Sermon #966 Miscellaneous Sermons
Title: The Parable of the Unjust Steward
Text: Luke 16:1-13
Subject: The proper use of earthly riches
Date: Sunday Morning – March 10, 1991
Monday morning I received a letter from a preacher in Scotland. He is a pastor in the Free Church of Scotland. Several months ago his son, who is also a preacher in that Scottish denomination, started giving him some of our tapes. It appears that God has graciously used the message of his free grace in Christ to minister to their hearts. And both of these men are now endeavoring to preach the gospel boldly in their own pulpits.
Anyway, the father wrote to me and asked me to explain to him the parable of the unjust steward in Luke 16:1-13. So I began studying the parable. As I did, my own heart was greatly affected by the message it contains. The more I studied the parable, the bigger it appeared to be. And the more I read it, prayed over it, and studied it, the more convicting it was to me. I have been studying it all week. I was finally able to answer that preacher’s letter late Thursday night.
Let’s read this parable together – I have found it to be full of the most practical, spiritual instruction, by which God has spoken to my heart. I pray that God the Holy Spirit will be our Teacher as I endeavor to convey to you what he has taught me by this parable. Read Luke 16:1-13.
Now, remember, parables are earthly illustrations of heavenly truths. We do not build our doctrine upon parables. We do not interpret the rest of the Bible in the light of the Lord’s parables. We build our doctrine upon the plain statements of Holy Scripture. And we interpret the parables of our Lord in the light of the whole Volume of Inspiration. A parable must not be forced beyond its purpose. The purpose of a parable is to illustrate one primary thing. It has one central message. It is not necessary to give every word of the parable a spiritual, or doctrinal meaning. In order to understand it, we must look at the parable as a whole, and seek to determine what its primary message is. In this parable…
· The certain rich man represents the Lord our God.
· The rich man’s steward represents us all. We are all, in a sense, stewards of God.
· The message taught in this parable is that – As the stewards of God, you and I are responsible to wisely use what God has put into our hands for his glory and for our own eternal good. This unjust steward was not commended for his injustice, but for his wisdom and great care in using his present circumstances to provide for himself in the future.
Someone has suggested that this world is a house. Heaven is the roof of the house. The stars are its lights. The earth, with its fruits, is a table spread by the Master of the house, who is the great and glorious Lord God. Man is the steward of the house, into whose hands God has given all the goods of his house for a time. It is the steward’s responsibility to use his Master’s goods wisely for the honor of his Master, and according to his Master’s will. In the day of judgment we will be called to give an account of our stewardship.
You and I are stewards under God, responsible to use what he has put into our hands for the good of his people and the glory of his name, according to his will. If we learn nothing else from this parable, I want us to learn this – Whatever we have in this world belongs to God. We are only the stewards of God’s property for a while. He allows us to use that which is his. But it is our responsibility to use it for his glory and according to his direction.
1. The Parable of the Unjust Steward (vv. 1-8).
2. The exhortation of our Lord (v. 9).
3. The basis of our Lord’s exhortation (vv. 10-12).
4. The lesson we must learn (v. 13).
I. First, we will briefly look at the parable itself (vv. 1-8).
Here our Lord holds before us a wicked, self-serving, unjust steward. His master trusted him with the goods of his house. But this man used his office and position to cheat his master and his master’s debtors and served himself. As I told you earlier, this unjust steward represents all men and women. God made man to serve him with his creation and honor him. But we have taken that which belongs to God and used it for ourselves. We have all attempted to rob God, both of his dominion and his dignity.
Illustration: Adam in the Garden
Here are four things that the Lord specifically tells us about this unjust steward…
A. “He wasted his lord’s goods” (v. 1).
He embezzled them, misapplied them, or through carelessness lost them. And for this he was accused unto his master. This is the charge laid against us all! We have taken that which God has given us to use for his glory, his Son, and his people and wasted it upon our own pleasures.
B. Because he had wasted his lord’s goods, this steward was given notice that he would soon be put out of his stewardship (v. 2).
