15:32, the needful explanation to the Pharisees and scribes in reference to their murmuring at His associating Himself with the publicans and sinners, He now turns also (δὲ καί) to His disciples with the parabolic discussion of the doctrine how they were to use earthly possessions in order to come into the Messiah’s kingdom. For according to Luke 16:9 nothing else is the teaching of the following parable, which consequently is, even in its vocabulary (Köstlin, p. 274), similar to the parable at Luke 12:16 ff. Every other doctrine that has been found therein has first been put there. The ἄνθρωπος πλούσιος is Mammon, comp. Luke 16:13; the οἰκονόμος represents the μαθηταί. Just as (1) the steward was denounced for squandering the property of his lord, so also the μαθηταί, maintaining in Christ an entirely different interest and a different purpose of life from that of collecting earthly wealth (Matthew 6:19 f.; Luke 12:33; Luke 18:22), must needs appear to the enemies, the rather that these were themselves covetous (Luke 16:14), as wasteful managers of the riches of Mammon (Matthew 6:24), and as such must be decried by them, Luke 16:1. As, further, (2) the steward came into the position of having his dismissal from his service announced to him by the rich man, so also it would come upon the μαθηταί that Mammon would withdraw from them the stewardship of his goods, i.e. that they would come into poverty, Luke 16:2 f. As, however, (3) the steward was prudent enough before his dismissal, while he still had the disposal of his lord’s wealth, to make use of the latter for his subsequent provision by making for himself friends therewith who would receive him into their houses, which prudence the rich man praised in spite of the dishonesty of the measure; so also should the μαθηταί by liberal expenditure of the goods of Mammon, which were still at their disposal, provide for themselves friends, so as subsequently to attain in their impoverishment provision for eternity, the reception into the Messiah’s kingdom. The more detailed explanation will be found on the special passages. The text in itself does not indicate any definite connection with what has preceded, but is only linked on externally, without any mention of an internal progress in the discussion: but He said also—as the foregoing to the Pharisees, so that which now follows to His disciples.[178] But Jesus very naturally comes direct to the treatment of this theme, because just at that time there were very many publicans among His μαθηταί (Luke 15:1) on whom, after their decision in His favour, devolved as their first duty the application of the goods of Mammon in the way mentioned (Luke 12:33). It is just as natural that, at the same time, the contrast with the Pharisees, just before so humiliatingly rebuked, those covetous ones (Luke 16:14) to whom the ποιεῖν ἑαυτοῖς φίλους ἐκ τ. μαμ. τῆς ἀδικίας was so extremely foreign (Luke 11:41, Luke 20:47), helped to urge to this theme. Other attempts to make out the connection are arbitrary, as, for instance, that of Schleiermacher (besides that it depends on an erroneous interpretation of the parable itself), that Jesus is passing over to a vindication of the publicans, so far as they showed themselves gentle and beneficent towards their people; or that of Olshausen, that He wishes to represent the compassion that in ch. 15. He has exhibited in God, now also in ch. 16 as the duty of men. But there is no reason for denying the existence of any connection, as de Wette does.

πρὸς τ. μαθητ. αὐτοῦ] not merely the Twelve, but the disciples in the more extended sense, in contrast with the opposition which was likewise present. Comp. Matthew 8:21; Luke 6:13; Luke 7:11; Luke 19:37, and elsewhere. The parable had the first reference to the publicans that happened to be among them (Luke 15:1), but it concerned also, so far as there were generally still wealthy people among them, the disciples in general. See above.

ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν πλούσιος] not to be defined more particularly than these words themselves and Luke 16:5-7 indicate. To think of the Romans (Schleiermacher), or the Roman Emperor (Grossmann[179]), in the interpretation, is quite foreign to the subject. Moreover, it is not, as is usually explained, God[180] that is to be understood; with which notion Luke 16:8 would conflict, as well as the circumstance that actually the dismissal from the service of the rich man brings with it the same shelter to which, in the application, Luke 16:9 corresponds,[181] the reception into the everlasting habitations. But neither is it the devil, as ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, as Olshausen[182] would have it, that is meant, since in the connection of the parable the relation to the κόσμος[183] in general, and its representatives, is not spoken of, but specially the relation to temporal wealth.[184] Hence its representative, i.e. Mammon, is to be understood; but we must not, with de Wette, give the matter up in despair, and say that the rich man has no significance, or (Ebrard) that he serves only as filling up (comp. also Lahmeyer); he has the significance of a definite person feigned, who, however, as such, was well known to the hearers (Matthew 6:24), and also at Luke 16:13 is expressly named. The concluding words of Luke 16:13 are the key of the parable; hence, also, it is not to be maintained, with Köster, that a rich man is only conceived of with reference to the steward.

οἰκονόμον] a house steward, ταμίης, who had to take the supervision of the domestics, the stewardship of the household, the rental of the property, etc. Comp. Luke 12:42, and see Heppe, p. 9 ff.; Ahrens, Amt d. Schlüssel, p. 12 ff. Such were usually slaves; but it is implied in Luke 16:3-4 that the case of a free man is contemplated in this passage. To conceive of the οἰκονόμος as a farmer of portion of the property, is neither permitted by the word nor by the context (in opposition to Hölbe). In the interpretation of the parable the οἰκονόμος neither represents men in general, nor specially the wealthy (thus most interpreters, following the Fathers), nor yet the Israelitish people and their leaders (Meuss), nor sinners (Maldonatus and others), not even Judas Iscariot (Bertholdt), also neither the Pharisees (Vitringa, Zyro, Baumgarten-Crusius[185]), nor the publicans (Schleiermacher, Hölbe), but the μαθηταί, as is plain from Luke 16:9, where the conduct analogous to the behaviour of the ΟἸΚΟΝΌΜΟς is enjoined upon them. The ΜΑΘΗΤΑΊ, especially those who were publicans before they passed over to Christ, were concerned with temporal wealth, and were therefore stewards, not of God, but of Mammon.

ΔΙΕΒΛΉΘΗ ΑὐΤῷ] he was denounced to him (on the dative, com p. Herod. v. 35, viii. 22; Plat. Polit. viii. p. 566 B; Soph. Phil. 578; Eur. Hec. 863, and thereon, Pflugk; elsewhere also with εἰς or ΠΡΌς with accusative). Although the word, which occurs only in this place in the New Testament, is not always used of groundless, false accusations, though this is mostly the case (see Schweighäuser, Lex. Herod. I. p. 154), yet it is still no vox media, but expresses, even where a corresponding matter of fact lies at the foundation (as Numbers 22:22; Daniel 3:8; Daniel 6:25; 2Ma 3:11; 4Ma 4:1, and in the passages in Kypke, I. p. 296), hostile denunciation, accusation, Niedner, p. 32 ff. Comp. the passages from Xenophon in Sturz, I. p. 673. See also Dem. 155. 7, where the διαβάλλοντες and the ΚΌΛΑΚΕς are contrasted. So also here; Luther aptly says: “he was ill spoken of.” Vulg.: “diffamatus est.” There was some foundation in fact (hence, moreover, the steward does not defend himself), but the manner in which he was denounced manifested a hostile purpose. Thus, moreover, in the relation portrayed in that of the μαθηταί to temporal riches, as the unfaithful stewards of which they manifested themselves to the covetous Pharisees by their entrance into the Christian conversion, there lay at the foundation the fact that they had no further interest in Mammon, and were no longer φιλάργυροι. Compare the instance of Zacchaeus. Köster says wrongly that the hitherto faithful steward had only been slandered, and had only allowed himself to be betrayed into a knavish trick for the first time by the necessity arising from the dismissal. No; this knavish trick was only the path of unfaithfulness on which he had hitherto walked, and on which he took a new start to get out of his difficulty. Against the supposition of the faithfulness of the steward, see on Luke 16:3.

ὡς διασκορπίζων] as squandering (Luke 15:13), i.e. so he was represented.[186] Comp. Xen. Hell. ii. 3. 23 :διέβαλλον ὡς λυμαινόμενον, and thus frequently; Jam 2:9. It might also have been ὡς with the optative; Herod. viii. 90, and elsewhere. Erroneously, moreover, in view of the present, the Vulg. reads (comp. Luther): quasi dissipasset.

τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτοῦ] therefore the possessions, the means and property (Luke 11:21, Luke 12:15; Luke 12:33, Luke 19:8), of his lord.[187]

[178] Not as Wieseler will have it, beside the Pharisees, to His disciples also.Luke 16:1-7. The parable of the unjust steward.Luke 16:1-13. The Unjust Steward.

1. And he said also unto his disciples] In interpreting the two following parables it is specially necessary to bear in mind the tertium comparationis, i.e. the one special point which our Lord had in view. To press each detail into a separate dogmatic truth is a course which has led to flagrant errors in theology and even in morals.

a certain rich man, which had a steward] The rich man and the steward are both men of the world. It is only in one general aspect that they correspond to God and to ourselves as His stewards (Titus 1:7) who are ‘required to be faithful,’ 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. No parable has been more diversely and multitudinously explained than this. For instance in the steward some have seen the Pharisees, or the publicans, or Judas Iscariot, or Christ, or Satan, &c. To enter into and refute these explanations would take up much space and would be quite fruitless. We cannot be wrong if we seize as the main lesson of the parable the one which Christ Himself attached to it (8-12), namely, the use of earthly gifts of wealth and opportunity for heavenly and not for earthly aims.

was accused] In Classic Greek the word means ‘was slandered.’ Here it has the more general sense, but perhaps involves the notion of a secret accusation.

that he had wasted] i.e., had squandered upon himself.Luke 16:1. Μαθητὰς, disciples) These disciples here are not inclusive of those Twelve who had left their all, and were rather to be accounted among those who were to be made friends of [with the mammon of unrighteousness, Luke 16:9]: but are those who had been publicans [ch. Luke 15:1]. And accordingly the Lord now speaks more weightily and sternly with the disciples, who had been publicans, than He had spoken for them (in their behalf) to others. The (prodigal) son, who has been recovered with joy, is not to have daily ‘music’ [in celebration of his recovery, ch. Luke 15:25, συμφωνίας], but is here taught to return to duty.—διεβλήθη) The verb has a middle force.[164] Information was given against the steward, and that on true grounds, whatever may have been the spirit that influenced the informer.—διασκορπίζων, [wasting] squandering) The Present, but including also the past. The same verb occurs, ch. Luke 15:13 [said of the prodigal, who “squandered [wasted] his substance with riotous living”]. The parable does not refer to all stewards: inasmuch as they rather, throughout the whole time of their stewardship, are bound to show fidelity, 1 Corinthians 4:2; but to those stewards who, in a long period of their stewardship, have mismanaged their business (abused their trust). The whole system of the world’s conduct, in the case of their external goods, is a squandering or waste, since their goods are not laid out (bestowed and deposited) in their proper places; although very many of the unjust [worldly stewards of God’s goods] seem to gather together [rather than to squander or scatter]. [For, indeed, whoever evinces alacrity in scattering abroad (in charity), he gathers together treasure in heaven.[165]—V. g.]

[164] Sometimes said of a true, sometimes of a false accusation. Unless Beng. means the sense of the Middle Voice, he got himself accused; i.e. by his bad conduct he brought himself into being accused before his master.—E. and T.

