Parable of the Unjust Steward

It is Luke 16:1-12.

I have honestly never understood this parable at all.

-What is the steward doing when he is asking the debtors to "take their bill and write *amount less than owed*? Why does he do that? Is this something deceitful? Also how does this relate to his plan to have them receive him into their homes once the stewardship is removed from him?
-Why does the master commend the steward? It seems the steward acted deceitfully?
-What does Christ mean by "make friends for yourselves among righteous mammon that when you fail they may receive you into an everlasting home." How can the unrighteous receive us into an everlasting home?
-What does it mean to "waste our Master's goods"? What does it mean if He takes the stewardship from us?

Can you please help me to understand this Parable? Thank you! ☺


  • This is what the church fathers have to say I think others should still try to provide further explanation

    Overview: An interpretation of the parable of the unjust steward seeks the figurative meaning of the whole parable and not a meaning for the individual parts. The steward trusting in the mercy of his Master has his documents of sin rewritten by God’s Holy Spirit through Christ’s cross and the grace of baptism. So do not rewrite what God has blotted out (Origen). Jesus is recommending to the disciples the steward’s foresight, prudence and ingenuity (Augustine). By using the transitory things of this world which are not ours we are to purchase for ourselves those things which will not pass away (Ephrem the Syrian).
    If the mammon was used wisely, that is, if it was used to make friends, then when it is exhausted those friends may receive you into the eternal tents. Making friends by means of unrighteous mammon no doubt refers to almsgiving without discrimination in fulfillment of Jesus’ exhortation to “sell your possessions and give alms” (Augustine). Riches are a loan from God that are to be deposited with the poor so that we might receive a hundredfold reward, for they will be our friends in the eternal habitations (Chrysostom). The language of faithfulness is used here as well; for Jesus questions whether their unfaithfulness in unrighteous mammon will lead to unfaithfulness in “what is yours,” that is, “the true things” that are the divine gifts received in faith that begin to reshape the divine likeness in us (Cyril of Alexandria).
    It is impossible to be a slave to two masters who have contrary wills and two different minds which are irreconcilable. This world and the world to come are at odds with one another, and one cannot serve the world and do the will of Christ (Pseudo-Clement of Rome). The steward was commended because he chose to serve his lord, whom he trusted would be merciful (Ambrose).

    16:1–8 The Parable of the Prudent Steward

    If God Rewrites Our Documents of Sin, Do Not Rewrite What God Has Blotted Out.

    Origen: What the Gospel of “the unjust steward” says is also an image of this matter. He says to the debtor [of one hundred measures of wheat], “Take your bill, sit down, and write eighty,” and the other things that are related. You see that he said to each man, “Take your bill.” It is evident from this that the documents of sin are ours, but God writes documents of justice. The apostle says, “For you are an epistle written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in the fleshly tables of the heart.” You have in yourselves documents of God and documents of the Holy Spirit. If you transgress, you yourself write in yourselves the handwriting of sin. Notice that at any time when you have approached the cross of Christ and the grace of baptism, your handwriting is fastened to the cross and blotted out in the fountain of baptism. Do not rewrite later what has been blotted out or repair what has been destroyed. Preserve only the documents of God in yourself. Let only the scripture of the Holy Spirit remain in you.
    Homilies on Genesis 13.4.

    Jesus Recommends the Foresight, Prudence and Ingenuity of the Steward.

    Augustine: Why did the Lord Jesus Christ present this parable to us? He surely did not approve of that cheat of a servant who cheated his master, stole from him and did not make it up from his own pocket. On top of that, he also did some extra pilfering. He caused his master further loss, in order to prepare a little nest of quiet and security for himself after he lost his job. Why did the Lord set this before us? It is not because that servant cheated but because he exercised foresight for the future. When even a cheat is praised for his ingenuity, Christians who make no such provision blush. I mean, this is what he added, “Behold, the children of this age are more prudent than the children of light.” They perpetrate frauds in order to secure their future. In what life, after all, did that steward insure himself like that? What one was he going to quit when he bowed to his master’s decision? He was insuring himself for a life that was going to end. Would you not insure yourself for eternal life? Sermon 359a.10.

    16:9–13 Teachings About God and Mammon

    Using Transitory Things for Heavenly Riches.

