“Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’”—Luke 16:3–4 (NKJV)
Yesterday, we were introduced to a parable Jesus told concerning a steward who wasn’t doing a very good job for his employer. His master held him accountable for his unfaithfulness, and now the story continues as we read the steward’s reaction.
Now, before we go on, it’s of utmost importance for us to recognize the following about the steward: he reacted! Remember, this man had fallen into a rut of wastefulness. In other words, he’d gotten lazy and was just coasting in his role as a steward. But now that changes as he senses he’s about to be let go from his position. He resolves to do something proactive.
Check out what he does: “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty’” (Luke 16:5-7 NKJV).
Essentially, the steward starts cutting deals with debtors, not only to gain their favor, but to also set himself up with leads that he could eventually cash in. If his master was going to fire him, why not use his present position to help secure his future? If the master was upset before, you can only imagine how he’d feel now!
Now, watch the master’s response: “So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8 NKJV).
The master commends the steward for acting so shrewdly?! Here’s where we need to be very careful in interpreting this parable. At face value, it seems like the parable is commending the steward for mismanaging his master’s resources. But, Jesus isn’t directing us to follow the negative details of dealing in such a way, basically ripping-off an employer. Rather, He is pointing us to the positive principle of being a proactive servant.
Remember, the steward had fallen out of favor because he’d stopped doing his job. But now, a fire is lit under his belly, which moves him into action. And as a result, he starts to act like a serious steward. Even though we know from the rest of God’s Word that the specifics of his reaction aren’t right, the fact remains that it is good to react. Amidst the negative there is a positive!
Here’s what we need to understand and apply: We can’t slip into a pattern of passivity. Instead, we should adopt a proactive perspective as representatives of God and His kingdom.
DIG: What was positive about the steward’s behavior here?
DISCOVER: What was Jesus pointing His audience, and us, to?
DO: Pray about ways you can be a more proactive servant for the Lord.
“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.’”—Luke 16:1 (NKJV)
The Parable of the Unjust Steward in Luke chapter 16 is one of Jesus’ most misunderstood and potentially confusing parables. In order to properly understand it, we need to take out time to examine it, which is why we’re going to devote the next three days to this particular story.
It begins by introducing us to a couple of characters. The first is a wealthy businessman with many investments and connections within his community. Our next character is the rich man’s steward, who is responsible for managing each of these business accounts. This steward is the parable’s main character, and we see in the passage above that accusations are circulating about how he’s not doing a good job at handling his master’s accounts. Watch what his employer does in response: “So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward’” (Luke 16:2 NKJV.)
Again, we need to take our time reading a parable if we’re to understand it well. Consequently, we’re going to stop at this point and focus on the important principle that’s being established in these opening verses.
What principle? Notice how the wealthy businessman confronts his manager and calls on him to give an account of his actions. This is the foundational reality that will support everything that will follow in this story: Servants are expected and held accountable for faithfully serving their masters.
It’s critical we understand this going forward, because this parable is ultimately pointing us to the importance of faithfulness . . . not with earthly business assets, but with the precious truths concerning God and His kingdom. We will get to that toward the end of this parable, but for now, let’s focus on the following facets:
1. There is a measurable standard for faithfulness.
2. This standard is understood by both servant and master.
3. The master is aware of the servant’s activity.
4. The servant will eventually be held accountable by the master.
Each of these points factor into the life of the Christian; for we, too, are servants with a Master, the Lord. And in parallel with the parable, there’s a measurable and understood standard for faithfulness that our all-knowing Master will hold us accountable to.
Translation: We need to prioritize faithfulness to what the Lord has called us to. Understand, this isn’t intended to instill guilt or fear, because Jesus doesn’t want us to be motivated by such things. Rather, it’s meant to give us a healthy pause to examine ourselves and ask to be filled afresh with God’s love, which is always the most effective fuel for faithfulness.
DIG: What is the main principle presented in the first few verses of this parable?
DISCOVER: How does this parable parallel the Christian life? How will you respond to what you’ve just read?
DO: Do a self-assessment of your faithfulness to what God has entrusted you with. Examine whether or not you’re serving Him faithfully or serving yourself. Consider asking a close, objective, honest friend as well to see if the way you’re perceiving yourself lines up with what others are seeing.
“Then He spoke a parable to them, saying, ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, “What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?” So he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’”—Luke 12:16-19 (NKJV)
Parables present a unique challenge because they require a little extra effort in order to understand them. If you just jump right into a parable without having a sense of its context, you’ll probably miss its meaning. Case in point, in the proceeding passage Jesus shares a parable about a rich man who builds bigger barns to accommodate his growing harvest.
In and of itself, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. After all, isn’t it wise to plan ahead and prepare for the future? On the surface, we might commend this character for his foresight and perhaps even want to follow his example.
But if you back up a bit, you see a principle put forth that sheds a whole new light on the story. Just prior to this parable, a man had come to Jesus begging Him to settle an inheritance dispute. Knowing this man was really motivated by greed, the Lord declines to get involved and goes on to actually warn others gathered around Him against greed and a preoccupation with possessions.
