by Matt Slick
In Luke 16:1-9, Jesus told us a parable of the Unrighteous Steward. In short, the steward was squandering the possessions of the landowner. This is discovered and the landowner demands an accounting. Before the unrighteous steward gets fired, he goes to the people who owe the landowner money and has them reduce their bills by substantial amounts. The end of the parable has Jesus saying this: "And his master praised the unrighteous steward because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light," (Luke 16:8).
Why did Jesus say this? Is He condoning deceit? Is Jesus approving of this unrighteous steward's misrepresentation of the facts and the debt owed his master?
The most probable cultural setting for the parable is that of a large estate consisting of land divided into portions, where the steward is entrusted with carrying the business of that estate. The debtors are most likely renters who had agreed to pay a fixed amount of produce for the yearly rent. The steward was no doubt making extras "under the table," but these amounts were not reflected in the signed bills. He was a salaried official who, in addition, was paid a specific fee by the renter for each contract. The master was a man of noble character respected in the community who cared enough about his own wealth to fire a wasteful manager, and this is the key to understanding this parable.
The debtors will assume that the steward is acting on behalf of the orders of the landowner. This means that the landowner will be looked upon as being kindhearted and noble. The steward knows that when the landowner finds out, he will have two alternatives: First, he could gather the renters and tell them that the reductions were unauthorized and thereby showing his stinginess and risking ridicule from them and the community. Second, he can keep silent, accept the praise that is even now being showered on him, and allow the clever steward to get away with the scheme. Obviously, the steward knew the master was a generous person, otherwise he would not have taken such a risk; after all, he wasn't jailed to begin with.
Therefore, in verse 9 Jesus is not praising the dishonesty, but the ability of the steward to recognize the generosity of his master, see what was coming, and use what he had at the time to obtain something far greater: self preservation. This is significant. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. God can condemn you to eternal damnation. It is wise to seek a way out of that. In fact, the judgment of damnation is so terrible, that praise is offered to the one who, in desperation, seeks a way out of it. If the unrighteous steward was praised for trusting in the goodness of the master.
So, how much more will you be rewarded if you trust the true and holy Master, the Lord Himself? Abiding faith in God is the action of continuous trust in Him. Count on His goodness and trust Him.