Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Luke 16:8

And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Covetousness;   Dishonesty;   Jesus, the Christ;   Jesus Continued;   Light;   Probation;   Servant;   Steward;   Wisdom;   Worldliness;   Scofield Reference Index - Parables;   Thompson Chain Reference - Children;   Light, Spiritual;   Names;   Righteous-Wicked;   Sons;   Titles and Names;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Light;   Parables;   Titles and Names of Saints;   Titles and Names of the Wicked;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Parable;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Parables;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Age, Ages;   Christ, Christology;   Heaven, Heavens, Heavenlies;   Light;   Wealth;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Child;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Age;   Children;   Generation;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Luke, Gospel of;   Parables;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Lord;   Steward;   World;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Aeon;   Almsgiving ;   Ascension;   Asceticism (2);   Circumstantiality in the Parables;   Common Life;   Discourse;   Enoch Book of;   Foolishness;   Friendship;   Generation;   Honesty ;   Immortality (2);   Impotence;   Laughter;   Light;   Lord (2);   Mammon;   Originality;   Paradox;   Praise (2);   Premeditation;   Property (2);   Rapture Ecstasy;   Simple, Simplicity ;   Son, Sonship;   Spiritualizing of the Parables;   Steward, Stewardship;   Trade and Commerce;   Wealth (2);   Winter ;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Chief parables and miracles in the bible;   World;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Jesus of Nazareth;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Commend;   Eschatology of the New Testament;   Lazarus;   Light;   Steward;   Trade;   Wisdom;   World (Cosmological);   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Light;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The lord commended - Viz. the master of this unjust steward. He spoke highly of the address and cunning of his iniquitous servant. He had, on his own principles, made a very prudent provision for his support; but his master no more approved of his conduct in this, than he did in his wasting his substance before. From the ambiguous and improper manner in which this is expressed in the common English translation, it has been supposed that our blessed Lord commended the conduct of this wicked man: but the word κυριος, there translated lord, simply means the master of the unjust steward.

The children of this world - Such as mind worldly things only, without regarding God or their souls. A phrase by which the Jews always designate the Gentiles.

Children of light - Such as are illuminated by the Spirit of God, and regard worldly things only as far as they may subserve the great purposes of their salvation, and become the instruments of good to others. But ordinarily the former evidence more carefulness and prudence, in providing for the support and comfort of this life, than the latter do in providing for another world.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The lord commended - Praised, or expressed admiration at his wisdom. These are not the words of Jesus, as commending him, but a part of the narrative or parable. His “master” commended him - saw that he was wise and considerate, though he was dishonest.

The unjust steward - It is not said that his master commended him because he was “unjust,” but because he was “wise.” This is the only thing in his conduct of which there is any approbation expressed, and this approbation was expressed by “his master.” This passage cannot be brought, therefore, to prove that Jesus meant to commend his dishonesty. It was a commendation of his “shrewdness or forethought;” but the master could no more “approve” of his conduct as a moral act than he could the first act of cheating him.

The children of this world - Those who are “devoted” to this world; who live for this world only; who are careful only to obtain property, and to provide for their temporal necessities. It does not mean that they are especially wicked and profligate, but only that they are “worldly,” and anxious about earthly things. See Matthew 13:22; 2 Timothy 4:10.

Are wiser - More prudent, cunning, and anxious about their particular business. They show more skill, study more plans, contrive more ways to provide for themselves, than the children of light do to promote the interests of religion.

In their generation - Some have thought that this means “in their manner of living, or in managing their affairs.” The word “generation” sometimes denotes the manner of life, Genesis 6:9; Genesis 37:2. Others suppose that it means “toward or among the people of their own age.” They are more prudent and wise than Christians in regard to the people of their own time; they turn their connection with them to good account, and make it subserve their worldly interests, while Christians fail much more to use the world in such a manner as to subserve their spiritual interests.

Children of light - Those who have been enlightened from above - who are Christians. This may be considered as the application of the parable. It does not mean that it is more wise to be a worldly man than to be a child of light, but that those who “are” worldly show much prudence in providing for themselves; seize occasions for making good bargains; are active and industrious; try to turn everything to the best account, and thus exert themselves to the utmost to advance their interests; while Christians often suffer opportunities of doing good to pass unimproved; are less steady, firm, and anxious about eternal things, and thus show less wisdom. Alas! this is too true; and we cannot but reflect here how different the world would be if all Christians were as anxious, and diligent, and prudent in religious matters as others are in worldly things.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Luke 16:8

And the Lord commended the unjust steward

The unjust steward teaching a lesson prudence

HOW INTIMATELY MIXED UP WITH EACH OTHER ARE VIRTUES AND VICES, GOOD AND EVIL, IN THIS HUMAN WORLD. In fact, no bad man is without some redeeming quality; and no good man (who is merely man) is without some taint or defect that mars the harmony and soils the whiteness of character. In the best men there is something to regret; in the worst there is something to admire and to imitate. What, e.g., can possibly be worse than the general conduct of this steward? Here he is treated with generous confidence by his employer, and he is guilty first of a carelessness in dealing with his master’s property, which amounts to a breach of trust, and next of a deliberate effort to gain credit for personal generosity, and to make provision for his own future by falsifying the bonds in his keeping, which represent debts due to his employer. The man’s moral nature, we say, must have utterly broken down, before such conduct could have been possible; and yet our Lord discerns an excellence glittering amidst this moral darkness. He puts forth His hand, and He isolates from the corruption which surrounds it in the steward’s character, and He lifts up on high, that it may be admired and copied in Christendom to the very end of time one single virtue--the virtue of prudence.

II. THE HIGH RELIGIOUS VALUE OF PRUDENCE its need and function in relation to the life and future of the soul. Prudence is in man what providence is in Almighty Cod. Its great characteristic is, that it keeps its eye upon what is coming; it looks forward to the future that really awaits us. What is that future? Nothing, most assuredly, nothing that lies within the compass of the few years, if indeed, there are to be a few years, that will precede our disappearance from this visible scene, but the existence beyond, of whatever character it be, to which, so far as we know, there is neither term nor limit. We know what to think of the men who trifle with baubles when great earthly interests are trembling in the balance, in those solemn moments which come and pass, and come not again, the moments on which all depends. Who can forget Carlyle’s description of the unhappy Louis XVI., when, in his endeavour to escape from the triumphant revolution, he was brought to a standstill by the suspicious officiousness of some of the petty local authorities of Varennes? A little nerve would have enabled the king to escape the barrier that his enemies had thrown across the public road, by making a slight circuit in his carriage through the adjoining fields, and in twenty minutes or half an hour he would have been safe among his friends; and the course of his own life and all European history might have been very different, to say the least, from the event. But he hesitated, and hesitation was ruin. He hesitated, and as they showed him into the parlour of the village inn he discussed, with the good-humoured courtesy that belonged to him, the precise quality of the burgundy that was placed upon the table. But meanwhile events outside were shaping themselves irrevocably into the fatal grooves of that long procession of humiliation and suffering which ended with the guillotine. This life, for many of us, is the halt at Varennes. It is incumbent on us first of all to feel how immense are the issues that depend on the use we make of its fleeting moments. We must bear in mind that its opportunities are as brief as the consequences that depend on them are incalculable. This power of anticipating the reality, the reality as distinct from the appearance, is the first ingredient of religious prudence. We, too, have the sentence of dismissal hanging over us; but do we understand what it means, as did the unjust steward in the parable? For the second business of prudence is to take measures to prepare for that which is coming on us, and to lose no time in doing so. We must not let things drift, and trust for a good issue to some imaginary chapter of accident; we must make friends, as did the steward, who will receive us in this new future into their houses. And who are those friends? Clearly the friends suggested by the parable are the poor. The story of Fernandez de Cordova, who wrapped up in his robe the leper who was lying deserted by all men on the roadside, and who set him down on his bed to find indeed that he had passed away, but also to trace on his brow, on his hands, on his feet, the marks of His sacred passion, embodies why the poor can be said to be received into everlasting habitations. They are not alone, they are identified with One who has shared their sufferings without sharing their weakness; and who knows well how to reward that which is done to Himself in them. Yes, most assuredly, one Friend there is whose power to help us is without limit. He can help us through our passage to our new home, for He died that by His death He might destroy him that hath the power of death, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. And He can provide for us when we get there, since among His parting words were these: “In My Father’s house,” etc. Are our relations with Him such as to warrant our claiming His help in the hour of need? (Canon Liddon.)

Lessons from the children of this world

1. From their sagacity learn to forecast how to please God; to forearm ourselves against all assaults and wiles of Satan; to fore-think, and to be in some measure provided beforehand of needful and proper expedients for any exigent or cross accident that may probably befall us.

2. From their industry learn not to be slothful in doing service, not to slack the time of our repentance and turning to God; to run with constancy and courage the race that is set before us; to think no pains, no travel, too much, that may bring us to heaven; to work out our salvation to the uttermost with fear and trembling.

3. From their hypocrisy and outward seeming holiness learn to have our conversations honest towards them that are without, not giving the least scandal in anything that may bring reproach upon the gospel; to shun the very appearances of evil; and having first cleansed the reside well, to keep the outside handsome too, that by our piety, devotion, meekness, patience, obedience, justice, charity, humility, and all holy graces, we may not only stop up the mouth of the adversary from speaking evil of us, but may also win glory to God, and honour and reputation to our Christian profession thereby.

4. From their unity learn to follow the truth in love, to lay aside vain janglings, and opposition of science falsely so called; to make up the breaches that are in the Church of Christ, by moderating and reconciling differences, rather than to widen them by multiplying controversies, and maintaining hot disputes; to follow the things that make for peace, and whereby we may edify one another. This doing, we may gather grapes of thorns; make oil of scorpions; extract all the medicinal virtue out of the serpent, and yet leave all the poisonous and malignant quality behind. (Bishop Sanderson.)

Ninth Sunday after Trinity;

It was a piece of sheer rascality from beginning to end. There was no honesty in the man. He was out and out a child of this world--an example of the bad faith and base principles which govern in those who have no fear of God before their eyes. Though he did most unjustly, he yet did “wisely.” There was a cunning, skill, calculation, farsightedness, and perfection of adjustment of means to his ends, worthy of all praise, if only it had been used in a better cause. And it is just here that we find the chief point in this parable. Separating the morality of the deed from the wit that directed it, the Saviour fixes upon the skill and prudence of this unjust man as an illustration of the foresight and calculation which should mark our conduct with reference to the necessities that are upon us in relation to eternity. There are three things specially noticeable in the case of this shrewd villain, in which his example furnishes copy for our imitation.

1. He considerately directed his thoughts towards the future. His worldliness and wickedness we are of course to eschew. But as he looked forward to his needs when his stewardship was ended, so are we to have respect to the solemn realities of the judgment and another life.

