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The Parable of the Unjust Steward

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
February 19, 2023 12:01 am

The Parable of the Unjust Steward

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 19, 2023 12:01 am

When we manage our earthly goods poorly, we're not merely wasting our possessions. Ultimately, we are robbing God Himself. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his sermon series in the gospel of Luke, calling us to be responsible and generous with the resources that the Lord has given us.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind… The principle of biblical stewardship is closely tied to something we cherish—our possessions, our money. Hello and welcome to the Lord's Day edition of Renewing Your Mind. I'm Lee Webb. Today as we come to the parable of the unjust steward in Luke chapter 16, Dr. Sproul makes clear that we are stewards, not owners.

Let's join him now. This morning we're going to begin a brand new chapter in our study of the gospel of Luke. I would love to be able to tell you that we were going to start with the first verse of chapter 17. However, that would mean that I've skipped over the entire 16th chapter, which would indeed be my preference. One of the downsides of preaching through books seriatim is that there come times where there are texts that appear that you would rather flee for your life from having to speak on them than actually to address them sermonically. And that's where we are at the beginning of chapter 16. But I'm going to tie myself to the mast and pray for an additional dose of the grace of God and pray that this week and next week will be over quickly so I can get on with more pleasant passages. But the 16th chapter begins with the parable of the unjust steward, which is almost universally considered by biblical scholars to be the most difficult of Jesus' parables to understand. But there we have it, and so I'm going to start reading at verse 1 and read through verse 13. And I would ask the congregation please to stand for the reading of the Word of God. He also said to His disciples, there was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.

So He called him and said to him, What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward. And then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? For my master is taking this stewardship away from me.

I cannot dig. I'm ashamed to beg. I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of this stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. And so He called every one of His masters debtors to Him and said to the first, How much do you owe My master? And He said, A hundred measures of oil. And so He said, Take your bill and sit down quickly and write fifty. Then He said to another, And how much do you owe? And He said, A hundred measures of wheat.

And He said to him, Take your bill and write eighty. So the master commended the unjust steward, because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. And I say to you, Make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail they may receive you into an everlasting home. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much. And he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit your trust to the true riches?

I don't blame you for screaming. This is tough. And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.

You cannot serve God and mammon. As difficult as this text may be to interpret, and even more difficult to apply to our lives, it is nevertheless the teaching of Jesus, the teaching of our Lord. And we are to hear it with ears that He gives us by His Spirit. And so I urge you this morning as you struggle with this text to recall that the source is Christ Himself.

Please be seated. Let us pray. Again, our Father and our God, we often come into your presence with plugs in our ears and shells over our hearts to protect ourselves from that which we do not want to hear from you. And we pray in this hour two things, that you will forgive us for that disposition and that you will change us by taking the plugs from our ears and the shields from our hearts. For we ask it in Jesus' name.

Amen. The story starts out in a rather simple way. Jesus tells the parable of a man who was wealthy and who had a steward. There's nothing difficult or unusual about that that was common in the ancient Jewish community that if a person was a person of means, they would hire a manager who would live in the home and who would be responsible for managing the property and the assets of the owner. Of course, the one who was the steward did not own the assets he managed. They belonged to the master.

Nevertheless, he was responsible and had the authority to go with that responsibility to make decisions in the name of the master that were basically legally binding decisions. And so we read in this story that this steward had an accusation brought against him by his master that he was wasting his goods. Now in the parable of the prodigal son, we saw one dimension of what happens to people who waste their goods and waste their lives.

But in this story, it's a different situation of wasting. The steward is not wasting his own money. He's wasting the money that belongs to his master.

And so when the master becomes aware of it, he calls him to him and said, "'What is this I hear? Give an account of what you are doing, for you can no longer be steward. You are fired,' is what the master is saying. "'You are finished.

I've been looking at the books. I see what you're doing, and you can no longer represent me or to manage my property.'" And so the steward said within himself, "'What am I going to do now? For my master is taking this stewardship away from me. I cannot dig, and I'm ashamed to beg. I don't have any other skills.

All I know is how to manage the property of a master. I'm not qualified to do anything else. I can't even dig a ditch, and I'm too proud to sit on the corner with a tin cup and beg.'" So he says, "'I've got to come up with a solution to my dilemma because this man obviously faced the most serious crisis of his career.'" And so he said, "'I have resolved what to do so that when I'm put out of the stewardship, they,' meaning others, the debtors, "'may receive me into their houses.'" And so he called every one of his masters debtors to him.