With that backdrop, the parable reads quite differently. This wasn’t an act of wise foresight; it was an act of idolatry to satisfy the god of money that had captured his heart, which is why this man is strongly judged by God as the parable goes on: “But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20-21 NKJV).
Possessions have the power to possess people. This is what happened with the man who wanted Jesus to mediate his inheritance for him, as well as the rich fool in the parable. Christ is warning us against this very real threat through this story; it serves as a sobering preview of what can happen as we allow our priorities to shift from God toward the enticements of earth.
The remedy, the only remedy, is not to simply denounce wealth but to be wealthy in the right things . . . the things of God! To invest in God . . . to put Him and His will for our lives before all other areas of our lives. For when we do, our lives consist in a spiritual strength that frees us from being possessed by our possessions.
DIG: What key insight unlocks the meaning of this parable?
DISCOVER: How is your own life framed within this particular parable?
DO: Consider how this parable can change your decision-making process today. Examine your priorities and what you value most and see if it lines up with the principles in this parable.
Willing to Fail
“Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still.” Proverbs 9:9
You may have heard about a remarkable man who encountered continual disappointment yet wasn’t afraid to risk failing again. Between 1831 and 1858 he suffered two business failures, the death of his fiancée, and a mental breakdown. This man also failed in his attempts at public office: He bid unsuccessfully for positions as state legislator, speaker of the state legislature, presidential elector, state land officer, congressional representative, U.S. Senator (twice), and U.S. vice president.
Was he a hopeless loser? History indicates otherwise. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States. He led the nation through the dark days of the Civil War, preserved the union, and issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Many historians consider him the greatest of all U.S. presidents.
Successful people such as Abraham Lincoln usually experience failure along the way, but they keep taking risks—and they learn from their mistakes. Are you willing to fail in order to learn and grow?
Just between us…
Lord, we ask tonight that You affirm Your work in our lives and that You put Your hand of blessing and safekeeping on all our endeavors. When we try and fail, help us to get up and try again. Amen.
The cities that make up the landscape of Europe have pasts that stretch back through every era of civilization. And the many grand, opulent hotels throughout the continent are evidence of the centuries of culture that shaped their home countries. Take a step back in time on your next trip to Europe by staying at one of these five hotels with long histories and a commitment to preserving an older way of life.
Grand Hotel Zermatterhof
Be transported to a distant past with a stay in the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, located below the iconic Matterhorn mountain. Your journey begins with a carriage ride from the train station to the car-free town of Zurich, one of the best cities to retreat to from the bustle of urban Europe. The historic Grand Hotel Zermatterhof has been hosting guests since 1879 and places a premium on a stay that celebrates the past.
In the summer months, the Zermatterhof makes a great place to embark on outdoor adventures in the rugged Swiss mountain country. In the winter, the hotel is located just 700 meters from the Matterhorn Ski Paradise, giving you access to some of the best skiing in the world.
The Olde Bell
Hurley, Berkshire, England
The oldest hotel on this list, The Olde Bell was opened in 1135, almost 900 years ago. You will see traces of this ancient history on the claw foot bathtubs and the charming farm home décor with dark wood floors and sheepskin throws. The hotel has seen many famous guests and historic events—including when it hosted the meeting of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Winston Churchill during the Second World War.
The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria
The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, located on the Gulf of Naples, has been operated by the Fiorento family since it opened in 1834. The hotel has seen famous figures such as Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe stay in the beautiful suites. You will feel whisked away to a bygone era of romantic opulence and comfort while you enjoy your stay at the Excelsior Vittoria.
Dive into Paris’ history of art, literature and culture at this wonderful hotel on the Left Bank. Here you will find the famous Belle Epoque’s “palace hotels” such as Hôtel Providence, which will give you a chance to explore the busy commercial heart of Paris that inspired great works of art in the early 20th century.
The Lutetia was opened across from The Bon Marche, the world’s first department store, at the height of one of the great eras of French cultural achievement. Since its construction, the Lutetia has hosted significant figures in the art world such as James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Matisse, and Picasso. Even the name evokes an ancient past: Lutetia was the name the Romans used for Paris.
Another hotel that has stood for centuries, Hotel Interlaken has been hosting guests for centuries. Hotel Interlaken was built in 1323 and first served as a cloister house run by nuns and monks for tired travelers. Hotel Interlaken served many other functions during these early years and was even used as a court room at one point.
Hotel Interlaken was converted to a hotel in 1491. The hotel is located a mere six-minute walk from the nearest train station and features cozy, rustic, and chic décor, plus a woodsy restaurant featuring a modern take on classic Swiss cuisine.
These hotels and the many others that can be found in European cities and countrysides will help you relax and enjoy the grand history of the European continent. Enjoy your travels abroad and take time to appreciate the luxuries afforded by these excellent hotels.