Provide for the Future With Practical Wisdom
JESUS has just finished telling the story of the prodigal son to a crowd that includes his disciples, dishonest tax collectors and other recognized sinners, and scribes and Pharisees. Now, addressing his disciples, he relates an illustration regarding a rich man who has received an unfavorable report about his house manager, or steward.
According to Jesus, the rich man calls his steward and tells him that he is going to dismiss him. “What am I to do, seeing that my master will take the stewardship away from me?” the steward wonders. “I am not strong enough to dig, I am ashamed to beg. Ah! I know what I shall do, so that, when I am put out of the stewardship, people will receive me into their homes.”
What is the steward’s plan? He calls those who are in debt to his master. “How much are you owing?” he asks.
The first one answers, ‘580 gallons [2,200 L] of olive oil.’
‘Take your written agreement back and sit down and quickly write 290 [1,100],’ he tells him.
He asks another one: ‘Now you, how much are you owing?’
He says, ‘630 bushels [22,000 L] of wheat.’
‘Take your written agreement back and write 504.’ [18,000]
The steward is within his rights in reducing the bills owed to his master, since he is still in charge of his master’s financial affairs. By reducing the amounts, he is making friends with those who can return him favors when he does lose his job.
When the master hears what has happened, he is impressed. In fact, he “commended the steward, though unrighteous, because he acted with practical wisdom.” Indeed, Jesus adds: “The sons of this system of things are wiser in a practical way toward their own generation than the sons of the light are.”
Now, drawing the lesson for his disciples, Jesus encourages: “Make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous riches, so that, when such fail, they may receive you into the everlasting dwelling places.”
Jesus is not commending the steward for his unrighteousness but for his farsighted, practical wisdom. Often “the sons of this system of things” shrewdly use their money or position to make friends with those who can return them favors. So God’s servants, “the sons of the light,” also need to use their material assets, their “unrighteous riches,” in a wise way to benefit themselves.
But as Jesus says, they should make friends by means of these riches with those who may receive them “into the everlasting dwelling places.” For members of the little flock, these places are in heaven; for the “other sheep,” they are in the Paradise earth. Since only Jehovah God and his Son can receive persons into these places, we should be diligent to cultivate friendship with them by using any “unrighteous riches” we may have in support of Kingdom interests. Then, when material riches fail or perish, as they surely will, our everlasting future will be assured.
Jesus goes on to say that persons faithful in caring for even these material, or least, things will also be faithful in caring for matters of greater importance. “Therefore,” he continued, “if you have not proved yourselves faithful in connection with the unrighteous riches, who will entrust you with what is true [that is, spiritual, or Kingdom, interests]? And if you have not proved yourselves faithful in connection with what is another’s [the Kingdom interests with which God entrusts his servants], who will give you what is for yourselves [the reward of life in everlasting dwelling places]?”
We simply cannot be true servants of God and at the same time be slaves to unrighteous riches, material riches, as Jesus concludes: “No house servant can be a slave to two masters; for, either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves to God and to riches.” Luke 15:1, 2; 16:1-13; John 10:16.
▪ How does the steward in Jesus’ illustration make friends with those who can help him later?
▪ What are “unrighteous riches,” and how can we make friends by means of them?
▪ Who can receive us into “the everlasting dwelling places,” and what places are these?