The Parable of the Dishonest Steward.* 1Then he also said to his disciples, “A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. 2He summoned him and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.’ 3The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. 4I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.’ 5He called in his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6* He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’ 7Then to another he said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘One hundred kors* of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.’ 8And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.
Application of the Parable.* “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.*a 9I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,* so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.b 10* The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.c 11If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? 12If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? 13No servant can serve two masters.* He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”d
A Saying Against the Pharisees. 14* The Pharisees, who loved money,* heard all these things and sneered at him. 15And he said to them, “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.e
Sayings About the Law. 16“The law and the prophets lasted until John;* but from then on the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone who enters does so with violence.f 17It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the smallest part of a letter of the law to become invalid.g
Sayings About Divorce. 18“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.h
The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.* 19“There was a rich man* who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. 20And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,i 21who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. 22When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23and from the netherworld,* where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ 25Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.j 26Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ 27He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, 28for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ 29But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ 30* He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’”k
* [16:1–8a] The parable of the dishonest steward has to be understood in the light of the Palestinian custom of agents acting on behalf of their masters and the usurious practices common to such agents. The dishonesty of the steward consisted in the squandering of his master’s property (Lk 16:1) and not in any subsequent graft. The master commends the dishonest steward who has forgone his own usurious commission on the business transaction by having the debtors write new notes that reflected only the real amount owed the master (i.e., minus the steward’s profit). The dishonest steward acts in this way in order to ingratiate himself with the debtors because he knows he is being dismissed from his position (Lk 16:3). The parable, then, teaches the prudent use of one’s material goods in light of an imminent crisis.
* [16:6] One hundred measures: literally, “one hundred baths.” A bath is a Hebrew unit of liquid measurement equivalent to eight or nine gallons.
* [16:7] One hundred kors: a kor is a Hebrew unit of dry measure for grain or wheat equivalent to ten or twelve bushels.
* [16:8b–13] Several originally independent sayings of Jesus are gathered here by Luke to form the concluding application of the parable of the dishonest steward.
* [16:8b–9] The first conclusion recommends the prudent use of one’s wealth (in the light of the coming of the end of the age) after the manner of the children of this world, represented in the parable by the dishonest steward.
* [16:9] Dishonest wealth: literally, “mammon of iniquity.” Mammon is the Greek transliteration of a Hebrew or Aramaic word that is usually explained as meaning “that in which one trusts.” The characterization of this wealth as dishonest expresses a tendency of wealth to lead one to dishonesty. Eternal dwellings: or, “eternal tents,” i.e., heaven.
* [16:10–12] The second conclusion recommends constant fidelity to those in positions of responsibility.
* [16:13] The third conclusion is a general statement about the incompatibility of serving God and being a slave to riches. To be dependent upon wealth is opposed to the teachings of Jesus who counseled complete dependence on the Father as one of the characteristics of the Christian disciple (Lk 12:22–39). God and mammon: see note on Lk 16:9. Mammon is used here as if it were itself a god.
* [16:14–18] The two parables about the use of riches in chap. 16 are separated by several isolated sayings of Jesus on the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Lk 16:14–15), on the law (Lk 16:16–17), and on divorce (Lk 16:18).
* [16:14–15] The Pharisees are here presented as examples of those who are slaves to wealth (see Lk 16:13) and, consequently, they are unable to serve God.
* [16:16] John the Baptist is presented in Luke’s gospel as a transitional figure between the period of Israel, the time of promise, and the period of Jesus, the time of fulfillment. With John, the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises has begun.
* [16:19–31] The parable of the rich man and Lazarus again illustrates Luke’s concern with Jesus’ attitude toward the rich and the poor. The reversal of the fates of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:22–23) illustrates the teachings of Jesus in Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” (Lk 6:20–21, 24–25).
* [16:19] The oldest Greek manuscript of Luke dating from ca. A.D. 175–225 records the name of the rich man as an abbreviated form of “Nineveh,” but there is very little textual support in other manuscripts for this reading. “Dives” of popular tradition is the Latin Vulgate’s translation for “rich man” (Lk 16:19–31).
* [16:23] The netherworld: see note on Lk 10:15.
* [16:30–31] A foreshadowing in Luke’s gospel of the rejection of the call to repentance even after Jesus’ resurrection.
a. [16:8] Eph 5:8; 1 Thes 5:5.
c. [16:10] 19:17; Mt 25:20–23.
h. [16:18] Mt 5:32; 19:9; Mk 10:11–12; 1 Cor 7:10–11.