The Parable of the Wrong Steward: Interpretation and Meaning
The Parable of the Wrong Steward: Interpretation and Meaning

Video: The Parable of the Wrong Steward: Interpretation and Meaning

Video: The Parable of the Wrong Steward: Interpretation and Meaning
Video: The Unjust Steward - explaining a very confusing parable [S02E29] 2023, September

Among all the stories told by Christ, the parable of the unfaithful steward is considered the most controversial. Prominent theologians of various Christian denominations have tried to understand its meaning and interpretation for many centuries. Let's find out what conclusions they came to and what this story is about.

A little about the parable

Most of the stories that Jesus generously shared with his disciples and opponents appear in several gospels, and sometimes are repeated in four at once. However, the parable of the unfaithful ruler is only found in the Gospel of Luke.

parable of the unfaithful steward read
parable of the unfaithful steward read

Although other chroniclers of Christ do not mention her, historians have no doubts about her authenticity. The fact is that the Apostle Luke, who wrote the Gospel and Acts, is recognized as the most scrupulous of the authors of the biographies of Jesus. Both of his books are presented clearly and thoroughly, which is not always characteristic of other Apostles, who are more prone to filling their texts with metaphors.

Probably the reason why the parable of the bad steward is mentioned only once is its ambiguity. Besides,Christ usually gave explanations of what one or another of his stories meant, but this time he limited himself to only vague statements about we alth and the impossibility of serving two masters at once. Therefore, other Apostles might not have written such a controversial parable in their books. Also, not all of the evangelists were likely present when she spoke.


The following is a passage from the Holy Scriptures, where this parable is stated. In addition, you can read the verse that follows it.

parable of the unfaithful steward
parable of the unfaithful steward

Main characters. Owner

In the center of the plot of the parable of the wrong steward, two characters appear: the master and his unfaithful servant.

parable of the wrong steward
parable of the wrong steward

What is known about the master? The story mentions that he is very rich, and therefore does not manage his property on his own, having a special person to manage it.

The master does not interfere in the work of the subordinate, trusting him and giving him the opportunity to decide how to conduct business. When the owner was informed that the steward was "squandering his property," he demands an account of his entire service. And when he learned that the manager had cheated by writing off part of their debt to some debtors, he praised his resourcefulness.

All these actions of his indicate the following traits:

  • kindness;
  • appreciating good qualities.

Despite his kindness, the master is not a fool and cannot be unambiguously called gullible. That he had not previously checked his servant's reports might haveother reasons besides unconditional faith in him, for example, banal busyness with other things.

It is noteworthy that both times the master somehow finds out about the actions of his servant. So, although he does not interfere in affairs, he always keeps his finger on the pulse of the situation. His ignorance of the misconduct of the manager, rather, an indicator of hope for his decency.

Also debatable is the ability to forgive, which is often attributed to the protagonist of the parable of the wrong steward. The story ends on the fact that the master praised the negligent manager. At the same time, it is not said whether he left him in office, helped him get another one, or expelled him. So we do not have a complete picture of his image.

Wrong steward

In the English translation, this story is called "Parable of the Unjust Steward", which means "the parable of the unjust steward". This begs the first question about the nature of the crime of the second protagonist. According to the Russian translation, he is characterized as "infidel", he who betrays his master. However, if we take the English version as a basis, it turns out that he could not betray the owner, but be unfair to those people over whom he was placed. In this case, his character may differ from the generally accepted one. He is not a deceiver, who did not give a damn about the trust of the master, but a clever businessman who unfairly behaved towards his subordinates.

What else is known about the manager? He is either old, or has some kind of physical injury, and therefore is unable to work. This is confirmed by his phrase "I can not dig." AtThis steward is not ready to beg, saying "I am ashamed to ask." This suggests either pride or wide fame of his person, which promises shame and humiliation among those around him.

parable of the unfaithful steward interpretation of Osips
parable of the unfaithful steward interpretation of Osips

It is possible that he is a middle-aged man with a handicap, probably not very noticeable. Therefore, he is ashamed to ask: a forty-year-old, he althy-looking man is unlikely to be served. This version is supported by the plans of the hero. He wants the forgiven debtors not to give away his written-off products, but to "take them into their homes", that is, he plans to get a job there.

A few assumptions can also be made about the social position of the hero. Unlike other parables, it does not say that he was a slave. And the manager's plans to find a new job directly testify to his ability to choose his place of work. So he was a free man.

Interpretations of Theophan the Recluse

Trying to understand what exactly Jesus wanted to say with his parable was far from being done by just one theologian. Theophan the Recluse was actively interested in the interpretation of the parable of the unfaithful steward.

He called this story the most difficult. Like most, he compared the image of the master with the Lord, and the unrighteous servant with a sinful person.

The property given into the possession of the ruler, according to the Recluse, is all those material and spiritual benefits, as well as physical data that the Creator bestows on each person.

