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Luke 16:1-12

The Parable of the Clever Steward

16:1 Jesus 1  also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who was informed of accusations 2  that his manager 3  was wasting 4  his assets. 16:2 So 5  he called the manager 6  in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? 7  Turn in the account of your administration, 8  because you can no longer be my manager.’ 16:3 Then 9  the manager said to himself, ‘What should I do, since my master is taking my position 10  away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig, 11  and I’m too ashamed 12  to beg. 16:4 I know 13  what to do so that when I am put out of management, people will welcome me into their homes.’ 14  16:5 So 15  he contacted 16  his master’s debtors one by one. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 16:6 The man 17  replied, ‘A hundred measures 18  of olive oil.’ The manager 19  said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write fifty.’ 20  16:7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ The second man 21  replied, ‘A hundred measures 22  of wheat.’ The manager 23  said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 24  16:8 The 25  master commended the dishonest 26  manager because he acted shrewdly. 27  For the people 28  of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their contemporaries 29  than the people 30  of light. 16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by how you use worldly wealth, 31  so that when it runs out you will be welcomed 32  into the eternal homes. 33 

16:10 “The one who is faithful in a very little 34  is also faithful in much, and the one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 16:11 If then you haven’t been trustworthy 35  in handling worldly wealth, 36  who will entrust you with the true riches? 37  16:12 And if you haven’t been trustworthy 38  with someone else’s property, 39  who will give you your own 40 ?

1 tn Grk “He”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

2 tn These are not formal legal charges, but reports from friends, acquaintances, etc.; Grk “A certain man was rich who had a manager, and this one was reported to him as wasting his property.”

3 sn His manager was the steward in charge of managing the house. He could have been a slave trained for the role.

4 tn Or “squandering.” This verb is graphic; it means to scatter (L&N 57.151).

5 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the result of the reports the man received about his manager.

6 tn Grk “him”; the referent (the manager) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

7 sn Although phrased as a question, the charges were believed by the owner, as his dismissal of the manager implies.

8 tn Or “stewardship”; the Greek word οἰκονομία (oikonomia) is cognate with the noun for the manager (οἰκονόμος, oikonomo").

9 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events in the parable.

10 tn Grk “the stewardship,” “the management.”

11 tn Here “dig” could refer (1) to excavation (“dig ditches,” L&N 19.55) or (2) to agricultural labor (“work the soil,” L&N 43.3). In either case this was labor performed by the uneducated, so it would be an insult as a job for a manager.

12 tn Grk “I do not have strength to dig; I am ashamed to beg.”

sn To beg would represent a real lowering of status for the manager, because many of those whom he had formerly collected debts from, he would now be forced to beg from.

13 tn This is a dramatic use of the aorist and the verse is left unconnected to the previous verse by asyndeton, giving the impression of a sudden realization.

14 sn Thinking ahead, the manager develops a plan to make people think kindly of him (welcome me into their homes).

15 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the result of the manager’s decision.

16 tn Grk “summoning.” The participle προσκαλεσάμενος (proskalesameno") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style.

17 tn Grk “He”; the referent (the first debtor) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

18 sn A measure (sometimes translated “bath”) was just over 8 gallons (about 30 liters). This is a large debt – about 875 gallons (3000 liters) of olive oil, worth 1000 denarii, over three year’s pay for a daily worker.

19 tn Grk “He”; the referent (the manager) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Here δέ (de) has not been translated for stylistic reasons.

20 sn The bill was halved (sit down quickly, and write fifty). What was the steward doing? This is debated. 1) Did he simply lower the price? 2) Did he remove interest from the debt? 3) Did he remove his own commission? It is hard to be sure. Either of the latter two options is more likely. The goal was clear: The manager would be seen in a favorable light for bringing a deflationary trend to prices.

21 tn Grk “He”; the referent (the second debtor) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Here δέ (de) has not been translated for stylistic reasons.

22 sn The hundred measures here was a hundreds cors. A cor was a Hebrew dry measure for grain, flour, etc., of between 10-12 bushels (about 390 liters). This was a huge amount of wheat, representing the yield of about 100 acres, a debt of between 2500-3000 denarii.

23 tn Grk “He”; the referent (the manager) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

24 sn The percentage of reduction may not be as great because of the change in material.

25 tn Grk “And the.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style.

26 sn Is the manager dishonest because of what he just did? Or is it a reference to what he had done earlier, described in v. 1? This is a difficult question, but it seems unlikely that the master, having fired the man for prior dishonesty, would now commend those same actions. It would also be unusual for Jesus to make that point of the story the example. Thus it is more likely the reference to dishonesty goes back to the earliest events, while the commendation is for the cleverness of the former manager reflected in vv. 5-7.

27 sn Where this parable ends is debated: Does it conclude with v. 7, after v. 8a, after v. 8b, or after v. 9? Verse 8a looks as if it is still part of the story, with its clear reference to the manager, while 8b looks like Jesus’ application, since its remarks are more general. So it is most likely the parable stops after v. 8a.

28 tn Grk “sons” (an idiom).

29 tn Grk “with their own generation.”

30 tn Grk “sons.” Here the phrase “sons of light” is a reference to the righteous. The point is that those of the world often think ahead about consequences better than the righteous do.

31 tn Grk “unrighteous mammon.” Mammon is the Aramaic term for wealth or possessions. The point is not that money is inherently evil, but that it is often misused so that it is a means of evil; see 1 Tim 6:6-10, 17-19. The call is to be generous and kind in its use. Zacchaeus becomes the example of this in Luke’s Gospel (19:1-10).

32 sn The passive refers to the welcome of heaven.

33 tn Grk “eternal tents” (as dwelling places).

34 sn The point of the statement faithful in a very little is that character is shown in how little things are treated.

35 tn Or “faithful.”

36 tn Grk “the unrighteous mammon.” See the note on the phrase “worldly wealth” in v. 9.

37 sn Entrust you with the true riches is a reference to future service for God. The idea is like 1 Cor 9:11, except there the imagery is reversed.

38 tn Or “faithful.”

39 tn Grk “have not been faithful with what is another’s.”

40 tn Grk “what is your own.”

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