*What was the unjust steward commended for?
*How are the children of the world wiser than the children of light?
*How can one make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness?
*Why should Christians avoid offending others?
*What aspect of Christianity requires the most faith?
Luke, chapter sixteen, includes more of the teachings of Jesus-those things we should do in order to gain salvation. This chapter begins with the parable of the rich man and his steward. Notice what is written here. “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” (Luke 16:1-2). The rich man’s manager had become derelict in his duties and was about to be fired. First, though, it was necessary to balance the accounts-close out the books. Notice the steward’s reaction.
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 (Luke 16:3-7).
The steward was looking out for his own best interests, insuring himself some sort of future. So, he finagled the books to his advantage, making the various debtors obligated to him by writing off percentages of the debts. The rich man immediately recognized the steward’s strategy. “And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely . . .” (Luke 16:8). Notice, he did not commend the steward for his dishonesty, but rather for his resourcefulness in looking out for himself. He had planned ahead and protected himself.
Jesus said, “. . . the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” (v. 8). The children of the world are wiser in the matter of mammon (wealth and riches) than are the children of God. Why? Because this is what their minds are on continually. Their minds are not on the spiritual things of God. The children of this world are not the children of God-those called by God to a knowledge of the truth. They are the worldly wise, those versed in the monetary operations of society, those who know how to get ahead monetarily. They are those whose goal in life is the acquisition of wealth and security.
Notice what Jesus went on to tell the disciples. “And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fails, they may receive you into everlasting habitations” (Luke 16:9).
Jesus teaches us three important principles by means of this parable.
The first principle is that Christians should make to themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness. Mammon signifies riches or wealth, that is, the accumulation of what this world offers. What Jesus said was to take these riches of the world and make friends by means of them, just as the unjust steward did. The “ye fail” in the above verse should be translated “it fails,” meaning that mammon or riches will fail. This world in its present form will be replaced by the Kingdom of God. That which makes up mammon will no longer have any significance. It is only a matter of time. So, when this happens, those who have taken mammon and used it in the proper way in the sight of God will be received by those who are in the everlasting habitations, that is, those who are in the Kingdom of God. When does this occur? At the resurrection of the dead! Eternal life in the Kingdom of God is the only thing that is everlasting. Those who have received eternal life are in the everlasting habitations.
How, then, does one make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness? Notice 2 Corinthians 9:6-7. “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” This text can be applied in several ways. Charity is certainly a consideration. The primary way, however, in this context, is by means of contributions to the work of God, so that the truth of God can be made known to others. Brethren in the faith are one’s true friends (Mark 10:30). At the time of the resurrection those who have had their treasures in heaven will be received into eternal life along with all those who have done accordingly. What Jesus is saying is that the material things of this world-mammon-should be put to a good purpose rather than to the accumulation of wealth.
The second principle Jesus tells us in this parable begins in verse ten of Luke 16. “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?” (Luke 16:10-12). A financial responsibility is laid upon everyone that has been called to a knowledge of the truth. One who takes the mammon of unrighteousness and selfishly uses it for himself has failed in that responsibility. One who cannot practice sharing his worldly goods for the well-being of others will not be given the true riches-eternal life! This physical life is a testing ground to see if those called will put to practice God’s instruction. We must be faithful in our financial responsibility. One who cannot handle this responsibility reflects a lack of character. He is not a candidate for the Kingdom of God.
The third principle in this parable is found in verse thirteen. “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” (v. 13). One cannot serve God and the riches of this world; the dichotomy is too great. Those called of God must make a choice-where they place their priorities. These priorities are either the physical amenities of this life or the Kingdom of God. They cannot be both. So, the entire lesson in this parable is how we should handle our financial responsibility before God and use the riches or mammon of this world for a worthwhile purpose.
Luke, chapter seventeen, takes up another important teaching of Jesus. What we must realize, Jesus points out here, is that even among those who are like-minded, difficulties are apt to appear. “Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!” (Luke 17:1). We must become aware of this possibility in all of us-the proclivity to offend others. With the mouth, tongue, and mind, it is necessary to exercise self-control and learn to be diplomatic and kind to others. That is why Jesus warns, “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (v. 2). We should be especially careful not to offend babes in Christ-those who are new in the faith. Newly converted brethren expect to see proper conduct and self-control among the older brethren. They do not expect to see the same pattern of behavior they see in the world. To see this is an offense indeed! But equally important is the ability to forgive those who offend us. This is why Jesus gave the following instruction. “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4). While it is unlikely one would trespass against another seven times in a day, what Jesus is showing is the length we should be willing to go in order to forgive. The disciples knew how difficult this was to do. Astoundingly they requested, “Increase our faith.” Why would they request this? The answer: To put to practice the things Jesus instructed the disciples here requires complete faith in God’s promises for the help needed to be able to do so. Also, it requires faith in the rewards Jesus promised to those who live up to the way of life He brought. Faith is confidence in the promises of God (Heb. 11:1, 6).
How did Jesus answer their request?
And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do (Luke 17:6-10).
What did Jesus mean by this answer?
The lesson here is that the everyday habit of putting these principles into practice in one’s life requires a kind of faith that is more demanding than the faith required to perform miracles. People generally think that to be able to perform miracles would entitle one to a place in God’s hall of fame. Not so, Jesus said! What really requires faith is putting to practice the principles of Christian living.
Because the faith required for miracles is a gift from God (1 Cor. 12:28). To live Christianity as a way of life is not a gift, but a requirement which takes character and determination. To put Christianity to practice in one’s life does indeed require faith-faith in God’s help and faith in God’s promises and rewards. One who is truly aware of these things will be practicing Christianity.
Luke, chapter eighteen, considers a teaching of Jesus which has to do with prayer. “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). Do not become discouraged in prayer, Jesus tells us. Sometimes we are forced to wait for an answer, but, if so, this is for our good.
Jesus, then, gave this example:
. . . There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long for them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find the faith on [the] earth?” (Luke 18:2-8).
Though the judge did not want to be bothered with this widow, her persistence wore him out. He, then, finally acted on her request. Jesus then shows that while God does not answer for this reason, He nevertheless will answer because of one’s determination. God’s children will have their prayers answered and will receive justice, Jesus promised. But we must keep right on praying and not give up.
Luke, chapter eighteen, addresses the matter of self-righteousness. Notice what Jesus taught,
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess (Luke 18:9-12).
The Pharisees were a main religious party of the day, highly esteemed in their own eyes. The publicans were the despised tax-collectors, many of whom were guilty of extortion. Notice the publican’s prayer. Notice his humility before God. He did not feel worthy to come even close to the place of prayer. “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me [the] sinner” (v. 13). The publican regarded himself as the sinner-the worst of all sinners in the eyes of God. Maybe he was. But in God’s eyes he was repentant, and that is what counts! He recognized his place before God as a sinning human being, a fact the Pharisee did not recognize. Notice what Jesus said, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (v. 14).
God was not fooled by the Pharisee’s claim that he was righteous. Neither was God fooled by any insincerity on the part of the publican, for there was none. The publican, was the one forgiven, not the Pharisee. To be forgiven by God requires true humility and repentance. This is not manifested by looking down on others.