The theologian sees the meaning of the parable in that a person, despite his sins that he commits, does notin obedience to God, one must always look for a way to save one's soul without giving up.

The opinion of Theophylact of Bulgaria

This famous theologian also comments on the parable of the unfaithful steward in his writings.

He compares an unfaithful steward to a dishonest minister who uses the "we alth" given by the Lord not for the benefit of his brothers and sisters in faith (as it should be), but for his own needs.

According to Theophylact, such false servants can be saved, however, only by sharing all the ill-gotten good with those in need.

Interpretation of the parable of Osipov's wrong steward

The famous Soviet and Russian theologian Alexei Ilyich Osipov focuses his attention on another aspect of this story. According to him, unrighteous we alth has two meanings:

  • a fortune acquired contrary to law and humanity;
  • the futility of everything material, which seems important in life, but has no value for eternity.

In both cases, according to Osipov, it is necessary to strive to use such we alth to acquire what has true value - eternal life.

The opinion of the Catholic Church

The Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States at the official level determined its own interpretation of this parable. It is based on the practice of usury known in the time of Christ. Then some managers, lending out of the property of the owner, secretly overestimated the interest. They put the resulting difference in their pocket, cashing in on the needy, who either did notknew the true size of the fine, or did not have the opportunity to complain about the arbitrariness.

parable of the unfaithful steward interpretation theologian
parable of the unfaithful steward interpretation theologian

Such behavior could not be considered a betrayal of the interests of the owner, because he received the profit he counted on.

Based on this tradition, Catholic theologians suggest that the unfaithful ruler was just engaged in such fraud with inflated interest on debts. This became known to his master. He was angry that his servant was doing business so dishonestly, and in fact discrediting the name of his employer. After all, everyone who borrowed did not know that it was not the owner, but his servant who set the excessive fine. Therefore, all accusations of greed were addressed to the master, and not the true culprit.

Threatened to lose his seat, the steward called those who had been deceived with interest and ordered them to rewrite the receipts as they should have been. It turns out that he did not squander the property of the owner, but only stopped taking excess from other people. It was for this attempt to improve that his master praised him.

Pharisees version

The Bible repeatedly mentioned that well-known Pharisees tried to catch Jesus in a lie. In an effort to discredit him in the eyes of society, these people accused him of non-compliance with the law. At the same time, they themselves often violated it.

parable of the wrong steward interpretation
parable of the wrong steward interpretation

Based on the interpretation adopted by the Catholics, there is an opinion that this parable was told precisely for such teachers of the law. Based on this logic, it is considered that eacha Pharisee or another person who robs the people, hiding behind the name of the Lord, is such an unfaithful steward.

In favor of this interpretation is the fact that this parable was told precisely under the Pharisees.

Why didn't Christ explain the meaning of the parable?

Let's consider one more interesting nuance regarding this story. Not only the content of the story itself causes a lot of controversy, but also the fact that Christ did not interpret the parable of the unfaithful steward. After all, he usually explained what certain heroes and events meant. In this regard, there are several opinions.

parable of the unfaithful steward meaning and interpretation
parable of the unfaithful steward meaning and interpretation

Most common: Christ did not say what he wanted to say, leaving the audience to guess for themselves.

More interesting is another opinion. It cannot be ruled out that Jesus explained the meaning of what he said to those present and that it was recorded. However, after the ascension of Christ and the death of his lifetime followers, the interpretation of history could be deliberately removed, since it did not correspond to the doctrines of the newly emerging religion. After all, if the version about the abuse of their position by the Pharisees and other ministers is correct, then the parallels can be drawn further.

At the very beginning of the formation of Christianity, the function of priests was abolished. Every believer was supposed to strive to study the Scriptures and act upon them. And in order not to make a mistake, one must constantly be in fellowship with brothers and sisters in faith.

With such a system, a separate caste of interpreters of the law was not needed. Exactly the same withcleansing from sins: believing in the Sacrifice of Christ, the first Christians did not need to perform expensive rituals, only sincere repentance and prayer to the Creator were required.

In this form, the newly formed doctrine functioned well while it was one of the many religions of the Roman Empire. But a few centuries later, when it received the status of the only religion for the entire state, it was necessary to make changes, in particular, to add a caste of priests (they are also priests), which was called upon to preach what is beneficial to the ruler, and at the same time "sell" their services, which, in fact, they were supposed to provide free.

Naturally, this was contrary to the original concept of Christianity, therefore, from all the books written by the Apostles, only those were selected that corresponded to such goals. The parable of the unfaithful steward could be perceived as a condemnation of the priests, who hide behind the service of God, but rob the people. Therefore, her interpretation could have been removed so as not to cause unnecessary bad thoughts.

But these are only assumptions, which now there is no way to either confirm or refute. It is possible that the interpretation was simply lost. In any case, he is gone now, so every Bible reader has the opportunity to independently understand the meaning of the parable of the unfaithful steward.