Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 13 (1898)


Ms 19, 1898

The Unjust Steward


February 18, 1898

Portions of this manuscript are published in 6MR 25.

The parables of Christ contained great truths, and were spoken to His disciples that they might have their leavening effect. There was no other way in which Christ could present before His followers their true situation. These truths were to be afterward remembered with distinctness, and would be vividly brought to the minds of the new converts whom Christ knew would be added to the church. Christ warned His disciples that the maxims, and customs, and opinions of the Pharisees, like leaven, would mislead these new converts. 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 1

In addressing His disciples, Christ spoke to the Pharisees also. He did not give up all hope that they would perceive the force of His words. Many had been deeply convicted, and as they heard the living testimony under the dictation of the Holy Spirit, Christ desired that, if not before His crucifixion, after His resurrection and ascension, they would be converted from Phariseeism and receive the truth. 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 2

Pride, covetousness, and exclusiveness marked the characters of the Pharisees, and these attributes were retarding the progress and extension of the kingdom of God. They had tried to bring Christ into disrepute by accusing Him of receiving and eating with publicans and sinners; but the lesson Christ gave was intended to reveal to them His motive in coming to the world. “I came not,” He said, “to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” [Mark 2:17.] 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 3

By the parable of the unjust steward, Christ sought to teach the Pharisees that though filled with self-important and self-righteousness they were misapplying the spiritual gifts lent them by God with which to trade. They were appropriating to themselves that which God had deposited with them, as another’s property, for the special purpose of communicating to others. The Lord had chosen them as His people. He had brought them out of Egypt and made them the repositories of sacred truth for the blessing of the world. But His stewards made use of their entrusted capabilities to enrich and exalt themselves. 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 4

If they had received the light of truth and been faithful in the service of God, they would have administered to His Son as did the women of Galilee, who followed Him from place to place and ministered to Him of their substance. The Lord was testing and proving the people who, in point of privilege, had been exalted to heaven. But His Son, whom He had sent to them was left to poverty. Christ declared, “The foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” [Matthew 8:20.] 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 5

“And he said 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.” [Luke 16:1.] The master had left all his possessions in the hands of his steward; but the servant was unfaithful in his business transactions, and his master was convinced that he was being systematically robbed. He determined that he would retain him no longer in his service, and he called for an investigation of his accounts. “How is it,” he said, “that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.” [Verse 2.] 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 6

With the prospect of discharge before him, the steward saw but two paths for him to pursue. He must either labor, or beg. And he said within himself, “What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. 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.” [Verses 3-7.] 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 7

This unfaithful servant made others sharers with him in his dishonest proceedings. By robbing his master, and advantaging them, he laid them under obligation to him to receive him as a friend into their homes. 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 8

“And the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely.” [Verse 8.] But the commendation of the rich man, was not the commendation of God. It was the worldly-wise man praising the sharpness and not the man who had robbed him. 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 9

Christ had just been accused of associating with publicans and sinners; but Christ saw in the publicans the very ones He could help. Among the publican there had been just such a case as was represented by the parable. But Christ saw that their employment was just of that character that would lead them into temptation, and that the first step in the wrong direction would lead them to greater dishonesty and increased crimes. He presented the story of the unfaithful steward as a looking glass. When he saw his position, he made friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; his lord’s entrusted goods, given to him to be used for benevolent purposes, he used to secure advantages to himself. 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 10

Christ did not commend the unfaithful steward; but He made use of the known occurrence. He would impress upon the minds of His hearers the necessity of all making wise provision for the future. He said, The rich man commended the unjust steward because he had done wisely in making good provision for himself. “For the children of this world are in this generation wiser than the children of light. (That is, Greater wisdom is manifested by worldly wise men in seeking to attain their ends, than is shown by those who profess to be children of the kingdom in securing the heavenly treasure.) 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.” [Verses 8, 9.] 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 11

There should be far keener perception on the part of God’s people. Every talent should be brought into exercise that we may obtain a title to the immortal inheritance. “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.” [Ephesians 5:6-8.] “Ye are all the children of light and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” [1 Thessalonians 5:5, 6.] 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 12

Christ bids us be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. To His hearers He said, “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness: that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. 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 16:9-12.] 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 13

Fidelity depends, not on the amount entrusted, but upon the faithful recognition of our responsibilities and the discharge of our duties. He who exercises his God-given ability to be faithful in the little things will be faithful when larger responsibilities are placed upon him. God’s people are to realize that all they have is lent them on trust to prove them, to see what is in their hearts, to see if they will be faithful with the mammon of unrighteousness. God would know if he can trust them with eternal riches in the kingdom of heaven. 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 14

“No servant can serve two masters,” Christ continued; “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. And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men: but God knoweth your hearts: for that which I highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, then one tittle of the law to fail.” [Verses 13-17.] 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 15

Riches are no recommendation to heaven, [but] merciful and loving acts, kindness shown, not only to our brethren but to those not of the faith. The Lord does not estimate man upon a money basis. All the treasure of earth is the Lord’s, and He requires that it be faithfully and economically used. There is need of money to advance the cause of God in various lines. His people are to bear in mind that the King of glory did not exalt Himself. He did not build for Himself rich habitations. He was not clothed in linen or purple. And yet He was the Majesty of heaven, the King of glory. 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 16

Those who claim to be believers, and yet take pride in money and in display, and use God’s goods to please themselves, reveal that they are dishonest stewards. The lessons of Christ present general principles. They strike directly against all self-indulgence, all selfish appropriation of the Lord’s means. A selfish use of means in this life, proves one unfaithful to God and robs the Lord of the glory that should be reflected back to Him in the relief of suffering humanity and the salvation of souls. Many who are highly esteemed among men but who are carried away by love of self will find at last that they have built their house, not upon the Rock, but upon the sand. 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 17

Money is not to be idolized; neither is it to be despised. It is to be used to help the needy. Extravagance, merely for show, is not to be practiced by the people of God. Thank God for riches, for riches rightly used will accomplish great good. Your money invested in the work and cause of God, in the place of being used indiscreetly and selfishly, will make to you friends who will receive you into everlasting habitations. Our means should be carefully invested, that we may bring to our Lord a revenue in return. He has put these talents in our possession to prove us. He wants to see if we will regard them as the Lord’s. And if the trial does not spoil the soul and make it proud and covetous, unwilling to place gifts and offerings in the treasury of God with an eye single to His glory, we shall lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven. The riches we have used in the Lord’s service will be returned to us again in all their accumulated increase. 13LtMs, Ms 19, 1898, par. 18