How can it be that the ‘Sons of this world are more shrewd than the sons of light? Doesn’t being a son of light automatically mean that you see more than those who are still in darkness?
The first thing that we have to think about with this passage, and indeed with any passage in the Bible is the context. Who was Jesus talking to when he made this statement? The answer to this question is given to us right at the start of verse one. Christ is speaking to his disciples, but I want to suggest that through them he is also speaking to us as heirs of the disciples.
We have before us a parable about a Steward, so before we go any further it is important that we are clear about exactly what a steward is.
A steward was a man of business whose job it was to take care of his masters goods and property on behalf of his master.
A good steward is characterised by his faithfulness. He takes everything he is given by his master and spends it exactly as his master directs him. He gives it out freely, at the right time, and in the right amounts. It isn’t up to him to choose what to do with his masters goods, but he has to spend his masters property in the way that will most benefit his master.
This definition is particular important for us, as we are also stewards. We are in the same position as the steward in this parable. Everything we have has been given to us by God, and it is simply entrusted to us for our use in this life.
Having said that, I need to mention one important distinction between the earthly master and his steward, and our position as stewards of Christ.
It is normal in this world for there to be a wide divergence between the interests of the steward and his master. Often the two sets of interests may be in direct opposition to each other. Our position is very different. When we use those gifts that God has entrusted to us, and we use them for his glory, then we are also using them for our own highest good, and there can be no conflicy between our interests and those of our heavenly master.
If we look then directly at this parable, it may at first sight seem to be a bit of a puzzle, however I think there are some very clear principles that we can draw out of this passage.
Why was it that Jesus commended this steward for what might appear to us to be very questionable business practices?
I believe there are at least three reasons why this steward, this son of darkness was commended, and just to make them easy to remember, they will all start with the letter R.
The Steward Realised his position.
The steward Resolved what he was going to do. (verse 4) He considered his options, and came up with a plan.
In verse 5 we have the third thing that this steward did. He Responded. He called in his masters debtors and reduced their debtors. He was still the steward and he was still within his rights as steward to do that. He knew that while he was in his stewardship any decisions he made would remain binding even after he left his stewardship, so he chose this method of buying the friendship of these men so that they in turn would be inclined to aid him when he was in need.
This steward had a big problem. He had been negligent in his duty. He hadn’t stolen anything of his masters, but he had not been making proper use of what had been entrusted to him.
Maybe at this point you are reminded of another parable Jesus told. The parable of the talents. (Matthew 25:14-30). He we see another example of a steward not making proper use of what had been entrusted to him.
In the parable we are considering here in Luke the steward realised the likely consequences of his neglect.
This should make us all consider the state of our own stewardship. What are we doing with those gifts and possessions which God has trusted us with? If today God called you to give an account of your stewardship, what would his verdict on you be?
This again is a stage which many Christians do not reach. Maybe you have gifts, possessions, or money that you would like to make better use of for the kingdom of God, but you have never seriously sat down and worked out how you could use those gifts that you have.
Here we see the steward planning for his earthly future, and the question to us is how much planning are we putting into our heavenly future. How are we using the resources which our heavenly master has made available to us. Think of the account of our stewardship which we must each give one day. Are there things God wants to do through your life, people who he would like to reach through you, but you are just wasting your resources, and squandering your stewardship.
Notice in particular in verse five that the steward did these things quickly. There was no time for delay. He knew that at any time his stewardship might be taken away, and then he would be powerless to do any more to change his situation. Far too often as Christians we find it easy to make plans for this life but when it comes to eternity we can be in danger of letting things drift along. We do not make any plans, or if we do get as far as planning then it is all too easy to find apparently valid reasons for not putting our plans into action, perhaps we tell ourselves that we are waiting for a more opportune time. We would do well to emulate this steward and act now while we are still in possession of our stewardship.
Listen to what Jesus says in verse 9
In the same way that this steward used his masters resources to be friends for himself, we are to use our masters resources, that’s our money, property, and possessions that people often use for unrighteousness, we are to use all these things to gain spiritual friends, that is people who will either be in heaven because of the way we used our resources, or Christians whom we have been enabled to use our resources to help. After our bodies fail, it will be these friends who will receive us into eternity.
In verses 11-12 we read…
This takes us back to what we said at the beginning of this article. The key requirement in any steward is to be found faithful, but the point here is that our faithfulness in this life with what our heavenly master has given us to look after will result in us being given an inheritance of own.
Verse 13 is the logical conclusion of this section. It truly is impossible to serve both God and Mammon. If we try to keep all our possessions for ourselves, and don’t use them as our master has directed then we are nothing but unfaithful stewards and can only expect to be removed from our stewardship.
…though the unjust steward could not be commended for the honesty, but only for the policy, of his action, yet we who are stewards of the gifts of God, in doing the like, that is, making use of our Master’s goods for our own best profit and advantage, may act not only wisely, but also honestly; and indeed Christ in this parable blameth men for not doing so: The children of this world (saith he) are wiser in their generation than the children of light. … it is too true, they are not so wise, and politic, and industrious for heaven, as worldly men are to obtain their ends in getting the world. He saith, the men of this world are wiser in their generation that is, in their kind, as to those things about which they exercise their wit and policy, than the children of God.