Teaching about Stewardship

KEY VERSE: “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” —Luke 16:13


THE position of the steward was an important and responsible office in Bible times. A steward did not own property but had full privileges and authority to do whatsoever he wished with his owner’s goods. It was essential, therefore, that he be honest and dependable. One who occupied the office of steward could not be held accountable for misdeeds before a court of law—the nature of the office being such that he merely represented the owner in connection with the property or goods.

In the parable under discussion, the steward had been accused of violating his master’s trust, and his subsequent actions would seem to substantiate the accusation. When the master demanded an accounting of his stewardship, the steward knew that his unfaithfulness would come to light and, of course, jeopardize his position.

Being a man of meager talents, the steward was concerned as to how he could make a living after his dismissal. He conceived the plan of dealing generously with his master’s debtors in the hope that the debtors would become friendly and indebted to him, so that, after his dismissal, the debtors would accept him into their homes.

In verse nine, Jesus is recorded as having stated, “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.”

This is a poor translation because the thought is out of harmony with the righteous principles expounded by our Lord Jesus. We cannot accept the thought that our Lord, by the use of a parable, would instruct the disciples to make friends with the mammon of unrighteousness for any reason. In fact, the lesson in the remaining portion of the chapter is an explanation and an enlargement on the principle that it is impossible to serve two masters as can be noted in the key verse quoted above.

We, of course, as Bible students, realize that the punctuation in the Bible is not inspired. The following is a quotation from The Companion Bible, app. V-3v: “None of our modern marks of punctuation are found until the ninth century, and then only in Latin versions and some punctuation of all modern editions of the Greek text, and all versions made from it, rests entirely on human authority and has no weight whatever in determining or even influencing the interpretation of a single passage. This refers also to the employment of capital letters, and all the modern literary refinements of the present day.”

In view of these facts, it follows that the context is what should govern the interpretation of a text. And as a guide, we realize that the interpretation, to be accurate, must be in harmony with the truth and with the character of the Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus as set forth in the Scriptures.

With these thoughts in mind, we believe that the ninth verse should read as follows: “Would I [Jesus] say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when ye fail, they may receive you into age lasting habitations?” (HNB) The answer to this question, of course, is No! Jesus would not say this to them. But, taking the opportunity in his reply to the Pharisees (vs. 15), he stated, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men: but Yahweh knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed before men is abomination in the sight of Yahweh.” (HNB) The obvious lesson is that the surreptitious worldly approach used by the steward was that which would be applauded by the scribes and Pharisees, who sought the approval of men.

And so, in harmony with our key verse, which was taken from the parable, the Christian must demonstrate his responsibility and basic honesty especially when dealing with things of the world, for to do otherwise is to be a servant of mammon, and not of God. There is no circumstance under which Christian principles may be abandoned. “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?”—Luke 16:10-12

Dawn Bible Students Association
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