Parable of the Unjust Steward
Parables, The Unjust Steward
Initial issues identified are, the added sayings’ (16:8b -13) connection with the parable, its initial extent, and the “master’s” identity in verse 16:8 (kurios). If one works back from the last (added) verse, one will be able to identify irregular literary unity. There is inconsistency in content, to the extent that the New Testament scholar/theologian, Charles Harold Dodd, has considered this section to be notes for as many as 3 distinct sermons on this parable. Verse 16:13, which states that a servant cannot simultaneously serve more than one master (from Matthew, verse 6:24), though tangential to this parable’s economic setting, can scarcely be deemed as an interpretation, as the steward in the parable is successful at doing what the above mentioned saying forbids — i.e., he effectively works for two masters. The text’s traditional title (i.e., Unjust Steward) may be challenged if one thoroughly analyses it, as it is unclear whether he truly was unjust, and whether the story is his or not. Just like several of Luke’s parables, this story starts with a general anthropos tis (for somebody, a person); however, it adds that this person was affluent (16:1; cf. 16:19) (Donahue, 1988).
Similar to Matthew’s parable– the Unmerciful Servant (18:23-35) — the main characters are, right from the beginning, put together in an event of reckoning. Like the steward of Matthew (18:23), the one in this parable under study is caught for mismanagement. However, instead of facing imprisonment, he is merely removed from service. Apparently, he has a certain degree of leeway prior to the publicizing of his dismissal, which accounts for the rapid action and urgency characterized by the verses that follow (for instance, verse 6, wherein he asks a debtor to quickly sit down). In the course of his removal, the steward does not defend himself. His character is reflected from the third verse’s soliloquy, implied in the steward’s inward derision of himself, as people wouldn’t expect an individual of his standing to either beg or work. Subsequently, he thinks up a plan for extricating himself, in the hope that the debtors of his master will be highly impressed by him and will welcome him into their homes. His trick works much better than he expected, as his master “commends” his work — although readers can’t be certain whether he got back into his master’s service. Ever…