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The Wise (Shrewd) Steward

Luke 16:1-15

Victor M. Eskew




A.      T – F   The word “shrewd” often carries a negative connotation.


B.      “One of the most common features of our Lord’s parables is their shock value.  They surprise and startle.  The ‘heroes’ are the most unexpected people” (The Parables, Gary Inrig, p. 108).

1.       The Good Samaritan

2.       The Prodigal Son


C.      The hero of the parable we are studying is a steward who has been unfaithful in his stewardship.


D.     The parable has three difficult areas.

1.       The way in which the steward resolves the debts of his lord’s debtors

2.       The lord’s words about his steward’s actions:  And he commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely (Luke 16:8a).

3.       The words of Luke 16:9


And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.


a.       Friends of mammon of unrighteousness

b.       Everlasting habitations


E.      One point to keep in mind is the reaction of the Pharisees in Luke 16:14.


And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things:  and they derided him.


I.                    THE PARABLE (Luke 16:1-8a)


A.     The Accusation (Luke 16:1)


And he said unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which also had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.


1.      Definitions

a.       Steward

1)      The word in the Greek is a combination of two words:  one meaning “house” and the other meaning” one who parcels out.”

2)      Strong (3623):  a house distributor (that is, manager) or overseer, that is, an employer in that capacity

3)      Thayer:  the manager of a household or of household affairs, especially a steward, manager, superintendent…to whom the head of the house or proprietor has entrusted the management of his affairs,  the care of receipts and expenditures, and the duty of dealing out the proper portion to every servant and even to the children not yet of age.

4)      Example:  Joseph (Gen. 39:8-9)


But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand:  there is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because art his wife:  how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God.

b.      NOTE:  This steward’s responsibility was to use this trust to further his master’s interests, and not his own (I Cor. 4:2).


Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.


2.      The accusation:  He wasted his goods

a.       Definitions

1)      Accused

a)      Strong (1225):  to traduce

b)      Thayer:  to traduce, calumniate, slander, accuse, defame

2)      Wasted

a)      Strong (1287):  to dissipate, that is, (generally) to rout or separate, specifically to winnow, figuratively to squander

b)      Thayer:  to scatter abroad, disperse, to winnow

b.      This could easily have been a true story.  Stewards over much are placed into positions of great temptation.  Many misuse the possessions entrusted to them.


B.     The Accountability (Luke 16:2)


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 no longer be steward.


1.      Account

a)      Strong (3056):  logos, something said…also reasoning or motive; by extension computation

b)      Thayer:  of speech, a word, uttered by a living voice, embodies a conception or idea…account, reckoning, score, answer or explanation in reference to judgment

2.      Two concepts involved:

a.       The reason behind his actions

b.      A showing of the books and records of all that has been done

3.      NOTE:  The lord appears to have granted him time to bring the books and his explanation.


C.     The Alarm (Luke 16:3)


Then the steward said within him, What shall I do?  For my lord taketh away from me the stewardship:  I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.


1.      The steward knew he was guilty and that he was caught.  He knew he was fired.

2.      His concerns:

a.       He had no physical skills to make a living:  to dig.

b.      He was too proud to beg.


D.    The Actions (Luke 16:4-7)


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, A 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, A hundred measures of wheat.  And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.


1.      The steward reduced the amount of debt owed by the two debtors.

2.      The actions seem to be criminal, but his lord will not charge him with a crime.





3.      Explanation:


“It is more likely that the transaction is subtle and semi-legal.  According to Mosaic law, Jewish businessmen were not allowed to charge interest to their fellow Jews.  But that made commercial transactions difficult.  So a subterfuge often was followed.  When money was loaned, it was illegal to write a bill stating any interest.  So written bills generally showed only one amount, the principal loaned plus the interest and the manager’s fees.  This amount was often stated in terms of commodities (oil, wheat), rather than money.  In this way, it would appear that the law was being followed.

            “If this is so, what the steward is probably doing is discounting the face amount of the notes by suspending the interest charges.  Since these charges were not legal within Jewish law, his master had no ground of action against him.  Presumably, the debtors would be suspicious of the reasons but would accept the offer gladly.  He has therefore tied his master’s hands effectively, stayed within the bounds of legality, and ingratiated himself with people he wants to remember him kindly” (Inrig, pp. 111-112).


E.     The Applause (Luke 8:11a)


And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely…


1.      Definitions

a.       Commended

1)      Strong (1867):  to applaud           :-  commended, laud, praise

2)      Thayer:  approve, praise

b.      Unjust

1)      Strong (93):  legal injustice

2)      Thayer:  a deed of violating law and justice, act of unrighteousness

c.       Wisely

1)      Strong (5430):  prudently

2)      Thayer:  prudently, wisely

3)      Others

a)      To act with foresight

b)      To be shrewd in the sense of sagacity

4)      Examples

a)      The wise man who built his house on a rock (Matt. 7:24)

b)      The wise virgins (Matt. 25:2)

2.      The master does not say that he was pleased with the steward’s actions, but he was impressed by them (e.g., a losing coach of a football team).