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
One of the definitions of the word steward is “one who manages the property or financial affairs of another.” That is the responsibility God has given each of us, whether we possess a lot or a little. He has put us in charge of the resources, talents, and opportunities He has blessed us with, and how we utilize and take care of them is what matters.
A while back a brother in our church testified about having his truck stolen. Though undoubtedly he was inconvenienced by the robbery and the necessary follow-up of police reports, insurance claims, and the need for a replacement vehicle, what impressed me was his reaction. The first words that came out of his mouth were, “Lord, someone stole Your truck!” He had the right perspective: he was reminding himself that the vehicle really belonged to the Lord and he was merely the steward.
It is easy to lose sight of that correct perspective and consider ourselves to be the owners of what we have. The unquestionable trend in society is to focus on personal possessions, rights, and preferences. However, the Bible constantly reminds us of our responsibilities. Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities.
Today’s parable of the unjust steward brings out three important principles regarding Biblical stewardship. First, we see the principle of ownership. None of the instruction in Scripture will make sense if we overlook the fact that God, as our Creator, has full rights of ownership. And His ownership does not just apply to material resources or objects; it also includes the opportunities and abilities He has given us.
Once we understand that God is the owner of all, we can move on to the second principle: that of responsibility. Some may say, “I can’t sing or play an instrument. I don’t have any special talents, so the concept of stewardship doesn’t apply to me.” That is not the case. Remember, as God’s stewards we are not only to faithfully use our abilities, but we must also use our material resources, our time, and our opportunities as God would have us. All are divinely ordained; they all belong to the One who bestowed them, and we are to use them effectively for Him.
Finally, we learn the principle of accountability. Like the unjust steward in today’s parable, a day of reckoning is coming! Some day we will be called to give an account concerning how we managed what God entrusted to our care.
Let us never forget that the key to success from God’s perspective is conducting our lives on the basis of stewardship rather than personal ownership. Then we can look forward to the day when we will be welcomed home to Heaven and hear Christ himself say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Luke 16 contains two accounts given by Jesus as He traveled through the countryside on His way to Jerusalem for His last Feast of Tabernacles. Verses 1-13 are a parable about an unjust steward, probably given shortly after the parables found in chapter 15. Verses 19-31 are Jesus’ account of the rich man and Lazarus.
A steward in Bible times was a manager who acted as his master’s agent in handling business affairs, and had broad powers in controlling and dispensing his master’s wealth. The word translated wasted in verse 1 literally means “scattering.” The same word is used in the Parable of the Prodigal Son where it says he went into a far country and “wasted his substance with riotous living.”
The phrase “give an account” in verse 2 was a demand for a complete financial statement. This accounting was not to prove the innocence or guilt of the steward. Apparently the misuse of the master’s assets was already clear beyond doubt, because the steward had been informed, “Thou mayest be no longer steward.” However, a review of the accounts would seal the steward’s doom.
It is important to understand that a division exists between the two clauses of verse 8. In the first clause, the “lord” who offered commendation was the master in the parable, not Jesus. Although the master showed a certain grudging admiration for the steward’s shrewdness, Jesus labeled the steward “unjust.” God does not condone sin for any reason. In the second part of this verse, Jesus observed that frequently the children of the world show more wisdom than the “children of light” (or Christians).
“Mammon of unrighteousness” in verse 9 refers to temporal wealth. The Greek phrase translated, “when ye fail,” actually could be translated as “when it fails” or “when it is no longer available.” “Everlasting habitations” refers to the eternal future. Given these definitions, Jesus seemingly was urging His hearers to use this world’s goods in a way that would prepare them for eternity.
Most Bible scholars believe the account of the rich man and Lazarus in verses 19-31 was not a parable, but rather an actual event. One reason is that Lazarus, Abraham, and Moses are all named; in parables, names are not given. However, whether a parable or a true story, Jesus saw the need to instruct those with Him regarding the hereafter. These verses clearly disprove the doctrine of annihilation — the belief that a human soul is not immortal unless it is given eternal life and thus, like the animals, sinners simply cease to exist at death.
The Lazarus in this account should not be confused with the Lazarus who was the brother of Mary and Martha, whom Jesus raised from the dead. With regard to Jesus’ comment in verse 31 that those who resisted His teaching would not be persuaded “though one rose from the dead,” it is interesting to note that the brother of Mary and Martha did rise from the dead. Though the religious leaders did not believe, and tried to kill Lazarus, there were many who did believe as a result of that miracle (see John 12:9-11).
Verse 23 says, “In hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.” This invalidates the teaching of “soul sleeping” — the belief in an intermediate state of unconsciousness between death and the resurrection. At death, the body and soul of a saved individual go immediately to be with the Lord; the unsaved go to a place of suffering and torment. At the resurrection, the body, soul, and spirit of the redeemed will be reunited in a glorified body, and will continue existence with the Lord eternally; the body and soul of the unsaved will reside forever in a place of eternal punishment.
Abraham’s words “Son, remember . . .” (verse 25) indicate that in Hell, a clear memory exists of events and circumstances which occurred during the individual’s lifetime.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
VI. The instruction of the Son of Man
D. Instructions concerning the Kingdom of God
2. Instructions concerning the nature of those in the Kingdom
b. Instructions before the disciples
(1) Concerning the use of money (16:1-31)
(a) The parable (16:1-8)
(b) The application (16:9-13)
(c) The Pharisees (16:14-31)
 Their reaction (16:14)
 Jesus’ reply (16:15-31)
[a] Stated (16:15-18)
[b] Illustrated (16:19-31)
One day we will all be held responsible for how we managed the resources and opportunities with which God has blessed us. Let us endeavor to be faithful stewards!