2. The unjust steward was also very diligent in improving his time, and making the most of his opportunities. If ever there was energy in him, it was now called into the fullest activity. Here was wisdom. Had he waited, postponed, delayed, the opportunity would have passed. O that miserable delusion. Time enough yet! How many has it utterly and irremediably ruined!

3. The unjust steward made very efficient use of very transient possessions. The control of his master’s estates was in process of passing for ever from his hands. But he was wise enough to make them yet tell for his advantage in the beyond. And in allusion to this the Saviour says, “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness”; that is, of the deceitful and fleeting riches of this world; “that when ye fail they may receive you”--or, ye may be received--“into everlasting habitations.” There is nothing so fleeting and uncertain as riches. But fleeting, deceptive, and uncertain as they are, so long as they are in our hands, they may be turned to good account, and made to tell advantageously upon our eternal peace. We cannot buy admission into heaven with money. But we can add to our blessedness with money, and attain to higher rewards in heaven by a right disposition of the possessions of this life. “ He that giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord”; and the same shall be returned again with interest. “The liberal soul shall be made fat.” Closehanded miserliness, and reckless waste and speculation, are as sinful and incompatible with piety, as profaneness and unbelief. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)

Worldlings an example to Christians

I. THEY RECOGNIZE MORE CLEARLY THE NECESSITY OF PERSONAL EFFORT TO ENSURE SUCCESS. It was so with this unjust steward. Must do something. It is so with the politician, lawyer, business man. Instead of merely hoping, wishing, they put their shoulder to the wheel.


IV. THEY MORE FREQUENTLY MAKE SELF-EXAMINATION. Take stock. See whether they are advancing or going backward. (J. Ogle.)

The wisdom of making provision for the future


1. This appears by the care and practice of all wise, rational men.

2. It appears by the care and labour of irrational or mere animal creatures.

3. It appears to be a point of great wisdom, because God Himself bewails the folly of His people of old upon this respect (Deuteronomy 32:29).

4. It must needs be great wisdom to provide for the future well-being of our souls, because all that were ever esteemed to be wise before or above all other things preferred this matter (Hebrews 11:25-26; 2 Corinthians 4:18).

5. Because there is no avoiding our entering into an endless state of joy or sorrow.

6. Because the soul far exceeds in worth the body and all things in this world.

7. Because God from eternity studied and provided for the future good of our souls and bodies for ever.

8. Consider how soon I or any may fail, how soon the youngest may like a flower fade away; it may be this year, this month, this week, nay, this night.

9. If you are not provided for your future state, consider how dismal at death your state will be. Is it not the highest wisdom to prevent or seek to escape the greatest evil, and be possessed of the greatest good?

10. Consider that God has found out a way to make us happy for ever; and observe what promises He has made to such as before all things seek the kingdom of heaven and His righteousness.

11. How have many thousands bewailed their great folly in not providing for the time to come!


1. Against that time when the means of grace may fail, or all provision for the future may utterly be cut off, or our understanding fail.

2. The hour of death.

3. The day of judgment.


1. We ought to think of our future state, into which we shall and must pass, when the soul shall be separated from the body.

2. Consider the necessity of your knowing Christ, or of being united to Him by faith; for unless you truly believe in Jesus Christ, you cannot be prepared for the time to come.

3. This wisdom consists in a careful use of the means God affords, and has ordained, in order to faith, or a sinner’s believing in Christ Jesus.


1. This reproves such as pursue the world as if they came into it for no other end but to eat and drink and heap a little white and yellow earth.

2. It reproves such as prefer the world above the Word, and the body above the soul.

3. It reproves such as put the evil day afar off, as if we spoke of things that will be long before they come.

4. It commends those who are heavenly, it shows the saints only are truly wise. (B. Keach.)

Lessons that the Church may learn from the world

Note some respects in which the world shames the Church.

1. There is the clearness of vision with which the worldly man perceives the object of his pursuit.

2. There is the unremitting effort with which, in relation to the attainment of this world’s good, men pursue their object. Religion is not so real to most of us as markets and money are to merchants.

3. Think how careful men of the world are to use all their resources for the attainment of their end. No drones. No square men in round holes..

4. Think how determinedly the children of this world refuse to be deterred from prosecuting their schemes by the temporary failure of their efforts.

5. Is it not true that even the children of light themselves prosecute their worldly affairs in far more vigorous fashion than their religious duties? Does not care sometimes wellnigh crowd prayer out of our lives? Are we not all too prone to count our own private business that which must be done, and God’s work that which may be done? (J. R. Bailey.)

An example of wisdom from the unjust steward

I. THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD. There are three classes of men. Those who believe that one thing is needful, and choose the better part, who believe in and live for eternity; these are not mentioned here: those who believe in the world, and live for it: and those who believe in eternity, and half live for the world. Forethought for self made the steward ask himself, “What shall I do?” Here is the thoughtful, contriving, sagacious man of the world. In the affairs of this world, the man who does not provide for self, if he enter into competition with the world on the world’s principles, soon finds himself thrust aside; he will be put out. It becomes necessary to jostle and struggle in the great crowd if he would thrive. With him it is not, first the kingdom of God; but first, what he shall eat, and what he shall drink, and wherewithal shall he be clothed. Note the kind of superiority in this character that is commended. There are certain qualities which really do elevate a man in the seals of being, lie who pursues a plan steadily is higher than he who lives by the hour. You cannot but respect such an one. The value of self-command and self-denial is exemplified in the cases of the diplomatist who masters his features while listening; the man of pleasure who is prudent in his pleasures; the man of the world who keeps his temper and guards his lips. How often, after speaking hastily the thought which was uppermost, and feeling the cheek burn, you have looked back in admiration on some one who held his tongue even though under great provocation to speak.

