1 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. 2 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. 3 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. 4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. 5 So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? 6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 7 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. 8 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. 9 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. 10 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. 11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? 13 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.
The passage before us is a parable which the Lord spoke to His disciples. As always, we should be aware of the context of the passage. The book of Luke itself was written to believers; it was specifically written to one named Theophilus (1:1-4). Hence, the overall context of Luke is focused on discipleship, not evangelism. The parable was also spoken to believers – the disciples (16:1). Hence, the instructions given in this parable are properly understood as Jesus teaching those who have already trusted Him for eternal life – they are already believers. Jesus is primarily instructing believers as to how they should live and conduct themselves. Hence, Jesus – the Master Teacher – is training His followers.
We should also realize the purpose for parables. They are meant to either conceal or reveal truth. For those who are willingly blind, parables are meant to conceal (Matt 13:13-15). To those seeking truth and greater understanding, parables are meant to reveal truth (Matt 13:11, 12, 16-17). Also, parables do not generally bring to light previously unknown truth. Rather, they are given to bring greater light or understanding on truth that has already been revealed. The word parable itself means to “set beside” or to “compare something.”
Jesus knew His disciples were hungry for more knowledge and wisdom. He wanted them to understand that wise living was important. He had previously taught believers at length about living properly and being wise (Matt 5-7; Luke 6:20-49). Jesus’ teaching on this subject of wisdom (evidenced by faithful loving obedience) was paramount. Wise living, according to Jesus, results in great reward (Matt 5:10-12; 24:45; Luke 6:35; 12:42).
The parable in Luke 16:1-13 concerns stewardship. It brings greater light or understanding to the importance of being a wise steward. It is also connected to the previous parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. Instead of being a wise steward of his inheritance, the prodigal son wasted his money and had nothing to show for it. While his merciful father received him back into fellowship, his inheritance was gone.
To amplify the theme of wise stewardship and avoiding a wasted life, Jesus uses the example of an unjust (at least he is accused of being unjust) steward. He used this example so His disciples could relate and better understand. While what the servant did may not (we don’t know this for sure, nor do we need to) have been above board, the Lord Jesus used this story to show the shrewdness of the steward. After he was accused of being dishonest and his master decided to fire him, the steward knew he needed to watch out for himself so he would not be desolate. He knew he had lost his job and needed to do his best to make friends with his master’s debtors. Doing so would yield him a warm welcome into their homes while he was unemployed. He also wanted to have something to return to his master. With this in mind, the steward acted wisely given his circumstance. We may not consider what he did as being just, but he did act wisely. However, we don’t have enough information to determine if what he did was unjust. In fact, his master declared him to be wise. Hence, the purpose of Jesus comparison was to emphasize wisdom. The children of this world many times act more wisely than the children of light is Jesus point. We – the children of light – should be shrewd (wise, but not dishonest) in our dealings with others as we serve the Lord. We should emulate the outlook, prudence, and savvy of the world, leaving behind its dishonesty. We should not seek to make enemies; rather we should seek to make friends – even with the goods of this world. Jesus teaches us to use the world’s resources for good and righteous purposes.
Verse 9 is the heart of Jesus’ instruction. 9 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. Jesus is teaching His disciples to use the world’s resources for their eternal good and abundance. Being wise in this world includes using the world’s resources for God’s purposes. When we do so, we can make friends of the world and in the end make children of light out of the children of this world. Our wise stewardship and witness allows us to reach the world for Christ. Doing so will yield an eternal welcome and fellowship in the kingdom from those whom we have discipled in Christ. A paraphrase of verse 9 would be “Use the world’s resources for good, so that when you die, you will share great joy and fellowship with your friends in your eternal home.” The Grace New Testament Commentary provides a great summation of the parable:
The parable (vv 1–8) sets the stage for Jesus’ lessons for His disciples—and by implication for the Pharisees who also heard the Lord’s teaching (cf. v 14). The first enjoins the disciples to “make friends … by unrighteous mammon,” the resources used by the sons of this world for wicked ends. The rationale places the benefit of doing so in the next life. Like the shrewd steward who prepared himself (cf. vv 3–4), wise disciples use material resources in light of the future eventuality of death—represented by the euphemistic “when you fail”—when money will no longer serve them. They will acquire believing friends now with a view to enhanced joy later when they will fellowship together in the kingdom—but not as a condition for entrance into the kingdom (cf. John 3:16–18).
The remainder of Jesus’ words in verses 10-13 instruct His disciples to be faithful in this world as it will lead to great privilege in the world to come. Being faithful with little in the present world will yield the ability to be faithful with eternal riches (rewards). The opposite is also true, as Jesus amply points out. Believers who love the present world are not wise stewards and will not be rewarded by God with eternal riches in His eternal kingdom (Matt 25:14-30).
 Valdés, A. S. (2010). The Gospel according to Luke. In R. N. Wilkin (Ed.), The Grace New Testament Commentary (R. N. Wilkin, Ed.) (308–309). Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society.