Faithful in the Little Things, Faithful in Much
By Dr. Jack R. Hodges, Jr.
Jesus told many parables during His public ministry. Most were easy to understand because the Lord used simple stories about well-known things, issues, or objects to illustrate moral, ethical, or spiritual lessons. They were usually very effective in exposing sinful human choices and behavior and speaking and revealing the truth about Kingdom principles. This allowed Christ Jesus to engage and connect with listeners and teach eternal truths. There were a few of His parables that were, however, difficult and confusing to understand by both the disciples and those who were also listening. One of those was the “parable of the unjust servant” found in Luke 16:1-17. Immediately after Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15), He followed that simple parable with a more complex story that is both complicated and confusing.
In the “parable of the unjust servant,” a rich man is told that one of his stewards, a man who had been hired to manage or oversee the owner’s property or business, has been wasting his money. The owner summons the manager to fire him. He has made up his mind. He needed managers/stewards whom he could trust completely. And this man had proven himself untrustworthy. When the steward stands before the owner and learns of his fate, he begins moaning and groaning about not being able to get work anywhere else. “I’m not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg,” admits the steward. Unmoved by the excuses, the rich man fires him. But before the steward packs up and leaves, he shrewdly calls in some of the rich man’s debtors and offers them huge discounts on their debts. Owe 600 gallons of oil, take your bill and quickly write down 300. Owe 70 bushels of wheat, write down 40. Upon learning of what the steward has done, the rich man actually praised and commended him for his shrewd and clever move. He has succeeded in “one-upping” the master. Although it didn’t save his job, it appears that this sharp-witted and clever former steward had gotten the last laugh.
Jesus uses this story and the characters in this parable to illustrate how shrewd and self-centered the workings of the unrighteous are. Jesus is not commending the actions of the steward. Rather, the Lord Jesus is driving home a point about the hearts of those who do not seek after the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. He is pointing out and contrasting the way the world approaches money and riches with the way God wants His followers and disciples to use the resources that He has so richly given them.
Notice that every one of the characters in the story is unjust and unrighteous. They are corrupt and dishonest and know how to get what they want. Jesus knew that the Pharisees were listening as He told this parable to His disciples. He wanted to lay down two important spiritual principles about true, genuine, and God-centered faithfulness and service.
The first lesson (found in verse 10) has to do with how believers faithfully deal with the resources that God has given. Jesus said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” The lesson for those who trust in the Lord and live their lives surrendered to and under His Lordship and ownership is: We are to faithfully sow into the Kingdom rather than into the world. Wisdom, discernment, honesty, and integrity are required if we are to be entrusted with the eternal and spiritual things of God.
The second lesson (found in verse 13 speaks about sincere and undivided service to the Lord. Jesus declared, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” The lesson for those who desire to really make a spiritual impact in this dark, evil world is: We cannot serve God and ourselves at the same time!
As Joshua gathered the people of Israel at Shechem and demanded that they present themselves before God, he said (Joshua 24:14-15), “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” This is the same message that Christ Jesus has for every one of us. Choose for yourself today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Let that be your confession and declaration today!
Dr. Jack Hodges is the Senior Pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Morganton, NC. He has served as a pastor, a biblical counselor, and an International Mission Board missionary.
Read more from Dr. Hodges here.