The Parable of the Clever Steward
1 Jesus#tn Grk “He”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who was informed of accusations#tn These are not formal legal charges, but reports from friends, acquaintances, etc.; Grk “A certain man was rich who had a manager, and this one was reported to him as wasting his property.” that his manager#sn His manager was the steward in charge of managing the house. He could have been a slave trained for the role. was wasting#tn Or “squandering.” This verb is graphic; it means to scatter (L&N 57.151). his assets. 2 So#tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the result of the reports the man received about his manager. he called the manager#tn Grk “him”; the referent (the manager) has been specified in the translation for clarity. in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you?#sn Although phrased as a question, the charges were believed by the owner, as his dismissal of the manager implies. Turn in the account of your administration,#tn Or “stewardship”; the Greek word οἰκονομία (oikonomia) is cognate with the noun for the manager (οἰκονόμος, oikonomo"). because you can no longer be my manager.’ 3 Then#tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events in the parable. the manager said to himself, ‘What should I do, since my master is taking my position#tn Grk “the stewardship,” “the management.” away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig,#tn Here “dig” could refer (1) to excavation (“dig ditches,” L&N 19.55) or (2) to agricultural labor (“work the soil,” L&N 43.3). In either case this was labor performed by the uneducated, so it would be an insult as a job for a manager. and I’m too ashamed#tn Grk “I do not have strength to dig; I am ashamed to beg.”sn To beg would represent a real lowering of status for the manager, because many of those whom he had formerly collected debts from, he would now be forced to beg from. to beg. 4 I know#tn This is a dramatic use of the aorist and the verse is left unconnected to the previous verse by asyndeton, giving the impression of a sudden realization. what to do so that when I am put out of management, people will welcome me into their homes.’#sn Thinking ahead, the manager develops a plan to make people think kindly of him (welcome me into their homes). 5 So#tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the result of the manager’s decision. he contacted#tn Grk “summoning.” The participle προσκαλεσάμενος (proskalesameno") has been translated as a finite verb due to requirements of contemporary English style. his master’s debtors one by one. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 The man#tn Grk “He”; the referent (the first debtor) has been specified in the translation for clarity. replied, ‘A hundred measures#sn A measure (sometimes translated “bath”) was just over 8 gallons (about 30 liters). This is a large debt – about 875 gallons (3000 liters) of olive oil, worth 1000 denarii, over three year’s pay for a daily worker. of olive oil.’ The manager#tn Grk “He”; the referent (the manager) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Here δέ (de) has not been translated for stylistic reasons. said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write fifty.’#sn The bill was halved (sit down quickly, and write fifty). What was the steward doing? This is debated. 1) Did he simply lower the price? 2) Did he remove interest from the debt? 3) Did he remove his own commission? It is hard to be sure. Either of the latter two options is more likely. The goal was clear: The manager would be seen in a favorable light for bringing a deflationary trend to prices. 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ The second man#tn Grk “He”; the referent (the second debtor) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Here δέ (de) has not been translated for stylistic reasons. replied, ‘A hundred measures#sn The hundred measures here was a hundreds cors. A cor was a Hebrew dry measure for grain, flour, etc., of between 10-12 bushels (about 390 liters). This was a huge amount of wheat, representing the yield of about 100 acres, a debt of between 2500-3000 denarii. of wheat.’ The manager#tn Grk “He”; the referent (the manager) has been specified in the translation for clarity. said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’#sn The percentage of reduction may not be as great because of the change in material. 8 The#tn Grk “And the.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style. master commended the dishonest#sn Is the manager dishonest because of what he just did? Or is it a reference to what he had done earlier, described in v. 1? This is a difficult question, but it seems unlikely that the master, having fired the man for prior dishonesty, would now commend those same actions. It would also be unusual for Jesus to make that point of the story the example. Thus it is more likely the reference to dishonesty goes back to the earliest events, while the commendation is for the cleverness of the former manager reflected in vv. 5-7. manager because he acted shrewdly.#sn Where this parable ends is debated: Does it conclude with v. 7, after v. 8a, after v. 8b, or after v. 9? Verse 8a looks as if it is still part of the story, with its clear reference to the manager, while 8b looks like Jesus’ application, since its remarks are more general. So it is most likely the parable stops after v. 8a. For the people#tn Grk “sons” (an idiom). of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their contemporaries#tn Grk “with their own generation.” than the people#tn Grk “sons.” Here the phrase “sons of light” is a reference to the righteous. The point is that those of the world often think ahead about consequences better than the righteous do. of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by how you use worldly wealth,#tn Grk “unrighteous mammon.” Mammon is the Aramaic term for wealth or possessions. The point is not that money is inherently evil, but that it is often misused so that it is a means of evil; see 1 Tim 6:6-10, 17-19. The call is to be generous and kind in its use. Zacchaeus becomes the example of this in Luke’s Gospel (19:1-10). so that when it runs out you will be welcomed#sn The passive refers to the welcome of heaven. into the eternal homes.#tn Grk “eternal tents” (as dwelling places).
