Faithful in a little, in much and with another’s (Luke 16:1-12)

POST OVERVIEW. A Bible study from Luke 16:1-12 that examines the parable of the unrighteous steward and Jesus’ subsequent teaching about the use of money by His disciples.

Jesus spoke often to His disciples on the topic of money because money is such an excellent revealer of the true state of our heart. How you steward your money shows where your real priorities lie and is a good indicator of your maturity as a disciple of Jesus.


In Luke 16:1-12, then, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man and the manager of the rich man’s household to teach us the importance of being faithful with our earthy wealth. Take the time now to read through these twelve verses. The story is easy to understand. A rich man entrusted his possessions to his manager, but the manager squandered the rich man’s resources. Then, when he was caught and fired for his mismanagement, the manager further cheated the rich man so that he would find favor with the man’s debtors.

And then, most astonishing of all, the rich man actually praises the manager who has repeatedly cheated him because he acted “shrewdly.” “Yes, you did cheat me out of a bunch of money and you are thoroughly dishonest and untrustworthy, but you are also resourceful and clever, and I have to admire that.”

Notice that “the sons of this age,” the manager, the debtors, and the rich man himself, do not value honesty or faithfulness, trustworthiness or good stewardship, but instead praise the manager for his dishonest shrewdness.

Thus Jesus establishes the first half of the comparison. This is how the unrighteous view mammon. They are focused on achieving their own advantage and advancing their own best interests with little thought to righteousness. The rich man shows that “the sons of this age” also “give hearty approval” to those who practice unrighteousness. (See Romans 1:32.)

By means of this parable, then, Jesus has shown how the unrighteous behave with regard to money and possessions. They do not acknowledge the Lord as the owner of everything, who graciously gives to His creatures so that they can be His stewards, but instead they selfishly and cleverly cheat one another and try to accumulate the most “mammon.” After all, “he who dies with the most toys (gold, money, stuff) wins,” right?


As an aside, this parable can trouble Bible students who misunderstand Jesus’ teaching, because they interpret the rich man’s praise of his unrighteous manager as meaning that Jesus Himself is condoning the dishonesty of the cheating steward. Of course, Jesus, who never sinned (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15), would never condone any unrighteous behavior, but also the explanation given above should also clarify the passage. The parable means to spotlight the despicable way the unrighteous relate to possessions.

Having established the behavior of the unrighteous with respect to money, Jesus is now going to contrast that behavior with the expected behavior of His disciples. The key verses in this regard are 16:8 and 16:9, with 16:8 being a summary of the parable and 16:9 being a command from the Lord (“make friends” is an imperative, thus a command).


Luke 16:8. As has already been said, Jesus is not praising or condoning the dishonest behavior of the sons of this age. He is saying, however, that the unrighteous are more shrewd (“prudent,” even “wise”) than the sons of light in their use and management of unrighteous mammon, and this should not be. In a sense, this is a rebuke or at least an exhortation to His disciples to be wise, shrewd stewards of their “mammon.” For if the unrighteous are shrewd in their selfish, godless use of money, how much more should the sons of light be wise with what the Lord has entrusted with them. There is nothing inherently noble or godly in the poor stewardship of God’s possessions.

Luke 16:9. Now Jesus translates His veiled exhortation (16:8) into a command. To understand this command, we must unpack the phrase, “by means of the wealth (mammon) of unrighteousness.” Although “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20), we now live in a material world and therefore we need to learn how to be shrewd in our use of the material means at our disposal. Money is one of the most powerful means we have, so we should be wise (shrewd) in how we steward our money for maximum kingdom impact. Thus, the disciple is intent on learning how to more and more effectively us “unrighteous mammon” to empower the kingdom of God.

Eventually your mammon will fail. I think this simply means that no amount of money can buy you one more heartbeat. Eventually you will die and then you will need to give an account of how well you stewarded the Lord’s possessions (Matt. 25:21, 23; Luke 19:15-19). Steward them well now and you will be welcomed into heaven then.

Jesus has given His disciples a command to make friends in heaven by the shrewd use of money (16:9) and now He will give us some instructions about how to do that.

Luke 16:10. It goes against our fallen logic to think that, if I continually squandered and frittered away my modest salary for twenty years, I will also squander my $20 million in lottery winnings. For some reason, we think that my poor stewardship of my money is related to how much I have. If I just had more then I would suddenly learn how to manage money. But that is not the case, as hundreds of lottery winners can attest. It is only slightly more difficult to squander $20 million than it is to squander $50,000. Faithfulness in the wise use of money is independent of amount.

Thus, Jesus gives us a universal principle that is true for all times and all places: “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.” The message is clear – If you are a disciple of Jesus, you are to be a faithful steward of the Lord’s resources.

Luke 16:11. Your use of money reveals your true attitude toward many things. This also is a general pattern, that the Lord entrusts you with some of His wealth and then He watches to see what kind of a manager you are. The Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) and He is able to dismiss a debt of 10,000 talents (Matt. 18:24-27) without noticing the loss, but nevertheless He tests His disciples with little to determine their faithfulness. And money is His most common test medium. If you are unfaithful with His money, then why should He entrust you with more?

Luke 16:12. If you have ever been a landlord, then you have had an opportunity to learn something about human nature. Virtually all landlords have stories about so-called human beings who rented from them and who did astonishing damage to their property without the least sign of remorse. How could these renters do such a thing? Because the property was not theirs. Rather, it belonged to another, and so they didn’t care how they treated this house which was another’s.