II. In contrast with the wisdom of the children of this world, the Redeemer SHOWS THE INCONSISTENCIES OF THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT. Now the want of Christian wisdom consists in this, that our stewardship is drawing to a close, and no provision is made for an eternal future. We are all stewards. Every day, every age of life, every year, gives us superintendence over something which we have to use, and the use of which tells for good or evil on eternity. Childhood and manhood pass. The day passes: and, as its close draws near, the Master’s voice is heard--“Thou mayest be no longer steward.” And what are all these outward symbols but types and reminders of the darker, longer night that is at hand? One by one, we are turned out of all our homes. The summons comes. The man lies down on his bed for the last time; and then comes that awful moment, the putting down the extinguisher on the light, and the grand rush of darkness on the spirit. Let us now consider our Saviour’s application of this parable. There are two expressions to be explained.

1. “Mammon of unrighteousness.” Mammon is the name of a Syrian god, who presided over wealth. Mammon of unrighteousness means the god whom the unrighteous worship--wealth. It is not necessarily gold. Any wealth; wealth being weal or well-being. Time, talents, opportunity, and authority, all are wealth. Here the steward had influence. It is called the mammon of unrighteousness, because it is ordinarily used, not well, but ill. Power corrupts men. Riches harden more than misfortune.

2. “Make to yourselves friends.” Wise arts, holy and unselfish deeds, secure friends. Wherever the steward went he found a friend. The acts of his beneficence were spread over the whole of his master’s estate. Go where he would, he would receive a welcome. In this way our good actions become our friends. And if it be no dream which holy men have entertained, that on this regenerated earth the risen spirits shall live again in glorified bodies, then it were a thing of sublime anticipation, to know that every spot hallowed by the recollection of a deed done for Christ, contains a recollection which would be a friend. Just as the patriarchs erected an altar when they felt God to be near, till Palestine became dotted with these memorials, so would earth be marked by a good man’s life with those holiest of all friends, the remembrance of ten thousand little nameless acts of piety and love. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

The superiority of the worldly man’s wisdom to the godly man’s

I. Our first object is TO ESTABLISH THE FACT, THAT “THE CHILDREN OF THIS WORLD ARE WISER IN THEIR GENERATION THAN THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT.” We hold unreservedly, in both these respects, the wisdom of “the children of this world” is a vast deal more conspicuous than the wisdom of “the children of light.” You need only cast your eye over the busy group of the world’s population, and you will observe for the most part a fixedness of purpose which is altogether admirable. If a man have turned his desires on the amassing of money, he will not be driven aside, even for a solitary moment, from the business of accumulation; it will be plain to all around him, that he is literally given up to the influence of one engrossing and domineering passion; and if pleasure and ambition do exert over him authority, they are but tributaries to the prominent desire, and in no sense the principal in the empire of his heart. The case is exactly the same with the man of ambition: he has fastened his wishes on some lofty point in the scale of human preferment, and it is not the syren voice of voluptuousness, and it is not the stern ruggedness of the upward path, by which he can be induced to turn away his eagle glance from the shadowy prize which floats above him. But if we turn from “ the children of this world” to “the children of light,” we shall not find the fixedness and constancy of purpose which we see indicated in “the children of the world.” But we go on to observe, in the second place, that wisdom is to be discovered in the choice and employment of means as well as in fixedness and constancy of purpose; and thus we think in this respect the comparison will go against “the children of light.” You cannot fail to observe among the men of the world a singular shrewdness in finding out the methods most likely to effect their designs, and as singular a diligence in trying and adapting them. You will see nothing irrelevant, nothing which in all probability is likely to frustrate in place of forwarding, no risks run unless the chances of advantage do more than apparently counterbalance the chances of damage. You will not find them endangering their property by exposing it to sharpers, as a Christian does his piety by bringing it in contact with unrighteousness. You will not observe them so dull of apprehension, when there are opportunities of personal aggrandizement to be improved, as religious men appear when God affords them occasions to become better acquainted with Himself. You will not detect in them that indiscreetness in making associations with parties who are not likely to help them, which you see in believers running heedlessly into fellowship with unbelievers. The complaint of the prophet has lost nothing of its force in coming down through a succession of centuries; “Men are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.” And if in the choice of means, pre-eminence of wisdom must be denied to “the children of light,” then in the employment of means we fear they still less can be held supreme. If you take “the children of light” in the Church where they are professedly giving their whole soul to the service of God, and take “the children of this world” on the exchange, when avowedly occupied with their temporal aggrandizement, on which side will yon find the most devoted attention to the business in hand? If you take “the children of light,” when met by difficulties in their heavenward career, and “the children of the world” when stopped in the path of human preferment, which will set themselves with the most out and out energy to overleap the impediments? If you take “the children of light” when scoffers are around them jeering their piety, and “ the children of the world “when sarcasms are being passed on covetousness or ambition, which will he most moved

