Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Parable Of The Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-13)

Before we look at this parable I would like to give a disclaimer. I have always had a unique take on verse 9, and in Theology unique is often not good. For thousands of years men have studied the Scriptures and if your idea seems unrepresented in commentaries there is often a reason.

Nevertheless, admitting that I may be wrong in my interpretation, let me point out that there is a difference between error and heresy. In our human fallibility we may take a verse in a way that it is not intended, or misinterpret it and yet still not be going into heresy. John Calvin refused to use Genesis 1:26 as a proof Scripture for the Trinity, not because he doubted the Trinity, but because he felt it was sufficiently ambiguous. He also did not feel it was necessary as so many other Scriptures showed it.

Ireneaus had a good knowledge of Scripture and was the first person that we know of to compare the four gospels to the four heads of Ezekiel’s vision. However in Book III of his Against Heresies, he gives an original rendition of 2 Cor. 4:4, where he interprets “Of this world” as being in reference to the unbelievers. Hence he interprets it as God blinding the unbelievers (who are of this world). This was the interpretation of this verse by many of the Church fathers. While it does follow along with some of the Apostle Paul’s other grammatical practices, I believe it to be an error. I would not call it a heresy, because belief one way or another on it would not cause a schism. That God blinds men is clear from Scripture, that He uses the devil as His instrument is also clear.

Luk 16:1 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.

From what follows it would appear that the steward was not unjustly accused of so doing.

Luk 16:2-4 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.

As Wesley bring out in this passage, it is interesting that the steward was ashamed to beg, but had no shame in cheating. When people choose to act dishonestly, they lock themselves into a prison that keeps them from acting honestly. He was unfit for honest hard-work, and begging was beneath his dignity. The fact that cheating was not shows something of his character.

Luk 16:5-8 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.

The steward’s method of assuring for his security in the future is to fraudulently alter the receipts owed to his master so that he would have his master’s debtors in his debt. Worldly people often take great pains to advance their gain, though it be only temporal, as opposed to many Christians who are far more complacent about true gain.

Luk 16:9 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.

The sense that I take this verse in is that Christ is stating it in a tongue and cheek manner. Paraphrased as “Go on, use ill-gotten gain to get friends, and when it fails, as it will, what will be the eternal result?”

This is the sense I take this verse, admittedly it is not a common interpretation of it, but I feel it does follow the sense. In the following verses the Lord then teaches the importance of our faithful handling of the money He entrusts us and our inability to serve two masters.

It is possible that I am wrong on my interpretation of this verse, however even in that event, it is clear from this parable that Christians should take care to be upright in our use of money and make sure that we get the maximum eternal reward out of what we have been entrusted. May God grant that we all do that! As John Wesley said, “Gain all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.”