Luke 16:5

ESV So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
NIV So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'
NASB And he summoned each one of his master’s debtors, and he began saying to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
CSB "So he summoned each one of his master's debtors. 'How much do you owe my master? ' he asked the first one.
NLT So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’
KJV So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?

What does Luke 16:5 mean?

A steward for a rich man is being fired for poor performance. He's desperate to find a comparable job because manual labor and begging are beneath him. The owner is demanding the financial records. The steward has a limited amount of time to work (Luke 16:1–3). His goal is to do such a favor for his master's debtors that they will think of him kindly and give him a job or at least help him in some way (Luke 16:4). He's decided to lessen their debt. He begins by calling the debtors to him and asking them how much they owe. He knows precisely what the amount is, of course, but asking them reiterates how generous he is.

He then takes a substantial amount of the debt away by having them change their contracts. He cuts one debt in half and another by twenty percent. His former master will praise him—perhaps grudgingly—for being so clever (Luke 16:6–8). Jesus will use this principle to teach a lesson, while not endorsing the specific events of the parable.

Within the story itself, modern scholars struggle to understand why the manager is not charged as a criminal for his actions. Is this not theft, or fraud? Several possibilities are suggested:

  1. •He removed the interest.
  2. •He took out the "fee" that Jews at the time used in place of interest.
  3. •He forfeited his personal commission, much like Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19:1–10).

In the first two cases, the owner cannot charge him with a crime because interest and the fee were both illegal according to the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 23:19). In the last case, he was wise enough to realize the debtors would never pay him once he was fired: he would be gone long before he could collect his fee.
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: