All Posts /

A Sermon for Busy Pastors: Unexpected Lessons from an Unjust Servant

May this sermon help you improve the quality, freshness, and variety of your pulpit ministry, and better meet the spiritual needs of those in your congregation.

Sermon Title: A Quality of Discipleship — Astuteness

Text: “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9 NIV).

Scripture Reading: Luke 16:1 – 9

Offertory Prayer: Our Father, grant that we may be as wise and as zealous in promoting your kingdom as we are in promoting our own interests. No, rather, help us to make your interests ours so that our only concern will be to administer the trust that you have given to us in accord with your righteous will. Grant to us as individuals and as a church wisdom to distribute the gifts we bring to you in the wisest possible way as responsible stewards of your bounty, for yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.


Of all Jesus’ parables, the parable of the unjust steward is probably the most difficult to interpret. Did Jesus commend the embezzler, a servant who defrauded his master? Yes, but his commendation was not for his character; it was for his astuteness.

I. Note the story carefully (Luke 16:1 – 2).

A. A steward often had wide latitude in the oversight of his master’s properties, enterprises, and goods. Potiphar’s trust of Joseph is an interesting illustration. “And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand” (Gen. 39:4). The fact that a master would trust a servant with all of his goods made embezzlement easier but also more blameworthy. A rich master would most likely learn of his steward’s mismanagement by the testimony of a third party.

B. The steward faced the facts (16:3 – 7). When ordered to get his accounts in shape for an accounting, he knew that the verdict would be “guilty.” He was not strong enough to do manual labor and was too ashamed to beg, so he resolved to follow a shrewd scheme of contacting his master’s debtors and allowing them to lower the amounts of the notes owed to his master. He knew that his customers could be bought, and he knew how much it would take to buy each one. His hope was that when he was fired they would remember his kindness and share their ill-gotten gain with him.

C. The strange commendation (16:8). The men listening to Jesus narrate the story expected to hear him say that the rich master condemned the wicked steward. How surprised they must have been to hear Jesus say, “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light” (v. 8 NIV). Note that the master commended him, not for his motive, but for his astuteness; not for his fraud, but for his foresight. We may assume that the servant was summarily dismissed.

Have you ever had a swindler take you for some money in such a clever way that in spite of yourself you admired his astuteness? Surely a confident man as clever as he could make an honest living if he desired to do so.

II. The meaning of the parable (Luke 16:8).

A. If unsaved people, for selfish, unworthy ends, can display such astuteness, foresight, and dedication to their worldly goals, how much more should Christians use intelligence, foresight, and zeal for kingdom interests? Does the cause of Christ deserve less devotion?

B. This parable is a challenge to foresight. The unjust steward looked ahead. He made provision for the future. Jesus said, “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9 NIV). We are to use the treasure of this life in such a manner that when death comes, we will have a welcome in heaven. Entrance into heaven depends on one’s salvation. Rewards in heaven depend on the faithful way one has served others in Jesus’ name. One is to use the treasures of this life (specifically money) so as to lay up treasures in heaven. Note carefully other teachings of Jesus about heavenly treasure in Matthew 6:19 – 20; 10:42; 25:31 – 41; and Revelation 14:13.


Are the children of this world really wise? No, they build the house of life on shifting sands. The truly wise are those who build on the solid rock and seek first the kingdom of God and his glory . Jesus is their Captain, God is their Father, the Holy Spirit is their Guide. Even now in earthly tabernacles they have eternal life and journey toward the heavenly city.

by T. T. Crabtree with James F. Heaton, adapted from the new The Pastor’s Annual 2016: An Idea and Resource Book

How to Use This Book

The Pastor’s Annual is for pastors who don’t have enough hours in the day. Packed with a year’s worth of sermons, use this book to enrich your preaching—and to reclaim some time and energy for other essential areas of your ministry.