What does Luke 16:1 mean?
ESV: He also said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions.
NIV: Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.
NASB: Now He was also saying to the disciples, 'There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions.
CSB: Now he said to the disciples: "There was a rich man who received an accusation that his manager was squandering his possessions.
NLT: Jesus told this story to his disciples: 'There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money.
KJV: And he said also 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.
NKJV: He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.
Verse Commentary:
Jesus continues His training session with the disciples during His gradual journey to the cross, sometimes called the "travelogue" of Christ (Luke 9:51—19:27). Scripture does not say exactly where or when this occurred. The chapter may have encompassed a single event since the Pharisees "heard all these things" (Luke 16:14). Or Jesus may have taught similar lessons several times and Luke is speaking in general.

The parable of the dishonest manager is among the most difficult to interpret (Luke 16:2–8). Most confusing is that the rich man seems to praise the manager for defrauding him. Jesus' use of this as an example is likewise easy to misinterpret. As with most parables, the key is not to overcomplicate the intended message. This strange story has a simple enough application: people of the world are cunning and know how to take advantage of the times in which they live. So, God-followers should use that same cunning in service to His kingdom.

The relationship between the owner and the manager is not explained in detail. The owner may not live on the property the manager stewards, since he doesn't know fraud is occurring until he hears from someone else. The manager's status as slave or servant is unknown, but he is used to working non-physical jobs (Luke 16:3).

The manager must have had some freedom to work without being supervised. He also seems to have no remorse when the owner finds out he has performed his job poorly. It's unclear what exactly it means that he was "wasting [the owner's] possessions." The owner plans to fire the manager, rather than having him arrested for theft. It may be that in areas where he did not expect to be monitored, he was just lazy or incompetent.
Verse Context:
Luke 16:1–8 is the parable of the dishonest manager. A wealthy man learns his money is being wasted by a hired supervisor. With no time to escape being fired, the manager calls on the owner's debtors. He tells them to decrease the amount they are expected to pay back. This favor earns the manager their approval and hopefully their help later. The owner notes that this was a clever ploy to make allies. Jesus uses this negative example to teach His followers a good lesson: to be equally sharp when interacting with the world.
Chapter Summary:
Teaching His disciples and confronting the Pharisees, Jesus offers several lessons about wealth and devotion to God. The first is a parable about a dishonest manager. This illustrates the value of being careful and clever with earthly resources. Jesus then uses remarks about the Law and marriage to introduce the story of the rich man and Lazarus. This not only highlights the dangers of greed, but it also debunks the common claim that a non-believer would submit to God if only they saw "a little more evidence" or a miracle.
Chapter Context:
The prior chapter included Jesus' teachings centered on lost things: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. Luke 16 includes several of Jesus' lessons about living in the kingdom of God compared to the world system, beginning and ending with parables (Luke 16:1—17:10). Chapter 16 includes the parable of the dishonest manager, Jesus' teaching on how money reveals faith, and the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Luke 17:1–10 teaches about whether Christ-followers bear responsibility for others' sin, lessons about faith, and the parable of the unworthy servants.
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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