An Email from a Friend
Luke 15 and 16
In that passage, Jesus gave a series of parables that were connected. He had been criticized by the Pharisees for reaching out to sinners (Luke 15:1-2), so in response He offered the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. The basic message of all three parables was similar: that if we backslide, He desires to draw us back to Himself and to restore the relationship.
Now, Jesus had also spoken this in the presence of His disciples, and this couldn’t have sent a healthy signal to them. So I think an evil thought had risen in their hearts: "You mean I could backslide for awhile, and still make it back again? I think I’ll tuck that little nugget away! That might be useful to know one day!" In other words, it might have seemed like a license to sin, or to backslide in one last prodigal fling.
This is why Jesus turns in Luke 16:1, to address the disciples now, with the parable of the unjust steward. This parable is very hard for most Christians to understand, but essentially He is addressing the evil thought that I have just mentioned. His intention is to show them ‘the other side of the same coin’ and to speak of the consequence.
To demonstrate this connection and the contrast, let’s return to the parable of the lost son. In the beginning he had said to his father, "Give me the portion of goods that falls to me." So the father had divided his wealth between his two sons (Luke 15:12).
But this had always left a question in my mind. Wouldn’t this mean that all of the remained inheritance would belong to the older brother now? In fact, the father himself would later tell him as much: "Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours." (Luke 15:31).
Therefore the prodigal son, on returning under the good graces of his father, was actually being received into his brother’s inheritance; and in receiving the ring on his finger (the symbol of the household’s authority) he would now have to prove himself faithful in that which belonged to another man.
You see, his inheritance truly had been squandered; he was not simply taking up as though nothing had ever happened, as though there was no consequence (Luke 16:1-2). True repentance and the good fruit of it, including faithfulness, was needed for him to regain eternal riches of his own (as in Luke 16:11-12).
So here’s the shocker. Essentially, the unjust steward from Luke 16 is the prodigal son from Luke 15. He must now prove himself a good steward of his brother’s goods. If he does, the fruit of his repentance in his latter self (the good steward) will confirm the true departure from his earlier self (the shameful son) and allow him to share in his brother’s inheritance (see Luke 16:4). This is according to the same principle that we find in Proverbs 17:2:
"A wise servant will rule over a son who causes shame, and will share an inheritance among the brothers."
Allow me to focus on the parable of the unjust steward now, to complete this thought. Most Christians are astonished that this man gave away his master’s goods, yet he was commended for so doing. This is because they are not understanding the true ‘currency’ involved. Jesus came, not to raise money, but to save men’s souls. Through his actions, the unjust steward is doing everything within his ability to make other men able to stand before the Lord on the Day of Judgment. This is the true currency, the master’s true riches, and the fruit that is worthy of repentance in restoring such a person. As Jesus had said to Peter in foretelling his denial: "and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." (Luke 22:32).
Again, the preceding were not my own thoughts, but an email I received from a fellow blogger.