In a little while he would be required to give up his stewardship and give account of himself to his master. Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke these words to his disciples. They are written for our learning. What do they teach us?
1. Soon we will be compelled to give up our stewardship.
We will not always enjoy the privileges and pleasures that are now ours. Death will soon come. When it does it will deprive us of the abilities and opportunities we now have of serving Christ and his people. And when we are gone another steward will come to take our place. We will soon be forgotten.
2. Our discharge from our stewardship is a matter of justice.
We must die because we have sinned. We have wasted our Lord’s goods. Therefore, we have forfeited our stewardship. When the Lord takes it from us, we have no grounds for complaint.
3. When our stewardship is taken from us, we must give account of it to our Lord.
“After death the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Having been warned of these things, if we were wise, we would make preparation for that great day. He is a wise man who says to himself continually, “Prepare to meet thy God.” Soon we must stand before God to give account of our stewardship.
C. As soon as this unjust steward realized that his stewardship was to be taken from him, he began to make preparations for the appointed day (vv. 3-7).
He used the time and opportunities he had to prepare for that appointed day when his stewardship would be taken away. You would be wise to think upon that day. You have been warned. Soon God will take you out of this world. Soon you will be standing before God in judgment. You are a fool if you do not prepare for it.
Now look at what this cunning, unjust steward did –
1. He realized that he had no ability to earn his livelihood and that he was too proud to beg (v. 3).
He could not dig because he would not dig. He was not willing to lower himself to what he looked upon as menial labor. He was not too proud to steal. But he was too proud to work! He was too lazy to work and too proud to beg. Both work and humility were contrary to his nature. This old boy was in a pickle.
Spiritually, you and I are in the same position he was in.
· We cannot, by the works of our hands, save our souls. We have neither the will nor the ability to obey God’s law. “By the works of the law there shall no flesh be justified.” “Man is not justified by the works of the law.” Salvation is by grace. It cannot be won by works (Eph. 2:8-9).
· But there is another problem – We are all too proud by nature to beg for mercy. We are too proud to come to God like the publican upon the footing of free grace through a Substitute (Lk. 18:13). We are too proud to seek grace through the merits of another.
2. Though he was too lazy to work and too proud to beg, this unjust steward determined that he would make friends of his lord’s debtors, so that when he was turned out of his master’s house he might be received into theirs (vv. 4-7).
This unjust steward was a treacherous, dishonest man. But he was brilliant in one thing. He used the opportunity he had to prepare for his future welfare.
D. Now look at the commendation given to this unjust steward (v. 8).
His lord did not commend him because he had done the things he had done, but because he had wisely provided for himself. Dishonest as he was, by lessening the bills of his master’s debtors he made for himself friends. Wicked as he was in his deeds, he had an eye to the future. Disgraceful as his actions were, he provided well for himself. He did not sit still in idleness and wait to be reduced to poverty. He schemed, planned, contrived, and found a way to secure a future home for himself.
Therefore, we read, “The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”
Do you see the contrast? This man, with regard to earthly things, was diligent. He wisely looked to and provided for the future. This is commendable even in insects and animals (Prov. 6:6-9; 30:24-28). Yet, how foolish we are to neglect our souls! In this regard the unjust steward sets before us an example we would be wise to follow. Like him, we should…
· Look to the future.
· Make provision for that day when we shall have to leave our present habitation.
· Secure for ourselves “an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
· Use all means at our disposal to secure our everlasting welfare.
J. C. Ryle wrote, “The diligence of worldly men about the things of time should put to shame the coldness of professing Christians about the things of eternity.” They improve their opportunities. We waste ours. They redeem their time. We squander ours. They seize the moment to increase their riches. We live as if we expect to live here forever.
II. Secondly, I want us to understand the exhortation of our Lord (v. 9).
This is the meaning of our Lord’s words in this verse – “Make to yourselves friends with your money and earthly goods, so that when you die, you may enter into everlasting habitations…Use your earthly goods, as a steward under God, with an eye to the future. Use your riches in this world in such a way that they shall be a friend to you and not a witness against you in the day of judgment.”