II. We come now to INVESTIGATE THE CAUSES TO WHICH THE SUPERIORITY UNDER REVIEW MAY BE LEGITIMATELY TRACED. In the first place it would seem well-nigh impossible that the delights of the next world should exert as powerful and pervading an influence as the delights of the present world, which address themselves directly to our senses. “The children of the world” have nothing to do but to follow the dictates of their senses; while we do almost say, that “the children of light” begin by doing violence to their senses. And thus, while worldly men may bring mind and body, and life together to the pursuit of their end, godly men have the body as well as the mind from the outset to the termination of their career to combat with; and if it be lawful to bring forward these truths, by way of excuse they may clearly be adduced, as accounting for the fact that the ungodly exhibit greater constancy of purpose than the godly; or in other words, that “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” Again, the unrighteous have only to do with one world; whereas the righteous have necessarily to do with two worlds. If I make the amassing of wealth my end, I may give to it an undivided and an undistracted attention, I concern not myself with the things of eternity; and what then shall interfere with my pressing on in the pursuit of the things of time? It is widely different with “the children of light.” There must be earthly matters just as well as heavenly matters which require their attention; they cannot detach themselves from commerce, or from labour, or from study, and care only for the soul as ii there were no body to provide for, just as the worldly care only for the body as if there were no soul to provide for; and though it may be perfectly true, according to some of our foregoing remarks, that the minor interests may be, and ought to be, made subservient to the major; it is equally true that the difficulty is almost incalculable of so using the present world as not to abuse it, and following the occupations of earth with the dispositions of heaven. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The children of this world wiser than the children of light

The words are a comparison, in which we have--

1. The persons compared, “the children of this world,” and “the children of light.” It is a very usual phrase among the Hebrews, when they would express anything to partake of such a nature or quality, to call it the son or child of such a thing. Thus good men are called “the children of God,” and bad men “the children of the devil”; those who mind earthly things, and make the things of this world their greatest aim and design, are called “the children of this world”; and those who are better enlightened with the knowledge of their own immortality, and the belief of a future state after this life, are called “the children of light.”

2. Here is the thing wherein they are compared, and that is, as to their wisdom and prudence.

3. The object of this prudence, which is not the same in both; as if the sense were that “the children of this world are wiser than the children of light” as to the things of this world; but here are two several objects intended, about which the prudence of these two sorts of persons is respectively exercised, the concernments of this world and the other; and our Saviour’s meaning is, “that the children of this world are wiser in their generation,” that is, in their way; viz., as to the interests and concernments of this world, “than the children of light “ are in theirs; viz., as to the interests and concernments of the other world.

4. Here is a decision of the matter, and which of them it is that excels in point of prudence, in their way; and our Saviour gives it to the “children of this world”; they “are wiser in their generation than the children of light.”


1. They are usually more firmly fixed and resolved upon their end. Whatever they set up for their end, riches, or honours, or pleasures, they are fixed upon it, and steady in the prosecution of it.

2. “The children of this world” are wiser in the choice of means in order to their end; and this is a great part of wisdom, for some means will bring about an end with less pains, and difficulty, and expense of time than others.

3. “The children of this world” are commonly more diligent in the use of means for the obtaining of their end; they will sweat and toil, and take any pains, “rise up early, and lie down late, and eat the bread of carefulness”; their thoughts are continually running upon their business, and they catch at every opportunity of promoting it; they will pinch nature, and harass it; and rob themselves of their rest, and all the comfort of their lives, to raise their fortune and estate.

4. The men of the world are more invincibly constant and pertinacious in the pursuit of earthly things; they are not to be bribed or taken off by favour or fair words; not to be daunted by difficulties, or dashed out of countenance by the frowns and reproaches of men.

5. The men of the world will make all things stoop and submit to that which is their great end and design; their end rules them, and governs them, and gives laws to all their actions; they will make an advantage of everything, and if it will not serve their end one way or other, they will have nothing to do with it.


1. The things of this world are present and sensible, and, because of their nearness to us, are apt to strike powerfully upon our senses, and to affect us mightily, to excite our desires after them, and to work strongly upon our hopes and fears: but the things of another world being remote from us, are lessened by their distance, and consequently are not apt to work so powerfully upon our minds.

2. The sensual delights and enjoyments of this world are better suited, and more agreeable to the corrupt and degenerate nature of men, than spiritual and heavenly things are to those that are regenerate.

3. The worldly man’s faith and hope, and fear of present and sensible things, is commonly stronger than a good man’s faith and hope, and fear of things future and eternal. Now faith, and hope, and fear, are the great principles which govern and bear sway in the actions and lives of men.

4. The men of the world have but one design, and are wholly intent upon it, and this is a great advantage. Application to one thing, especially in matters of practice, gains a man perfect experience in it, and experience furnisheth him with observations about it, and these make him wise and prudent in that thing. But good men, though they have a great affection for heaven and heavenly things, yet the business and necessities of this life do very much divert and take them off from the care of better things; they are divided between the concernments of this life and the other, and though there be but one thing necessary in comparison, yet the conveniences of this life are to be regarded; and though our souls be our main care, yet some consideration must be had-of our bodies, that they may be fit for the service of our souls; so that we cannot always and wholly apply ourselves to heavenly things, and mind them as the men of the world do the things of this world.

5. The men of the world have a greater compass and liberty in the pursuit of their worldly designs, than good men have in the prosecution of their interests. The “children of light” are limited and confined to the use of lawful means for the compassing of their ends; but the men of the world are not so strait-laced; they are resolved upon the point, and will stick at no means to compass their end.