10 “The one who is faithful in a very little#sn The point of the statement faithful in a very little is that character is shown in how little things are treated. is also faithful in much, and the one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you haven’t been trustworthy#tn Or “faithful.” in handling worldly wealth,#tn Grk “the unrighteous mammon.” See the note on the phrase “worldly wealth” in v. 9. who will entrust you with the true riches?#sn Entrust you with the true riches is a reference to future service for God. The idea is like 1 Cor 9:11, except there the imagery is reversed. 12 And if you haven’t been trustworthy#tn Or “faithful.” with someone else’s property,#tn Grk “have not been faithful with what is another’s.” who will give you your own#tn Grk “what is your own.”? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate#sn The contrast between hate and love here is rhetorical. The point is that one will choose the favorite if a choice has to be made. the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise#tn Or “and treat [the other] with contempt.” the other. You cannot serve God and money.”#tn Grk “God and mammon.” This is the same word (μαμωνᾶς, mamwnas; often merely transliterated as “mammon”) translated “worldly wealth” in vv. 9, 11.sn The term money is used to translate mammon, the Aramaic term for wealth or possessions. The point is not that money is inherently evil, but that it is often misused so that it is a means of evil; see 1 Tim 6:6-10, 17-19. God must be first, not money or possessions.
More Warnings about the Pharisees
14 The Pharisees#sn See the note on Pharisees in 5:17. (who loved money) heard all this and ridiculed#tn A figurative extension of the literal meaning “to turn one’s nose up at someone”; here “ridicule, sneer at, show contempt for” (L&N 33.409). him. 15 But#tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “but” to indicate the contrast present in this context. Jesus#tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in men’s eyes,#tn Grk “before men.” The contrast is between outward appearance (“in people’s eyes”) and inward reality (“God knows your hearts”). Here the Greek term ἄνθρωπος (anqrwpo") is used twice in a generic sense, referring to both men and women, but “men” has been retained in the text to provide a strong verbal contrast with “God” in the second half of the verse. but God knows your hearts. For what is highly prized#tn Or “exalted.” This refers to the pride that often comes with money and position. among men is utterly detestable#tn Or “is an abomination,” “is abhorrent” (L&N 25.187). in God’s sight.
16 “The law and the prophets were in force#tn There is no verb in the Greek text; one must be supplied. Some translations (NASB, NIV) supply “proclaimed” based on the parallelism with the proclamation of the kingdom. The transitional nature of this verse, however, seems to call for something more like “in effect” (NRSV) or, as used here, “in force.” Further, Greek generally can omit one of two kinds of verbs – either the equative verb or one that is already mentioned in the preceding context (ExSyn 39). until John;#sn John refers to John the Baptist. since then,#sn Until John; since then. This verse indicates a shift in era, from law to kingdom. the good news of the kingdom of God#sn The kingdom of God is a major theme of Jesus. It is a realm in which Jesus rules and to which those who trust him belong. See Luke 6:20; 11:20; 17:20-21. has been proclaimed, and everyone is urged to enter it.#tn Many translations have “entereth violently into it” (ASV) or “is forcing his way into it” (NASB, NIV). This is not true of everyone. It is better to read the verb here as passive rather than middle, and in a softened sense of “be urged.” See Gen 33:11; Judg 13:15-16; 19:7; 2 Sam 3:25, 27 in the LXX. This fits the context well because it agrees with Jesus’ attempt to persuade his opponents to respond morally. For further discussion and details, see D. L. Bock, Luke (BECNT), 2:1352-53. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tiny stroke of a letter#tn Or “one small part of a letter” (L&N 33.37). in the law to become void.#tn Grk “to fall”; that is, “to drop out of the text.” Jesus’ point may be that the law is going to reach its goal without fail, in that the era of the promised kingdom comes.
18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries#sn The examples of marriage and divorce show that the ethical standards of the new era are still faithful to promises made in the presence of God. To contribute to the breakup of a marriage, which involved a vow before God, is to commit adultery. This works whether one gets a divorce or marries a person who is divorced, thus finalizing the breakup of the marriage. Jesus’ point concerns the need for fidelity and ethical integrity in the new era. someone else commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
The Rich Man and Lazarus
19 “There was a rich man who dressed in purple#sn Purple describes a fine, expensive dye used on luxurious clothing, and by metonymy, refers to clothing colored with that dye. It pictures someone of great wealth. and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously#tn Or “celebrated with ostentation” (L&N 88.255), that is, with showing off. Here was the original conspicuous consumer. every day. 20 But at his gate lay#tn The passive verb ἐβέβλητο (ebeblhto) does not indicate how Lazarus got there. Cf. BDAG 163 s.v. βάλλω 1.b, “he lay before the door”; Josephus, Ant. 9.10.2 (9.209). a poor man named Lazarus#sn This is the one time in all the gospels that a figure in a parable is mentioned by name. It will become important later in the account. whose body was covered with sores,#tn Or “was covered with ulcers.” The words “whose body” are implied in the context (L&N 23.180). 21 who longed to eat#tn Grk “to eat his fill,” but this phrase has been simplified as “to eat” for stylistic reasons. what fell from the rich man’s table. In addition, the dogs#tn The term κύνες (kunes) refers to “wild” dogs (either “street” dogs or watchdogs), not house pets (L&N 4.34). came and licked#sn When the dogs came and licked his sores it meant that he was unclean. See the negative image of Rev 22:15 that draws on this picture. his sores.
