The parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-15) is obtuse in the KJV, and in the past I've found it confusing and just sort of tossed it in the "I don't get it" pile. And then I encountered it again yesterday. So today I took some time to read up on it and tease it out and translate it into a clearer form so that I could better understand it.
And, like other times when I've done this, as might be expected, I found it sobering upon reflection.
1. A rich man had a steward who was accused of managing the estate wastefully.
2. So he called in the steward, told him to give an accounting of his stewardship and told him he was being fired.
3. The steward was understandably alarmed. The prospect of unemployment and unemployability with a bad recommendation from his current employer was imminent.
4. So he decided that he'd better go to work making arrangements necessary to be able to manage when that happened and made careful plans to do so
5-7. He called his master's creditors one by one and, in a friendly gesture, generously arranged to reduce their debts to his master by half. (They were obviously pleased and felt grateful and kindly disposed towards him as a result. They would certainly be inclined to help him find employment when he lost his job.)
8. When the master found out what the steward had done, rather than being upset at the reduction of the amount he was owed he was impressed at the steward's careful and savvy arranging of finances in order to manage his impending unemployment. Jesus says that in this world often the dishonest people pay more attention to details about money and make more effort to manage it carefully in order to prepare for the future than those who seek to follow and prepare to meet God.
9. So, he says, pay attention to money the way you would pay attention to a friend (be aware of the money you have, treat it with wisdom and do good with it); so that when you fail (die), you may be received into everlasting habitations (heaven).
10. Money isn't very important but just because it isn't important, you shouldn't ignore your stewardship over it. People who are careful and faithful in stewardship over unimportant things are generally careful and faithful in stewardship over important things. People who are not careful and faithful in stewardship over unimportant things are often not careful and faithful in important things.
11. If you haven't been a wise steward with your own money (used it according to God's purposes), how can you expect to be entrusted with stewardship over more important things?
12. If you haven't been careful and responsible with things that another man has entrusted you with, how can you expect to be entrusted [by God] with things of your own to manage for him?
13. You cannot serve two masters; you cannot have two main purposes that are at odds with each other. If you try, you will end up favoring one and resenting the other. You cannot have your main purpose be serving God and also have your main purpose being spending your money in ways that primarily benefit yourself.
14. And the Pharisees, who liked the idea of spending money on things that primarily benefited themselves , were derisive of this idea.
15. And Jesus said, you are justifying to others your desires to spend money for those things and those experiences and making that sound acceptable or virtuous, but God knows your heart. Men may be impressed by your justifications and laud you for them, but what you are advocating is shameful in God's opinion.