Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Parable of the Unrighteous Steward: The Grace of God

File:Teachings of Jesus 31 of 40. parable of the unjust steward. Jan Luyken etching. Bowyer Bible.gif

1And 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. 2And 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. 3Then 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. 4I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 5So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 6And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7Then 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. 8And 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. 9And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. (Luke 16:1-9

This parable has stumped many people.

What kind of businessman, what kind of ruler would reward or compliment a thief for stealing from him?

Let us consider this parable in light of the three prior parables which Jesus shared with the Pharisees in Luke 15:

The first dealt with a Shepherd would left ninety-nine sheep to pursue one lost sheep. What kind of Shepherd would do that? The good shepherd, Jesus!

The second parable dealt with a woman who had lost one coin out of ten. She swept the whole house to find that coin. When she found it, she called all her friends and threw a party. What kind of person would make such a fuss over one little coin? The Holy Spirit.

Then we find the third parable, about the Loving Father, for the prodigal son is not the focus. This father allowed his son to insult him by demanding his inheritance before his father died. The son then wastes the inheritance on wild living, comes to poverty, where he scratches out a meager existence.

He then develops the audacity to return to his father and ask to become a servant. The reception he receives is so great, for the father not only throws his arms around his son, but promotes him with good clothing, the best jewelry, and throws a party for his son.

Now, anyone with a knowledge of the law of Moses would have been offended by such a display of indulgence from the father, because such rebellious children should have been stoned to death.

This father promotes the prodigal son, instead. Why?

"For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry." (Luke 15: 24)

File:Frans Francken (II) - The Parable of the Prodigal Son - WGA8205.jpg
Parable of the Loving Father (receiving Prodigal Son)

Man is obsessed with trying to be good, with trying to live by the rules, with giving off an appearance of righteousness

The truth is that man is dead, and he needs life. The issue is not just that we are bad, but we are dead in our trespasses, and we need life!

"Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?" (John 7: 19)

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10: 10)

The three central characters are pictures of our loving God, who has revealed Himself through His Son, and Jesus addressed these parables to the Pharisees in the presence of the publicans and sinners who drew near to Him.

Now let us consider Luke 16.

The rich man is a picture of our God.

When we try to work for him, or give the pretense that we can serve him, we are insulting God, for there is nothing that we can do for God.

The steward did indeed steal from this ruler, by the way, and in a similar fashion, man tried to take from God what God alone can give. Adam wanted to be like God, when God alone can know good and evil.

The unjust steward then plots to take from his master by forgiving the debts of other people who owe the master money.

In fact, everyone one of us have been forgiven all our debts forever through Christ Jesus' death on the Cross. He gives us this grace and peace, which we then can give to others:

"31What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8: 31-32)

Now, the rich man commends the unjust steward.

What do we see in this?

God is inexhaustible in all that He has for us. We should not be afraid to take from Him and bless others. We shoud not relent in taking from Him his gifts of righteousness and abundance of grace (Romans 5: 17)

In fact, Paul writes to the Ephesians:

"31Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Ephesians 4: 31-32)

"Forgive" is not rich enough. "Be gracious" is the proper word.

Another verse in that epistle speaks to why we should not steal:

"Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth." (Ephesians 4: 28)

We do not steal not because we fear God's wrath, but because He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ (Ephesians 1: 3)

We need to keep in mind that Jesus shared the parable of the unjust steward with disciples, people who were still trying to be like Christ in their actions, rather than trusting Jesus as their Savior.

We need to stop trying to be good boys, but be real boys, who trust in God for everything. We need to give up the pretenses that we can give God anything, and that we need to obey and behave in order to get something from Him.

Instead of denying our unrighteousness, we need to recognize it, then receive righteousness from him.

Now, why are the children of this world more prudent? They have stopped trying to play by the rules.

What about the children of light mentioned by Jesus?

Well, at that time, there were no children of light, just as there are no righteous people on the earth who do not need repentance.

We can only become sons of light when we die to ourselves, in that we believe that Jesus died for us, and as us, and took us from dead in our trespasses to alive and seated in heavenly places in Himself.

What Jesus is talking about is grace. We should not be afraid to receive God's grace and give it to others! We cannot steal from God, for everything is His, and yet  He freely gives us all things.

Man's mistake from the beginning has been based on this harsh view of God, that He is stingy and holding back from us, when He has declared: "Freely ye have received. Freely give!"

When we see this parable, and all the other parables in light of the Grace of God, which He paid for dearly through the death of His Son, then everything makes sense. We can understand why this particular rich man commends an unrighteous man for taking from him. We understand why Jesus was talking about unrighteous mammon, and about friends who will welcome the disciples into eternal habitations.

We get nowhere in this life through our efforts but through His efforts, His life, and His favor in our lives. We have no righteousness in ourselves, and God commends us for taking all things from Him, and not thinking twice about it, for He came to serve us, not for us to serve Him.

1 comment:

  1. No doubt it's a difficult parable, the key lies in the answer as to why he commended the unjust steward, and 'grace' as mentioned here makes sense.