A. Luke 16 is related contextually to Luke 15:

1. Both were addressed to Pharisees, 15:2-3; 16:14;

2. The additional audience was the disciples, 14:33; 16:1;

3. The parables of these two chapters were designed to rebuke the attitudes of the religious leaders and to reveal to the disciples God's redemptive and seeking heart;

4. The unifying issue of Luke 15 was God's love for lost sinners, while Luke 16 focuses on the Pharisees' love for money, 16:14-15. (Luke 16 is unified by a rabbinical play on "mammon" or money.)

B. The parable (16:1-13) has caused much controversy in interpretation, for it seems to

praise fraud. However, it must be understood that this is a certain type of parable

(i.e., a contrasting story) which illustrates a positive truth by a negative example

(cf. Luke 18:1-8).

1. The keys to a proper interpretation of the parable:

a. Who is speaking in Luke 16:8a, Jesus or the landowner of the parable?

b. Verses 8b-13

(1) Jesus' comments on the problem of the love of money

(2) The early churches' comments (the author of the gospel)

(3) A separate literary unit?

2. Do not read too much into the details of the parable. Look for the central truth(s).

3. There are similarities between the Prodigal Son and the Unjust Steward:

a. A merciful father/landowner

b. In one, a son is unfaithful; in the other, a well paid steward is unfaithful;

c. In both, neither offers excuses for his sins but throws himself on the mercy of the father/debtors

C. This chapter does not have an obvious unifying theme. It is often hard to see the

literary units. Is Luke 16:13 an independent saying? How are Luke 16:16-17 and 18

related to the larger context?

{ Luke seems to have combined several unrelated sayings of Jesus, but why and how

remains uncertain. The overarching theme is the inappropriate priority of self,

wealth, and this world order.}

Luke Ch. 16 Commentary Page 2

D. The account of Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 is the fifth parable in a series (Luke 15-16).

It seems to have been designed illustrate the truths of Luke 16:8b-13 and 14. The

improper love of money is the issue in Luke 16.

{The Pharisees whom Jesus was addressing were like Lazarus' brothers (Luke

16:29). They had the Law and the Prophets, but they chose not to respond in the

appropriate way! They believed in a future physical life with God, but they missed

the fact that faith in Jesus is the key to this future life. There is a surprise

reversal awaiting the religious leaders of Jesus' day.}

E. Kenneth E. Bailey, Poet and Peasant & Through Peasant Eyes, is a thought-provoking

and helpful structural and cultural approach to interpreting the parables in Luke.


Vs 1 – “Now He was also saying to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.

Vs 2 – “And he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.'

Vs 3 – “The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg.

Vs 4 – “I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.'

Vs 5 – “And he summoned each one of his master's debtors, and he began saying to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'

Vs 6 – “And he said, 'A hundred measures of oil.' And he said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.'

Vs 7 – “Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?' And he said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.'

Vs 8 – “And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.

Vs 9 – “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unright- eousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings."

16:1 - "Disciples" The term mathētēs meant "learners." The NT does not focus on decisions, but on disciples (cf. Matt. 28:19). Christianity is an initial decision of faith and repentance (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, 19; 20:21) followed by a lifestyle of faith and repentance.

Luke Ch. 16 Commentary Page 3

A. Jesus is warning the disciples about the attitudes and actions (i.e., "Leaven of the

Pharisees," cf. Luke 12:1) of the religious leaders.

NJB "There was a"
NKJV "There was a certain"
TEV "There was once a"

B. The Greek term tis or ti often introduces parables in Luke (cf. Luke 7:41; 10:30;

14:16; 15:11; 16:1, 19; 19:12; 20:9 [MS A]). Notice that in this series of five parables

in Luke 15-16, this introduces three of them.

NJB "manager"
NKJV "steward"
TEV "a servant who managed"

C. The Greek term oikonomos could refer to:

1. A person hired to manage an estate (cf. Luke 12:42; 16:1, 3, 8)

2. An administrator or steward (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:10)

3. A city treasurer (cf. Rom. 16:23)

D. This may have been an educated slave or a hired freed person.

NASB "reported"
NKJV "an accusation"
NRSV "charges"
TEV"was told"
NJB"was denounced"

E. This term is from the same root as "devil" [diabolos, dia plus bollos], which literally

meant "to throw across" or metaphorically "to accuse."

■ "Squandering" This same word (diaskorpizō) was used of the Prodigal Son (cf. Luke


■ "Possessions" This same word is used in Luke 14:33.

Luke Ch. 16 Commentary Page 4

16:2 - "Give an account of your stewardship" This is an aorist active imperative. From the context the steward was possibly guilty of loaning money or property (usury, cf. Exod. 22:25; Lev. 25:36; Deut. 23:19). The Talmud assigned an amount to be legally charged by a loaner in Baba Bathra 10:4. This steward exceeded this amount, possibly even by the amount to which he later reduced the bill.

"You are no longer a steward" Notice that the man was not jailed or whipped, but

dismissed! This would have been surprising to the original hearers. It would have

said something significant about the merciful character of the landlord.

16:3-4 The man reviewed his employment options to himself.


NASB, TEV "I know what I shall do"
NKJV "I have resolved what to do"
NRSV "I have decided what to do"
NJB "Ah, I know what I will do"

A. This phrase was an idiom for sudden insight! He, like the prodigal son (cf. Luke

15:17), came to himself and chose to act decisively.