Concluding remarks:

1. Notwithstanding the commendation which hath been given of the wisdom of this world, yet upon the whole matter it is not much to be valued and admired. It is, indeed, great in its way and kind; but it is applied to little and low purposes, employed about the concernments of a short time and a few days, about the worst and meanest part of ourselves, and accompanied with the neglect of greater and better things. This ii wisdom, to regard our main interest; but if we be wrong in our end (as all worldly men are), the faster and farther we go, the more fatal is our error and mistake. “The children of this world” are out in their end, and mistaken in the main; they are wise for this world, which is inconsiderable to eternity; wise for a little while, And fools for ever,

2. From what hath been said, we may infer, that if we lose our souls, and come short of eternal happiness, it is through our own fault and gross neglect; for we see that men are wise enough for this world; and the same prudence, and care, and diligence, applied to the concernments of our souls, would infallibly make us happy.

3. What a shame and reproach is this to the children of light! (Archbishop Tillotson.)

Sagacity commended

It is merely the wisdom, the practical sagacity, the savoir faire of the steward that is commended to our attention and imitation. A bad thing may be well done. The most admirable qualities--industry, perseverance, bravery, quickness--may serve to accomplish a wicked as well as a righteous purpose. Few can withhold a tribute of applause from the forger who successfully copies a very difficult banknote, or elaborates a professedly medieval document so as to deceive even the experts. No one commends the morality of David when he played the madman at Gath, and scrabbled on the gate; but who has not smiled at his skill in meeting the occasion, in overreaching all his enemies, and making them serve him by the simple device of hiding the brightest intellect of the age under the vacant, silly stare of the idiot? The wisdom of the unjust steward, which we are invited to admire, appeared mainly in his businesslike apprehension of the actual situation in which he was placed, and his sagacity and promptitude in making the most of it. He looked the facts in the face. He did not buoy himself up with delusive hopes. He did not waste his brief opportunity in idle expectations. He manfully faced the inevitable, and this was his salvation. The ability to do so is a great part of what is known as a strong character (Marcus Dods, D. D.)

The true wisdom.

Our Lord pronounced the children of this world “wise in their generation”; and who can doubt that thousands who are lost would, with God’s blessing, be saved, did they bring the same prudence, and diligence, and energy to their eternal, as they do to their temporal interests? But in how many people is consummate wisdom joined to the greatest folly? They are wise enough to gain the world, and fools enough to lose their souls. Convince a man that the only way to save his life is to part with his limb, and he does not hesitate an instant between living with one limb and being buried with two. Borne into the operating theatre, pale, yet resolute, he bares the diseased member to the knife. And how well does that bleeding, fainting, groaning sufferer teach us to part with our sins rather than with our Saviour. If life is better than a limb, how much better is heaven than a sin? Two years ago a man was called to decide between preserving his life, and parting with the gains of his lifetime. A gold-digger, he stood on the deck of a ship that, coming from Australian shores, had--as some all but reach heaven--all but reached her harbour in safety. The exiles had been coasting along their native shores: and to-morrow, husbands would embrace their wives, children their parents, and not a few realize the bright dream of returning to pass the evening of their days in happiness amid the loved scenes of their youth. But as the proverb runs, there is much between the cup and the lip. Night came lowering down; and with the night a storm that wrecked ship, and hopes, and fortunes, all together. The dawning light but revealed a scene of horror--death staring them in the face. The sea, lashed into fury, ran mountains high; no boat could live in her. One chance still remained. Pale women, weeping children, feeble and timid men must die; but a stout, brave swimmer, with trust in God, and disencumbered of all impediments, might reach the shore, where hundreds stood ready to dash into the boiling surf, and, seizing, save him. One man was observed to go below. He bound around his waist a heavy belt, filled with gold, the hard gains of his life; and returned to the deck. One after another, he saw his fellow-passengers leap overboard. After a brief but terrible struggle, head after head went down--sunk by the gold they had fought hard to gain, and were loth to lose. Slowly he was seen to unbuckle his belt. His hopes had been bound up in it. It was to buy him land, and ease, and respect--the reward of long years of hard and weary exile. What hardships he had endured for it! The sweat of his brow, the hopes of day and the dreams of night, were there. If he parts with it, he is a beggar; but then if he keeps it, he dies. He poised it in his hand; balanced it for a while; took a long, sad look at it; and then with one strong, desperate effort, flung it far out into the roaring sea. Wise man I It sinks with a sullen plunge; and now he follows it--not to sink, but, disencumbered of its weight, to swim; to beat the billows manfully; and, riding on the foaming surge, to reach the shore. Well done, brave gold-digger! Ay, well done, and well chosen; but if “a man,” as the devil said, who once spoke God’s truth, “ will give all that he hath for his life,” how much more should he give all he hath for his soul? Better to part with gold than with God; to bear the heaviest cross than miss a heavenly, crown! (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Luke 16:8". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

And his lord commended the unjust steward because he had done wisely: for the sons of this world are for their own generation wiser than the sons of the light.

Childer's comment that "Christians often use less prudence in handling money than do men of the world,"[15] while true enough, is not the point here. It is the Christian's imprudence in handling spiritual things which Jesus condemned. The teaching is not that owls can see better than eagles, but that "Owls see better than eagles, IN THE DARK"![16]

The Lord commended the unjust steward ... All of the tedious explanations insisting that it was not Jesus, but the lord in the parable, who commended the unjust steward, are completely frustrated by the fact of the lord in the parable being a representation of God. Certainly Jesus, who was one with the Father in all things, commended this rogue, not for his dishonesty, but for his prudent handling of his worldly interests; and if Jesus had not intended this to be understood, there is no way to believe he would have spoken the parable in the first place.