And Jesus only reports of what happens in the transaction with two of those debtors, but presumably the same thing was done with the rest of them. But he said to the first one, "'How much do you owe my master?' The man said, "'A hundred measures of oil.'" And so the man said, "'Take your bill, sit down quickly and write fifty.'" And then he said to another, "'How much do you owe?'

He said, "'A hundred measures of wheat.'" And he said, "'Take your bill and write eighty.'" Now let's pause for a moment and see what's going on here with these transactions between the ex-steward and the debtors. In Jewish law, it was prohibited to charge usurious interest for loans, but the way in which business people got around it was to increase the interest in the total charge for the product. And the oil industry, which was very significant, the use of olive oil, had a threatening dimension to it with respect to the preservation of the products and so on, and so it was commonplace to mark up the price of oil by a hundred percent.

All of that included the raw cost of the oil plus the hidden usury or high interest. And so the markup was a hundred percent, and the store knew that. And so he said to the debtor, he said, "'Look, I'm going to change your bill in behalf of my master. I'm going to cut the cost down by a hundred percent.'" And can you imagine the joy of the debtor when he realized that he only owed half as much as he had owed before the steward walked in his store and changed the bill?

In like manner, the cost of wheat had a lesser spoilage problem, and so the markup on wheat was normally twenty to twenty-five percent. So in the case of the man who owed a hundred bushels of wheat, the steward marked it down twenty percent to eighty, did away with all of the usury, did away with all of the interest charges that were hidden in the price, and once again made a great friend of that debtor. Now, of course, this steward was not doing this out of the goodness of his heart.

He was doing this to feather his own nest. He knew he was fired and he knew he had nowhere to go, and so he was going out making friends with all of the debtors by cutting their bills radically. By the way, if you don't know what usury is, exorbitant rates of interest, look at the interest charges by so-called loan sharks. They're very heavy and usurious, only to be exceeded by your normal credit card companies. And I'm serious about that.

The interest rates charged by credit card companies in this country are as usurious as it gets, and it's plain wicked. Don't get yourself ensnared by them. But in any case, the master finds out now what the steward has done, and instead of coming to him and saying, you dirty, rotten crook, what have you done? You've cost me all this money.

You're more incompetent than I thought you were. Instead, in the parable, Jesus has the master commending him for his actions. Notice what he says. So the master commended the unjust steward, not because he dealt unjustly. He didn't praise him for his dishonesty.

He didn't salute him for his corruption. Rather, Jesus said he praised him for being so shrewd. And so he makes this point of application that the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.

This isn't all that unusual for Jesus to talk like this. Remember elsewhere we were told to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. And we've just done the opposite of that usually in our actions as Christians. We're harmless as doves, but we're also as foolish as them as well. We are not shrewd.

We don't think strategically. We don't concern ourselves for the long haul, for the long range, and certainly not for eternity. And what is going to follow will show that Jesus' basic concern here is that just as this unjust steward looked out for his well-being for tomorrow, so believers are to look out for their future in heaven. And yet in this cause of which Jesus is addressing, the central matter is money. And so now the parable gets even more complex where He says to His disciples, "'And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. For he who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much. And he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore, if you've not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?'" Now one of the methods by which Jesus taught parables was by a method of contrast and comparison.

One of the frequent things that He does is uses the concept of how much more. We will see that later on, God willing, in the parable of the unjust judge, who was a man who regarded neither God nor men, and he was corrupt. He took bribes, but he wasn't interested in dispensing justice, and there was this woman who kept pursuing him, the important woman who begged him and bothered him and pestered him until finally he decided to hear her case even though he didn't want to be bothered. And of course, later on Jesus says, how much more does God hear the cries of His people than a crooked, corrupt judge will listen if you pester him enough? Not only will God hear your prayers, but how much more will He hear them? And so what Jesus is saying here, if people in the secular world who are unbelievers are shrewd and smart enough to look out for their best interests for tomorrow, how much more should the people of God be looking to the future of heaven? And if the corrupt person is smart enough as a steward to manage his money, well, how much more is it incumbent upon the children of light to manage their money as God requires? Now when He says, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, He's not saying go out and steal money from people. Unrighteous mammon is an idiom that was used in that day simply to describe worldly goods. So Jesus is saying, be careful about how you use your worldly goods because every one of us has some worldly goods, and every one of us is a steward of that worldly goods. Everything that you have, everything that I have comes from God. We don't own it.