In the same way, as disciples of Jesus, we know that we have been entrusted with that which is another’s. The Lord has entrusted us with His wealth and He calls us to be faithful with it. We are accountable and He will call for a reckoning.


What, then, have we learned from this short parable and exhortation form the Lord Jesus? First, the disciple of Jesus is to be wise and prudent in the use of the Lord’s resources, and particularly of the financial resources the Lord has entrusted to him. There is simply no excuse for the believer to be careless or naïve or indifferent in the use of mammon. Money is a powerful tool here on earth for bringing about Kingdom advances and it is incumbent on the disciple to become skilled in its use.

Next, faithfulness in the managing of money is the goal, not accumulation of the greatest amount. Learn to use the money you have well, and it is likely the Lord will entrust you with more.

Third, be faithful with whatever you have. He who is unfaithful in little is unfaithful in much, and the Lord will not entrust His money to fools.

Also, while having a lot of wealth is not a sin, being entrusted with significant wealth can be a temptation for us to worship the treasure rather than the Giver of the treasure.

Finally, as almost every honest person will admit, it does not take a lot of money to reveal a person’s greed and covetousness. The goal is contentment with whatever God chooses to supply.

SDG                 rmb                 9/30/2022                   #578

More thoughts on Ecclesiastes 11

Back on August 31 I had posted an article about Ecclesiastes 11:1-4, “Casting bread upon the waters.” I have some more thoughts about that may be helpful and encouraging. This post will be not so much a single article but a collection of related thoughts.

The key words that come to mind in Ecclesiastes 11 are risk, stewardship, loss, trust the Lord, wisdom, contentment. The context of Ecclesiastes 11 can easily be adopted to wisdom about investing.

Regarding risk: Is risk different for a Christian? That is, does Christ make a difference in our view of risk? I think that the answer should be an unqualified “yes.” Perceived risk is directly related to trust in the Lord and to stewardship.

Stewardship is a word used mostly by Christians. Stewardship relates to how well my resources (primarily monetary, but they could also be time and talents) are being used for the purposes that Christ would approve.


            Since I have become a Christian, I find that even the definition of words related to money have changed. PROSPERITY: Prosperity has been dramatically redefined. Before I was a believer, “prosperity” was an entirely material word. It was about what was going on “under the sun.” More was always better. There was little regard for quality, because what I was measuring was dollars, and there is no “quality” for dollars. It’s about quantity. But now, prosperity is much more about pleasing the Lord. I am prosperous when my life is being lived in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.

            My monetary goals change as I grow as a Christian. Before I was a Christian, it was all and only about greed and about keeping score with dollars. The only goal was wealth and it was easy to keep score: He who dies with the most money wins. It was like Monopoly for adults. Since the objective was clear, the means for achieving the objective were clear and few. My peace, my contentment, my feeling of satisfaction, how well I was serving others, and so on were not considerations that deserved much attention.

            Hoarding money, which would have been a potential strategy for achieving my greed goal, reveals fear and distrust. I hoard money because I am afraid that if I don’t, I will not have enough. A hoarder has no confidence or trust in the giver of the goods. A hoarder feels the need to rely upon themselves.

            Saving money can be either a response to fear or an act of wise stewardship, and it can be difficult to detect the difference. If “saving” continues when there is more than ample resources available (Give us THIS DAY our daily bread), saving has become hoarding and it reveals a low level of trust in the Lord.

            Perhaps the action that shows the most spiritual maturity is an attitude of “godly spending.” Money is simply a conduit for bringing good things to others. It must be remembered that money is only good in its use.


            We can be generous with our resources because we have been promised prosperity by the God who sovereignly controls the universe. We can be generous because our trust is in the sovereign Lord, who loves us and has given us His promises. We can be generous because the Lord who controls all things makes a distinction between His people and the rest. The LORD delights in His people, and so His people have an enormous advantage. Because we have placed our faith in Christ, we can have confidence in an uncertain world. Faith in Christ entitles me to embrace the Lord’s precious and magnificent promises.

            The beginning of wisdom is THE FEAR OF THE LORD.

            Progress in wisdom flows from TRUST IN THE LORD.


Because we have already died (Colossians 3:3), we should have no fear of death.

Jesus says that we can never die (John 11:25-26). Thus, what do we have to lose.

The heroes of the Bible consistently take risks because they trust the LORD. Some of these risks are much more than outrageous. Gideon reduced his army from 30,000 to 300. David went up against Goliath with no sword, no shield, and no armor bearer, yet he was victorious because the LORD was with him. In Exodus 14, the LORD commands Moses to put the people of Israel in the place of maximum risk, then the LORD demolished Pharaoh and the Egyptian army.

In Numbers 14, the children of Israel refused to go into the land from Kadesh-Barnea because they feared the people of Canaan. Thus, they rebelled against the LORD and despised His provision. The consequence was that everyone from that generation fell dead in the wilderness wanderings.

Jeremiah was constantly threatened by his peers and by the kings who reigned while he prophesied, yet Jeremiah did not back down or shrink back. He declared, “The LORD is with me like a Dread Champion (Jeremiah 20:11).” If we have that same God giving us the same promises that He gave Jeremiah, why would we be any less bold than Jeremiah? This applies to our entire lives, including our perception of risk.

Finally, the LORD ALWAYS makes a distinction between His people and the rest. The LORD has promised to do us good. Psalm 1:3 gives us the promise that “everything that he does will prosper,” but if nothing is done, how can the LORD prosper the venture?

SDG                 rmb                 9/4/2020