As Matthew Henry noted, "This unjust steward is to us an example, not in cheating his master, ... but as an example for our attention in spiritual things."[17] Jesus incurred no risk whatever in using such an example. Throughout the parable, and as always, Jesus unconditionally condemned in every action and every word, every suggestion of fraud and dishonesty, categorically calling the steward "unjust." As Geldenhuys said, "There was no danger that Jesus' hearers would interpret his words as a recommendation of dishonest methods."[18]

[15] Charles L. Childers, op. cit., p. 563.

[16] Richard C. Trench, op. cit., p. 439.

[17] Matthew Henry and Thomas Scott, Commentary on the Holy Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1960), Matthew-Acts p. 284.

[18] Norval Geldenhuys, op. cit., p. 416.

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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And the Lord commended the unjust steward,.... Not the Lord Jesus Christ, who delivered this parable, as the Syriac version seems to suggest, rendering it, "our Lord"; but the Lord of the steward, or "God", as the Ethiopic version reads: not that he commended him for the fact he did, or the injustice of it for this is contrary to his nature and perfections; but for his craft and cunning in providing himself a maintenance for time to come: for he is on that account branded as an "unjust steward", as he was, in wasting his Lord's goods; putting false glosses on the Scriptures; doing damage both to the souls and worldly estates of men: and in neglecting and despising lawful and honest ways of living, by digging or begging, asking favours at the hand of God, and doing good works; and in falsifying accounts; breaking the least of the commandments, and teaching men so to do; and in corrupting others, making proselytes twofold more the children of hell than himself; and in being liberal with another's property, to wrong objects, and for a wrong end. It was not therefore because he had done justly to his Lord, or right to others, that he is commended; but

became he had done wisely for himself: the wit, and not the goodness of the man is commended; which, in the language and sense of the Jews, may be thus expressedF16T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 121. 1. :

"because a man, עושה טובה לעצמו, "does good" for himself with "mammon" which is not his own.'

For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light: by "the children of this world" may be meant the Israelites, who belonged to the Jewish nation and church, called the "world", and "this world", 1 Corinthians 10:11 especially the princes of it, the ecclesiastical doctors and rulers: and who also were the men of this present world; in general they were such who were, as they were born into the world; in their sins, in the pollution, and under the guilt of them; were carnal, in the flesh, or unregenerate, and in darkness and blindness: they were such as were not only in the world, but of it; they belonged to it, having never been called out of it; and were under the influence of the God of it; and were taken with the things of it, its riches, honours, and pleasures; and had their portion in it, and were of worldly spirits; all which agrees with the Scribes and Pharisees; see Psalm 17:14 and Aben Ezra on it, who has the very phrase here used: איניס דעלמא, a "man of the world", is sometimesF17T. Bab Bava Netzia, fol. 27. 2. distinguished from a scholar, or a wise man; but בני עלמא, "the children of the world", as they frequently intend the inhabitants of the worldF18Zohar in Exod. fol. 26. 2. & 58. 3, 4. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 99. 3. & 101. 2. & 102. 4. , are sometimes distinguished from בן עלמא דאתי, "a son of the world to come"F19Zohar in Exod. fol. 59. 4. ; and from "the children of faith"F20Zohar in Num. fol. 50. 4. , the same as "the children of light" here; by whom are meant the children of the Gospel dispensation; or persons enlightened by the Spirit and grace of God, to see the sinfulness of sin, and their wretched state my nature; the insufficiency of their own righteousness to justify them before God; the way of life, righteousness, and salvation by Christ; who see that the several parts of salvation, and the whole, are of grace; have some light into the Scriptures of truth, and doctrines of the Gospel; and some glimpse of heaven, and the unseen glories of another world, though attended with much darkness in the present state: and who shall enjoy the light of glory. Now, the men of the world, or carnal men, are, generally speaking, wiser than these; not in things spiritual, but in things natural, in the affairs of life, in worldly matters. The phrase seems to answer to תולדות, "generations" used in Genesis 6:9 "these are the generations of Noah", &c. and "the generations of Jacob"; by which are meant, not the genealogies of them, but their affairs; what befell them in life: as so the Jewish writersF21Aben Ezra in Gen. vi. 9. & xxxvii. 2. Sol. Urbin Obel Moed, fol. 85. 1. explain the phrase by הקורות, "the things which happened" unto them in this world, in the course of their pilgrimage: or they are wise, εις την γενεαν την εαυτων, "for their own generation": for the temporal good of their posterity, than saints are for the spiritual good of theirs: or they are wiser for the time that is to come in this life, than good men are concerning themselves for the time to come in the other world: or they are wiser, and more prudent in disposing of their worldly substance for their own secular good, and that of their offspring, than men of spiritual light and knowledge are, in disposing of their worldly substance for the glory of God, the interest of Christ, the honour of religion, their own spiritual good, and that of their posterity.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And the lord commended a the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the b children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.

(a) This parable does not approve the steward's evil dealing, for it was definitely theft: but parables are set forth to show a thing in a secret way, and as it were, to present the truth by means of an allegory, even though it may not be exact: so that by this parable Christ means to teach us that worldly men are more clever in the affairs of this world than the children of God are diligent for everlasting life.