22 “Now#tn Grk “Now it happened that the.” The introductory phrase ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it happened that”), common in Luke (69 times) and Acts (54 times), is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated. the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.#tn Grk “to Abraham’s bosom.” The phrase “carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” describes being gathered to the fathers and is a way to refer to heaven (Gen 15:15; 47:30; Deut 31:16). The#tn Grk “And the.” Here καί (kai) has not been translated because of differences between Greek and English style. rich man also died and was buried.#sn The shorter description suggests a different fate, which is confirmed in the following verses. 23 And in hell,#sn The Greek term Hades stands for the Hebrew concept of Sheol. It is what is called hell today. This is where the dead were gathered (Ps 16:10; 86:13). In the NT Hades has an additional negative force of awaiting judgment (Rev 20:13). as he was in torment,#sn Hades is a place of torment, especially as one knows that he is separated from God. he looked up#tn Grk “he lifted up his eyes” (an idiom). and saw Abraham far off with Lazarus at his side.#tn Grk “in his bosom,” the same phrase used in 16:22. This idiom refers to heaven and/or participation in the eschatological banquet. An appropriate modern equivalent is “at Abraham’s side.” 24 So#tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of previous actions in the narrative. he called out,#tn Grk “calling out he said”; this is redundant in contemporary English style and has been simplified to “he called out.” ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus#sn The rich man had not helped Lazarus before, when he lay outside his gate (v. 2), but he knew him well enough to know his name. This is why the use of the name Lazarus in the parable is significant. (The rich man’s name, on the other hand, is not mentioned, because it is not significant for the point of the story.) to dip the tip of his finger#sn The dipping of the tip of his finger in water is evocative of thirst. The thirsty are in need of God’s presence (Ps 42:1-2; Isa 5:13). The imagery suggests the rich man is now separated from the presence of God. in water and cool my tongue, because I am in anguish#tn Or “in terrible pain” (L&N 24.92). in this fire.’#sn Fire in this context is OT imagery; see Isa 66:24. 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child,#tn The Greek term here is τέκνον (teknon), which could be understood as a term of endearment. remember that in your lifetime you received your good things and Lazarus likewise bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in anguish.#tn Or “in terrible pain” (L&N 24.92). Here is the reversal Jesus mentioned in Luke 6:20-26. 26 Besides all this,#tn Grk “And in all these things.” There is no way Lazarus could carry out this request even if divine justice were not involved. a great chasm#sn The great chasm between heaven and hell is impassable forever. The rich man’s former status meant nothing now. has been fixed between us,#tn Grk “between us and you.” so that those who want to cross over from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 So#tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “so” to indicate the rich man’s response to Abraham’s words. the rich man#tn Grk “he”; the referent (the rich man, v. 19) has been specified in the translation for clarity. said, ‘Then I beg you, father – send Lazarus#tn Grk “Then I beg you, father, that you send him”; the referent (Lazarus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. to my father’s house 28 (for I have five brothers) to warn#sn To warn them. The warning would consist of a call to act differently than their dead brother had, or else meet his current terrible fate. them so that they don’t come#tn Grk “lest they also come.” into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said,#tn Grk “says.” This is one of the few times Luke uses the historical present. ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they must respond to#tn Or “obey”; Grk “hear.” This recalls the many OT texts calling for a righteous heart to respond to people in need (Deut 14:28-29; Isa 3:14-15; Amos 2:6-8; Mic 2:1-2; Zech 7:9-10). them.’ 30 Then#tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative. the rich man#tn Grk “he”; the referent (the rich man, v. 19) has been specified in the translation for clarity. said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead#sn If someone from the dead goes to them. The irony and joy of the story is that what is denied the rich man’s brothers, a word of warning from beyond the grave, is given to the reader of the Gospel in this exchange. goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 He#tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated. replied to him, ‘If they do not respond to#tn Or “obey”; Grk “hear.” See the note on the phrase “respond to” in v. 29. Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”#sn The concluding statement of the parable, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead, provides a hint that even Jesus’ resurrection will not help some to respond. The message of God should be good enough. Scripture is the sign to be heeded.