■ "They" This refers to the master's debtors (cf. Luke 16:4), for whom he has

reduced their contractual obligations to the landlord.


NJB "a hundred measures of oil"
NRSV "a hundred jugs of olive oil"
TEV "a thousand barrels of olive oil"

A. This was literally "100 bath," which was a Hebrew liquid measure. The amount is

uncertain but one bath equaled approximately 8 to 9 gallons. Apparently there were

differing standards of the measure in Palestine in Jesus' day. Besides, Jesus often

used exaggerated numbers (hyperbole) in His parables for emphasis or shock value.


NJB "a hundred measures of wheat"

Luke Ch. 16 Commentary Page 5

NRSV "a hundred containers of wheat"
TEV "a thousand bushels of wheat"

A. This was literally "100 kor," which was a Hebrew dry measure. The amount is

uncertain but one kor equaled approximately ten to twelve bushels.


NASB, NRSV "his master"
NJB "the master"

A. The Greek text does not have "his," but "the." The antecedent of this title has

caused great discussion among commentators. It is either (1) Jesus referred to as

"Lord" or (2) the landowner of the parable referred to as "lord." In context it is

the landowner (cf. Luke 16:3,5). It depends on where the parable stops.

"He had acted shrewdly" This phrase is the interpretive crux of the parable. The

man's decisive action in the face of impending crisis is extolled, not the manner of

his actions.

B. The same landowner who dismissed the steward in Luke 16:2 praised him in Luke

16:8. This is the twist (main point) of the parable. Presumably the village tenant

farmers were praising the landowner for his generosity and he, in turn, commented

about the actions of the steward.

C. The steward was praised because he recognized the coming disaster and his

guiltiness. He acted swiftly, gambling on the mercy of (1) the debtors (cf. Luke

16:4-5) or (2) the landlord. This reflects sinners who recognize their guilt and

coming judgment and quickly respond to Jesus' offer of forgiveness and mercy (cf.

Luke 16:16).

"The sons of this age. . .the sons of light" This was a Hebrew idiom. Hebrew,

being an ancient language, had few adjectives and, therefore, used "son of. . ." as an

adjectival idiom.

D. The Jews saw two ages (cf. Matt. 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 20:34-35), the current

evil age (cf. Gal. 1:4; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2) and the age to come (cf. Matt. 28:20; Heb.

1:3; 1 John 2:15-17).. Believers live in the tension-filled time in which these ages

have been overlapped (the two comings of Christ). Believers live in the "already and

not yet" tension of the Kingdom of God and often they do not handle it well.

Luke Ch. 16 Commentary Page 6

NASB "more shrewd in relation to their own kind"
NKJV "more shrewd in their generation"
NRSV "more shrewd in dealing with their own generation"
TEV "much more shrewd in handling their affairs"
NJB "more astute in dealing with their own kind"
PESHITTA "wiser in their generation"

E. This verse is contrasting how unbelievers act in a crisis situation and how believers

should act (cf. Luke 16:1). However, the interpretive issue is how does this relate to

Luke 16:9? What exactly is Jesus saying? See comments at Luke 16:9.

16:8 - Jesus wants His followers to live wisely (cf. Matt. 10:16), but often they are foolish!

16:9 - This verse is ironic sarcasm:

1. Make friends by means of the wealth of unrighteousness

2. When it fails (Vulgate and NKJV have "when you fail")

3. They (cf. Luke 16:4) will receive you into the eternal dwellings

a. Temporal setting – people of this world, "their homes" (cf. Luke 16:4)

b. Eschatological setting, (1) people of God; (2) angels; or (3) God Himself, "eternal dwelling"

{The point is, "Act now"!}

NASB "make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness,"
NKJV "make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon"
NRSV "make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth"
TEV "make friends for yourselves with worldly wealth"
NJB "use money, tainted as it is, to win friends"

A. This is an aorist active imperative, which denotes urgency. "Mammon" was an

Aramaic word for "riches," which was personified as a god in the Babylonian Talmud

and in the nation of Syria. The word originally meant "to entrust something to

someone." This is a summary of what the unjust steward did.

B. This may be sarcastic because of Luke 16:13. The contrast was between evil

stewards who prepared for a physical future and kingdom people who did not

prepare for the spiritual future.

Luke Ch. 16 Commentary Page 7

■ "They will receive you into the eternal dwellings" The Jews (Pharisees) believed in

an afterlife of physical bliss (cf. Job 14:14-15; 19:25-27; Ps. 11:7; 16:11; 17:15;

140:13; Isa. 25:8; 26:19; Dan. 12:2).


Vs 10 – “"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.

Vs 11 “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?

Vs 12 – “And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?

Vs 13 – “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

16:10 - "A very little thing" This referred to earthly wealth or stewardship. Humans reveal their character in their daily choices and actions.

■ "In much" This is uses twice in this verse. It refers to heavenly wealth (cf. Matt. 6:19-34)

16:11 - "If" This is a first class conditional which was assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. Believers must use the things of this world to (1) help people come to know Christ and (2) to help believers.

■ "Entrust" There is a word play between "faithful" (pistos, Luke 16:10,11,12) and

"entrust" (pisteuō, Future active indicative). Believers are stewards (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1-5;