He does. We are stewards in the kingdom of God, and God requires from us not unjust stewardship but just stewardship. Now, a word about giving and about tithing.

I've talked about this before in many of your minds way too often, but I'm just dealing with the text. I know many multitudes of ministers who will never talk about tithing from the pulpit, and let me tell you the reasons they give basically this. They say people who are Christians who are truly born of the Holy Spirit don't need to be preached to about tithing.

They just do it. They do it naturally, or I should say supernaturally it's a given that if you're a Christian, of course you tithe. If you're a believer, of course you give at least 10 percent of your income to the kingdom of God.

What Christian wouldn't do that? And they say, and if people are church members and don't tithe, all the preaching about it and pleading and cajoling and begging and trying to persuade them isn't going to change them. Their hearts are hardened, and they're not going to do it. All you're going to do is make them mad and make them go somewhere else.

And so they keep the peace, and they don't talk about it. I'll tell you what breaks my heart is how many opportunities there are in this world now to advance the kingdom of God that can't be addressed for lack of funds, for the simple fact that people in the pews consistently, persistently, and impenitently rob God. Now, if you're a tither, if you give 10 percent or more of your money to the work of the kingdom of God, not necessarily just to the local church, but to other Christian ministries total, that won't get you in the kingdom of God. No one has ever bought themselves into the kingdom of God. There have been those who tried, but you can't buy your way into the kingdom of God. You can give all of your money that you have to the church. It won't get you into heaven.

Only Christ in His poverty can get you into heaven. And so I wouldn't advise anybody to give to the causes of the kingdom of God in order to get into the kingdom of God. So what I'm saying is this, that there are people who tithe, who aren't believers.

They're unregenerate. They're not in the kingdom. They're not in the state of grace. You can be a tither and not be saved. And you can be saved and not be a tither. Not everybody who is not a tither is an unbeliever. A person can be a Christian and go to heaven and never tithe possibly, but the possibility is remote. If you're trying to test your own spiritual condition and ask whether you're really in a state of grace, don't look at your church attendance.

Look at your checkbook because your checkbook will tell you where your heart is. Your checkbook will tell you how much you love the Lord and how committed you are to His kingdom. I also want to say to you that in Jesus' terms, tithing is a small thing. Remember He commended the Pharisees. He said, you tithe your mint and you're coming, but you omit the weightier matters of the law.

What does that mean? That the tithe is not the weighty matter. It's the lesser matter.

It's a little thing. It's a simple thing. It's so easy that any Christian can do it. And the failure to do it, again as Malachi said in the Old Testament, is considered by God as robbery. Remember what the prophet said, can a man rob God? How is it possible to rob God? By withholding your tithe and your offering. And it's not something that we're told to do grudgingly, but joyfully. The Lord loves cheerful givers, and Jesus is saying, you use your worldly wealth for the well-being of the kingdom of God. When you get to heaven, you won't get there by doing that, but when you get there, you will be greeted by all of the people whose lives were blessed because of your gift, because of your sacrifice, which is no sacrifice. Then he goes on to say, you see now why I didn't want to preach on this text?

Anyway, here's what he says. He was faithful in what is least. He was faithful also in much. He was unjust in what is least, is unjust also in much. Therefore, if you've not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

It's a rhetorical question. The answer is obviously God's not going to. If you're not faithful with how you handle your worldly goods in terms of the kingdom of God, if everything else comes first and you give God what's left, how can you expect Him to bless your life? The one time in Scripture that God says to His people, test me, put me to the test. Be good stewards. Bring in your tithe and your offerings and see if I don't open the heavens for your life.

I've told you this before. The next time I meet a person who's a tither who tells me that they regret it will be the first time. What a great joy. What a great privilege it is to give something little back to the God of all grace who gives us everything, every good and perfect gift out of His bounty. And if you're not faithful in these things, who will commit to your trust the true riches? If you've not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what's your own? And then Jesus drives the point even further, no servant can serve two masters. Can you imagine going to the slave mart in the ancient world and see that a fine young specimen for a slave like a Joseph is put on the market? And one man says, I bid so many denarii for this slave.

