Week 3: New Testament Parables

Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images


Dishonest Steward (Luke)

Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 600 words.

In this next parable, you will see that Jesus is telling the story to his disciples, much as the Buddha told stories to the monks in his monastery. Jesus tells the parable, and then he explains the meaning of the parable. The parable of the dishonest steward is found only in Luke, and it is a highly paradoxical story. In fact, it is about a kind of "trickster" character. Unlike the story of the Good Samaritan, which presents a model worthy of imitation ("Be like the Good Samaritan!"), this parable is much more difficult to understand and apply. According to some scholars, there is actually a conflict between the message contained in the story itself (where dishonesty is praised) and the message contained in the moral that comes afterwards (where the focus is not on praising the dishonest behavior of the steward). Think carefully about this parable as you read it: does the way that this parable is framed make sense to you?

King James version:

And he said also unto his disciples,

There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.

And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?


World English Bible version:

He also said to his disciples,

“There was a certain rich man who had a manager. An accusation was made to him that this man was wasting his possessions. He called him, and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ The manager said within himself, ‘What will I do, seeing that my lord is taking away the management position from me? I don’t have strength to dig. I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do, so that when I am removed from management, they may receive me into their houses.’ Calling each one of his lord’s debtors to him, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe to my lord?’ He said, ‘A hundred batos of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then said he to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred cors of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ His lord commended the dishonest manager because he had done wisely, for the children of this world are, in their own generation, wiser than the children of the light.

'I tell you, make for yourselves friends by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when you fail, they may receive you into the eternal tents. He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much. He who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? If you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?'


Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • why was the steward afraid of what would happen if he lost his job?
  • why did the steward tell the debtors to lie about what was owed to them?
  • what do you think is the moral of the story of the dishonest steward?

Source: Luke, Chapter 16. King James version. Website: Hypertext King James Bible. World English Bible version. Website: WEB World English Bible.


Modern Languages MLLL-2003. World Literature: Frametales. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:48 PM