The Forum

Vol 5:8 (Aug 1959)

The Forum


Dear Brother,

In the parable of the unjust steward in Luke 16, what is the chief lesson that the Lord was teaching His disciples? How were they to make to themselves “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness”? In the clause, “When ye fail”, what is meant by “fail”? How can the friends of the mammon of unrighteousness receive you into everlasting habitations?

Yours truly,
J. C.

Dear Brother J. C.,

There are two parables in Luke 16; the first, that of the unjust steward, spoken to the disciples (V. 1); the second, that of the rich man (Vv. 19-31), spoken to the Pharisees (V. 14).

Both of these parables deal with human foresight in making provision for the future. The steward, although unjust in that he failed in his office, was prudent in that he made provision for his future. The rich man, although apparently of noble birth, failed in foresight; he made no provision for his future.

There are certain difficulties arising from the first parable. For example, the steward is called unjust and yet he is commended; he reduces the debts owed his master by which his master might easily have sustained further loss. The commendation that he receives creates a certain problem as does the application made by the Lord to His disciples.

We must understand that the steward is called unjust only because he wasted his master’s goods not because of the method he used for the making of friends.

The steward is commended for making friends, not by the Lord Jesus, but by his own lord, his employer.

The parable must not be taken to suggest that the steward was acting in a fraudulent manner, but rather to suggest that although he reduced the debts owed to his master, he made up the full amount out of his own means. It was this sagacity that his lord commended.

The Lord Jesus suggests that His disciples ought to follow the example of the prudent steward and provide for the future. As he, the steward, used his own means to make friends of his master’s debtors so the disciples should use their means, “the true riches,” spiritual wealth, to make spiritual friends, even from out of the world. This they could do by proving the value of their faith by good works, even by the proper use of their money, the mammon of unrighteousness. This charitable ministry is to be done in the present in order that when the disciple “fails”, comes to the end, they, the friends made on earth, may receive him into everlasting dwellings.

I trust that this explanation may be of some help to you. Many thanks for your question. We shall be pleased to hear from you again.

Sincerely in Christ,
J. G.