And another bidder says, I bid so many denarii. And so they get in a bidding war over who's going to own this slave. And finally the slave auctioneer says, tell you what we're going to do. I'm going to give you joint ownership over this slave.

You can both own them. Slave, you have to serve this master, and now slave, you have to serve that master. And the slave says, well, wait a minute. What if they disagree? What do I do then?

He says, punt, because there's not much else to do. You can't do it. You can't serve your worldly goods and serve the kingdom of God. If your worldly goods are your master, Christ cannot be your master. And if Christ is your master, your worldly goods can't be your master.

Is that? It's not rocket science. That's very simple. This is what Jesus is saying. But you want to have both. You want to have Jesus as your Lord and rob Him every Sunday. Can't be done. For either He will hate the one and love the other, or He will be loyal to the one and despise the other. Now Jesus doesn't say you may not serve God and mammon.

He says you can't. You cannot serve God and mammon. I've preached about stewardship, tithing, the biblical responsibilities that we have because it's my duty, because I'm responsible to let you know what your responsibilities are. I always do it reluctantly.

And I have to tell you this. As many times as I've ever spoken on this subject, only once have I had somebody come up to me. Now they may not be the only one, but I've only had one person come to me and say, now I understand it. I have not been a tither, but from this day forward, I'm going to meet my responsibility before God.

One time. And so the message I get is you can preach all you want, preacher, but I believe that's an Old Testament principle. It doesn't apply today. Or I can't afford it. Being translated, I can't live my present lifestyle and give 10 percent of my annual income to God. And so I feel like I'm on a fool's errand. But the Word of God will not return to him void.

And if there's still a shield on your heart, take it off. And if not, ask yourself, am I really a regenerate person? Because like I said, I think it's possible for a person to really be a reborn, regenerated Christian and not tithes.

I think that's possible. I just don't know how that can be. This isn't a big thing. Nobody's asking you to go get burned at the stake or thrown to the lions in the Circus Maximus.

No. Jesus calls us a little thing. And when Jesus asks you to tithe, He's asking for a little thing. And if you can't give Him the little thing, how can you really worship Him and honor Him?

This is a serious thing, a serious question of your soul. That's why I lay in bed at night and keep awake wondering, do they hear it? Do they get it? Do they love the Word of God? Or is this cultural Christianity we're doing here?

On the other hand, I would say that Saint Andrew's congregation probably has more tithes in it than any church that I know. And that's a good thing. But as long as there's one sheep out there in the wilderness fleeing from their responsibility, I'm not going to sleep well because this is something we all are called to do. Again, dear ones, you're not accountable to me on this matter.

I didn't make the rule. But you are accountable to God, and I'm accountable to God to make sure that you know where your accountability lies. And so this morning I ask you to ask yourself, what kind of steward am I, a just one or an unjust one? It is good to stop and take stock in this area of our lives.

Are we using our earthly goods in a generous, responsible way? This has been a helpful message today by R.C. Sproul. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, and every Sunday we return to Dr. Sproul's series from the Gospel of Luke. Today we're in chapter 16, and over the next few months we will complete the entire gospel. With that in mind, let me recommend our resource offer to you when you contact us today with a donation of any amount. We will provide you with a digital download of Dr. Sproul's commentary on Luke. It's nearly 600 pages, and every passage is clarified with R.C.

's easy-to-understand explanations. I have to tell you that this commentary and others by Dr. Sproul are front and center on my bookshelf in my study, and I think you'll find it to be a helpful resource in your study of Luke, especially as you continue listening to his sermon series each week. To receive it, just contact us today with your donation of any amount at Here at Ligonier Ministries, we aim to make sound doctrine applicable to all of life. We develop and distribute teaching that is faithful to the historic Christian faith to as many people as possible. That was Dr. Sproul's goal when he began Ligonier Ministries in 1971, and it remains our goal today. And it's only through your generosity that we can continue this important work. So in advance, on behalf of all of my colleagues here at Ligonier Ministries, thank you for your generous financial support. I hope you have a great week, and make plans to join us again next Sunday for Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-19 02:53:56 / 2023-02-19 03:04:24 / 10

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