    Ephrem the Syrian: He told another parable of the steward, who was accused in the presence of his master. The shrewdness of this unjust steward was praised in the presence of his master. He unjustly wasted the initial treasures and then unjustly and cunningly cancelled the later debts. He was praised because he acquired what was to be his by what was not his, namely, his friends and supporters. Through what was not his, Adam got something that was not his, namely, thorns and pains. O children of Adam, buy for yourselves those things that do not pass away, by means of those temporary things that are not yours! Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron 14.21.

    Do Not Exclude from Alms Those You Judge Unworthy

    Augustine: Mammon is the Hebrew word for “riches,” just as in Punic the word for “profit” is mammon. What are we to do? What did the Lord command? “Make yourselves friends with the mammon of iniquity, so that they too, when you begin to fail, may receive you into eternal shelters.” It is easy, of course, to understand that we must give alms and a helping hand to the needy, because Christ receives it in them.… We can understand that we have to give alms and that we must not really pick and choose to whom we give them, because we are unable to sift through people’s hearts. When you give alms to all different types of people, then you will reach a few who deserve them. You are hospitable, and you keep your house ready for strangers. Let in the unworthy, in case the worthy might be excluded. You cannot be a judge and sifter of hearts. Sermon 359a.11–12.

    Riches are a Loan from God Not to Be Left Idle.

    Chrysostom: You know that many high standing people renege on repayment of a loan. They are either resistant with a bad attitude or unable to pay because of poverty, as it often happens. In the case of the Lord of all, there is no room for thinking this. On the contrary, the loan is proof against loss. He guarantees to return in good time one hundred percent of what was deposited, and he keeps life everlasting in reserve for us. In the future, what excuse will we have if we are negligent and fail to gain a hundredfold in place of the little we have, the future in place of the present, the eternal in place of the temporary? What excuse will we have if we heedlessly lock our money behind doors and barricades, and we prefer to leave it lying idle? Instead, we should make it available to the needy now, so that in the future we may count on support from them. Remember that Scripture says, “Make friends with ill-gotten gains so that, when you go down in the world, they may welcome you into their eternal dwellings.” Homilies on Genesis 3.21.

    If Unfaithful in What is Another’s, Who Will Give You What is Your Own.

    Cyril of Alexandria: Anyone may readily learn the meaning and view of the Savior’s words from what follows. He said, “If you have not been faithful in what is another’s, who will give you what is your own?” We again say that what is another’s is the wealth we possess. We were not born with riches, but on the contrary, naked. We can truly affirm in the words of Scripture that “we neither brought anything into the world, nor can carry anything out.” …
    Let those of us who possess earthly wealth open our hearts to those who are in need. Let us show ourselves faithful and obedient to the laws of God. Let us be followers of our Lord’s will in those things that are from the outside and not our own. Let us do this so that we may receive what is our own, that holy and admirable beauty that God forms in people’s souls, making them like himself, according to what we originally were.
    Commentary on Luke, Homily 109.

    This World and the World to Come are Enemies.

    Pseudo-Clement of Rome: The Lord says, “No servant can serve two masters.” If we want to serve both God and money, it will do us no good. “What good does it do a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” This world and the world to come are enemies. This one means adultery, corruption, greed and deceit, while the other gives them up. We cannot be friends of both. To get the one, we must give the other up. We think that it is better to hate what is here, for it is trivial, temporary and perishable and to value what is there: things good and imperishable. Yes, if we do the will of Christ, we will find rest, but if not, nothing will save us from eternal punishment if we fail to heed his commands.
    2 Clement 6.1–7.

    The Steward Serves God by Seeking His Mercy While Giving Relief to the Poor.

    Ambrose: “No servant can serve two masters,” not because there are two, but the Lord is One. Although there are those who serve mammon, he still does not possess any rights to sovereignty, but they impose on themselves the chains of slavery. Power is not just, but slavery is unjust. He says, “Make for yourself friends of the mammon of iniquity,” so that by giving to the poor, we may match the grace of the angels and all the saints for ourselves. He does not rebuke the steward. By this, we learn that he does not belong to the Lord himself but to the riches of others. Although he has sinned, he is praised because he sought help for himself in the future through the Lord’s mercy. He fittingly mentions the mammon of iniquity, because greed tempted our dispositions with different enticements of wealth, so that we were willing to be the slaves of riches. Exposition of the Gospel of Luke 7.244–45.
Sign In or Register to comment.