Lest any mistake what I am saying, or what our Lord is teaching in this verse, let this be perfectly understood. No man can purchase an eternal inheritance in heaven with money, any more than he can earn it by his works! Our only grounds of acceptance with God, is the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-21). Your earthly riches cannot get you into heaven, no matter what you do with them. But your earthly riches can keep you out of heaven! (Matt. 13:22).
Illustration: The Rich Young Ruler (Lk. 18:22-24).
It is our responsibility not to serve our earthly possessions, but rather to use our earthly possessions to serve our God, his people, and his gospel. All that we have belongs to God and is to be used for God. We are nothing but stewards. A steward takes in with one hand and distributes with the other according to his master’s will (Matt. 6:19-21, 33). We are not put here to amass wealth, but to use what God puts in our hands for the glory of Christ and the good of his people.
The doctrine of this text is just this – The proper use of our earthly goods, from the proper motives, will be for our eternal benefit. It is an evidence of God’s grace in us, which shall befriend our souls forever. Let’s look at three inspired commentaries on this verse.
· Ecclesiastes 11:1
· Galatians 6:7-10
· 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Also Luke 16:9
III. Thirdly, our Lord gives us the basis of this exhortation and enforces it in verses 10-12.
If we do not make good use of God’s temporal gifts of providence, we need not expect him to bestow upon us the true riches of spiritual and everlasting grace and glory.
Verse 10 – The riches of this world are here called that which is least. Men think riches are great, significant, and all-important. Our Lord calls riches that which is least, the very least of all God’s gifts to man. The spiritual riches, the riches of grace and glory is that which is much, infinitely, immeasurably much - “The unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8). “God’s riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
Matthew Henry said, “God withholds his grace from covetous worldly people more than we are aware of.” And our Lord said virtually the same thing. (Read Luke 18:25).
V. 11 – The riches of this world are deceitful and uncertain. They are “the unrighteous mammon.” Spiritual riches are “true riches”.
I wonder if we really believe that? Those who are rich in faith are truly rich. Those who are rich in grace are infinitely rich. Those who are rich towards God are permanently rich. Those who are rich in Christ are perfectly rich, rich in all things (1 Cor. 3:21). In Christ…
· All providential things are ours.
· All temporal things are ours.
· All gracious things are ours.
· All spiritual things are ours.
· All eternal things are ours.
Verse 12 – The riches of this world are another man’s. They all belong to God. We are only stewards of them, who use them for a very little while. Then, we must leave them to another. Spiritual, eternal riches are our own. They are that good part which shall not be taken away from us, neither in this world nor in the world to come. That which God imparts to the soul can never be separated from it. It is my very own forever.
· Christ’s righteousness is my righteousness!
· Christ’s reward is my reward!
· Christ’s inheritance is my inheritance!
· Christ’s glory is my glory!
NOTE: In these verses, our Lord plainly shows us the importance of faithfulness in “little things”. He is showing us that “little things” are the best test of character. A person who is not faithful in “little things” is probably unfaithful in all things. And he certainly is not an heir of heavenly things.
NOTE: Faithfulness is not measured by acts but by lives!
IV. Fourthly, our Savior plainly declares a lesson, which we must learn (v. 13).
“We have no other way to prove ourselves the servants of God than by giving up ourselves so entirely to his service as to make mammon, that is, all our worldly gain, serviceable to us in his service” (Matthew Henry).
If you love the world and seek to hold on to the things of the world, you will hate God and despise his grace. Your worship of, service to, and faith in God will be made to be subservient to your worldly interests. You will use the things of God to serve the world.
If you love God and seek to hold on to him, serving his kingdom and his glory, his Son and his gospel, then you will hate the world and despise all that it offers. That simply means, when the world comes into competition with God, you throw the world away and hold your God. You make your business and worldly interests subservient to the worship of, obedience to, and service for your God. You make the things of the world to be neither more nor less than instruments with which you serve the Lord God.
“Ye cannot serve God and mammon!” So I say to you today, as Joshua did to Israel of old, “How long halt ye between two opinions?…Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” As for me and my house, I have made up my mind, “We will serve the Lord!”