Dishonesty is the best policy ?

RublevRublev Shipmate
edited March 2019 in Kerygmania
The Parable of the Unjust Steward appears to present entirely unchristian teaching (Luke 16:1-14).

Why does the master commend the dishonest steward for his 'shrewdness' ?

And why are Christians urged to 'make friends by means of unrighteous wealth' ?

Surely we would expect Jesus to teach an entirely opposite message concerning the honest use of money ?

What is the meaning of this parable?

Is it aimed at convicting the Pharisees who are described as being 'lovers of money' in verse 14 ?

[Edited to include link. Mamacita, Host]


  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    First:it’s really helpful if you link to the passage you want to discuss (other online Bible sites are available - see the Kerygmania page).

    Second: this has tended to be one of the more ‘difficult’ parables because what people fixate on is the dishonesty rather than the shrewdness.

    Third: I imagine the master’s commendation of the shrewdness to have been a rather wry remark - admiring the cleverness of the person who cheated him.

    After that it seems to me to be less clear cut. In my mind it belongs with Matthew 6.19-21, and the overall thrust of both (along with Luke 12.13-21) is that our dealings with ‘worldly’ wealth are to have a heavenly end in mind. (I accept, however, that Luke 16, if read in isolation, can be read as simply encouraging people to use their money in such a way as to ensure that there are people around who will help them when trouble comes.)
  • I don't see it as telling us to be like either of the 2 people in the story, at least not directly.
    "For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light"
    the manager - who is potentially a shrewd, maybe even dishonest person applauds the same behaviour in someone else, but we need to act differently.

    other possible interpretations / "take home messages"

    - yes, life isn't fair and some people get rewarded for doing wrong.
    - "bad" people are very "canny", good people need to be aware too.
    - you might think someone is doing you a favour (reducing your bill) when really they're just trying to look out for themselves.
    - Money changes people, so be careful what you do with it.
    - If you're being generous to people, do it for their benefit, not necessarily for yours
  • RublevRublev Shipmate

    I'm haven't figured out how to make links yet I'm afraid.

    The Parable of the Rich Man makes sense as a critique of making materialism rather than spirituality the priority in life.

    But the Parable of the Unjust Steward sounds like a parody told for shock value. And it seems a very leaky example to use to underline the teaching point that, 'You cannot serve God and money.'

    Which is why I am wondering if it was intended to describe the behaviour of the Pharisees who saw their dishonesty as shrewdness. In verse 15 Jesus pointedly says to them, 'You are those who justify themselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts.'

    In that way, the Pharisees are being compared to the shrewd 'children of this age' in contrast to the 'children of light' who followed Jesus.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    edited March 2019
    @Rublev, if you’re working off a phone you need to type e.g.
    [url=]Ship of Fools forums[/url]
    It will appear as
    I always find it easiest to copy the link I want to use and paste it in, rather than trying to type it,

    If you’re working off a computer there’s a ‘link’ button (chain icon) above the text entry field which does much of the work for you. (I can’t remember whether the link button is available in tablets or whether you have to do it all manually as on a phone.)

    If you click the quote button at the foot of my post, it will put my post into your text entry field, and you will be able to see how it is done.

    There are instructions in this post in the BBCode practice thread in Styx (don’t overlook the correction right at the end if the post), and the practice thread is the place to try things out if you’re unsure.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Many thanks Brojames - I'll give it a go !
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Just as Matt 15 and 23 are critiques of the Pharisees by Jesus, this passage in Luke is Christ's critique of the Essenes. As I have said in a similar thread on the old ship, the late Prof. David Flusser has argued this point many times in his writings. One place you can get his argument on-line (for a small fee) is here. He also has a chapter in this book that argues the same thing.
    His basic point is that the dead sea scrolls have given us insight into the beliefs and practices of the Essenes. They had their own jargon, including referring to themselves as "the sons of light" and money earned from commerce with people outside the group as "the mammon of unrighteousness." These unusual terms show that Jesus is talking about the Essenes, and He lifts up the unrighteous servant as a foil to the excesses of the Essenes toward the rest of the world. FWIW
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    That's a very interesting argument which I haven't come across before. I had always thought that the Essenes were a very unworldly sect, but perhaps they were shrewd business types of whom Jesus disapproved.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    That's a very interesting argument which I haven't come across before. I had always thought that the Essenes were a very unworldly sect, but perhaps they were shrewd business types of whom Jesus disapproved.

    No, they were people who refused to have anything to do with the outside world and were apparently notoriously difficult to deal with unless you were an insider, in which case they treated you like family. The upshot of Flusser's argument is that Christ is extolling His followers to treat everyone as part of the in group. You'll need to read one of Flusser's papers to get the full argument.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    I'm sorry but it all feels very contrived.
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    I'm sorry but it all feels very contrived.

    Both counter-intuitive ideas and ideas contrary to the prevailing ideology (which may amount to the same thing) always do. This is of the nature of the beast (the beast being an encratic sociolect). The only way of challenging the beast, where this is necessary, is to embrace the contrivance, and work with it until it feels natural. Of course, this requires an initial effort to discern whether or not the further effort is required, which must necessarily happen during the profound discomfort of contrivance.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    : ) is it worth the candle Thunderbunk? If it is contrived, as in the Salvation of Women thread, it isn't 'real'. It's human.
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