[165] Luke 12:33; Proverbs 11:24; Psalm 112:9.—E. and T.Verses 1-31. - The Lord's teaching on the right use of earthly possessions with regard to the prospect of another world, in the form of the two parables of the unjust steward, and Dives and Lazarus. Verses 1, 2. - And he said also unto his disciples. There is no doubt that this important teaching belongs to the last portion of our Lord's life, and it is probable that it is closely connected with the parable of the prodigal son just related. It is not likely that two such weighty sermons had been preached at the same time, but in the evening, or on the following day, or at least on the next sabbath, the same auditory that listened to the prodigal son we believe were startled and enthralled by the story of the unjust steward, and then, or very shortly after, by the awful and vivid picture of life beyond the grave in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. There is a close link of thought between the parable of the unjust steward and that of the prodigal. The heroes of both these narratives, in the first instance, had a considerable share of this world's goods entrusted to their charge, and by both, in the early portions of the story, these goods were misused and wasted. The Greek words used of the "wasting" of the prodigal and of the steward were in both cases the same (Luke 15:13; Luke 16:1). No parable in the New Testament has been so copiously discussed or has received so many end such varying interpretations at the hands of expositors. We will at once put aside all the ingenious, but from our point of view mistaken, interpretations which see in "the steward" the Pharisees, the publicans, Judas Iscariot, or Satan. The parable has a broader, a more direct, a more universally interesting, meaning. It contains a deep and important teaching for every man or woman who would wish to rank among the followers, of Jesus Christ. Now, our Lord would have all men look forward gravely and calmly to the certain event of their death, and. in view of that event, would have them make careful and thoughtful preparation for the life which was to come after death. To press this most important lesson home, the Master, as his custom was at this late period of his ministry, conveyed his instruction in the form of a parable. The sketch of a steward about to be dismissed from his office, and who thus would be stripped of his income, was a fit emblem of a man about to be removed from this world by death. The steward in the parable-story felt that, when dismissed, he would be as it were alone, stripped of all, and destitute. The soul of such a man, when dead, would be also stripped of everything, would be alone and destitute. The question here might be asked - Why take for the principal figure of the parable so immoral a character as an unjust steward? The answer is well suggested by Professor Bruce, "For the simple reason that his misbehaviour is the natural explanation of the impending dismissal. Why should a faithful steward be removed from office? To conceive such a case were to sacrifice probability to a moral scruple." Roughly, then, two things all-important to us are taught here:

(1) that dismissal, death, will certainly come;

(2) that some provision certainly ought to be made for the life that lies beyond - the life that comes after the dismissal, or death. 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. The story of the parable contains little incident. There is the rich man, clearly a noble of high rank, whose residence is at a distance from his estates, the scene of the little story. Over these he has placed, as administrator or factor, the one called here a steward; the revenues of the lands this official has wasted; he appears to have been generally a careless if not a dishonest servant. The owner of the estates, when he becomes aware of the facts of the case, at once gives notice of dismissal to the steward, desiring him, however, before yielding up his office, to give in his accounts. Appalled at the sudden and utter destitution which lay before him, the steward occupies the short time of office yet remaining to him in devising a plan by which he would secure the good offices of certain persons who were in debt to his master. He (the steward) had yet a little time of power remaining before he was turned adrift; he would turn this to account, and would do a good turn to these men, poor neighbours of his, and debtors to his lord, while he was in office, and so win their friendship, and, on the principle that one good turn deserves another, would be able to reckon on their gratitude when all else had failed him. With the immorality of the act by which he won the good will of these debtors of his master we have nothing to do; it is simply a detail of the picture, which is composed of figures and imagery chosen for their fitness to impress the lesson intended to be taught. Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. This taking away the position and privileges of the man represents the act of death, in which God takes away from us all the varied gifts, the possessions, and the powers large or small with which we are eutrusted during our lifetime. Our day of dismissal will be the day of our passing away from this life. Steward (οἰκονόμον)

From οἶκος, a house, and νέμω, to distribute or dispense. Hence, one who assigns to the members of the household their several duties, and pays to each his wages. The paymaster. He kept the household stores under lock and seal, giving out what was required; and for this purpose received a signet-ring from his master. Wyc., fermour, or farmer. Here probably the land-steward.

Was accused (διεβλήθη)

Only here in New Testament. From διά, over, across, and βάλλω, to throw. To carry across, and hence to carry reports, etc., from one to another; to carry false reports, and so to calumniate or slander. See on devil, Matthew 4:1. The word implies malice, but not necessarily falsehood. Compare Latin traducere (trans, over, ducere, to ad), whence traduce.

Had wasted (ὡς διασκορπίζων)

Lit., as wasting. Rev., was wasting; not merely a past offence, but something going on at the time of the accusation. See Luke 15:13.

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