(b) Men that are given to this present life, contrary to whom are the children of light: Paul calls the former carnal and the latter spiritual.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

the lord — evidently the steward‘s lord, so called in Luke 16:3, Luke 16:5.

commended, etc. — not for his “injustice,” but “because he had done wisely,” or prudently; with commendable foresight and skilful adaptation of means to end.

children of this world — so Luke 20:34; compare Psalm 17:14 (“their portion in this life”); Philippians 3:19 (“mind earthly things”); Psalm 4:6, Psalm 4:7.

their generation — or “for their generation” - that is, for the purposes of the “world” they are “of.” The greater wisdom (or shrewdness) of the one, in adaptation of means to ends, and in energetic, determined prosecution of them, is none of it for God and eternity - a region they were never in, an atmosphere they never breathed, an undiscovered world, an unborn existence to them - but all for the purposes of their own groveling and fleeting generation.

children of light — (so John 12:36; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5). Yet this is only “as night-birds see better in the dark than those of the day owls than eagles” [Cajetan and Trench]. But we may learn lessons from them, as our Lord now shows, and “be wise as serpents.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

People's New Testament

His lord commended the unjust steward. Commended not his faithfulness, but his wisdom in looking out for a home when about to lose his place. The one point taught is a prudent foresight that uses earthly resources to provide for a time when these resources will fail us.

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Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
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Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "People's New Testament". 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

His lord commended (επηινεσεν ο κυριοςepēinesen ho kurios). The steward‘s lord praised him though he himself had been wronged again (see Luke 16:1 “wasting his goods”).

The unrighteous steward (τον οικονομον της αδικιαςton oikonomon tēs adikias). Literally, the steward of unrighteousness. The genitive is the case of genus, species, the steward distinguished by unrighteousness as his characteristic. See “the mammon of unrighteousness” in Luke 16:9. See “the forgetful hearer” in James 1:25. It is a vernacular idiom common to Hebrew, Aramaic, and the Koiné.

Wisely (προνιμωςphronimōs). An old adverb, though here alone in the N.T. But the adjective προνιμοςphronimos from which it comes occurs a dozen times as in Matthew 10:16. It is from προνεωphroneō and that from πρηνphrēn the mind (1 Corinthians 14:20), the discerning intellect. Perhaps “shrewdly” or “discreetly” is better here than “wisely.” The lord does not absolve the steward from guilt and he was apparently dismissed from his service. His shrewdness consisted in finding a place to go by his shrewdness. He remained the steward of unrighteousness even though his shrewdness was commended.

For (οτιhoti). Probably by this second οτιhoti Jesus means to say that he cites this example of shrewdness because it illustrates the point. “This is the moral of the whole parable. Men of the world in their dealings with men like themselves are more prudent than the children of light in their intercourse with one another” (Plummer). We all know how stupid Christians can be in their co-operative work in the kingdom of God, to go no further.

Wiser than (προνιμωτεροι υπερphronimōteroi huper). Shrewder beyond, a common Greek idiom.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

The lord

Of the steward. Rev., properly, “his lord.”


Admiring his shrewdness, though he himself was defrauded.

Unjust steward

Lit., steward of injustice. See on forgetful hearer, James 1:25; and compare words of grace, Luke 4:22; unjust judge, Luke 18:6; son of his love, Colossians 1:13; lust of uncleanness, 2 Peter 2:10. The idiom is a Hebrew one. The phrase expresses Jesus' judgment on what the steward's master praised.

Wisely ( φρονίμως )

See on Matthew 10:16. Wyc., prudently. I would suggest shrewdly, though in the modern sense of sagaciously, since the earlier sense of shrewd was malicious, or wicked. Plato says: “All knowledge separated from righteousness and other virtue appears to be cunning and not wisdom. In Matthew 7:24-26, it is applied to the sagacious man who built his house on the rock, opposed to the foolish ( μωρός ) man who built on the sand. “It is a middle term, not bringing out prominently the moral characteristics, either good or evil, of the action to which it is applied, but recognizing in it a skilful adaptation of the means to the end - affirming nothing in the way of moral approbation or disapprobation, either of means or end, but leaving their worth to be determined by other considerations” (Trench, “Parables”).

In their generation ( εἰς τὴν γενεὰν τὴν ἑαυτῶν )

The A. V. misses the point, following Wyc. Lit., in reference to their own generation; i.e., the body of the children of this world to which they belong, and are kindred. They are shrewd in dealing with their own kind; since, as is shown in the parable, where the debtors were accomplices of the steward they are all alike unscrupulous. Tynd., in their kind.

Than the children of light

Lit., sons of the light. The men of the world make their intercourse with one another more profitable than the sons of light do their intercourse with their own kind. The latter “forget to use God's goods to form bonds of love to the contemporaries who share their character” (Godet); forget to “make friends of the mammon,” etc.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.

And the lord commended the unjust steward — Namely, in this respect, because he had used timely precaution: so that though the dishonesty of such a servant be detestable, yet his foresight, care, and contrivance, about the interests of this life, deserve our imitation, with regard to the more important affairs of another.

The children of this world — Those who seek no other portion than this world: Are wiser - Not absolutely, for they are, one and all, egregious fools; but they are more consistent with themselves; they are truer to their principles; they more steadily pursue their end; they are wiser in their generation - That is, in their own way, than the children of light - The children of God, whose light shines on their hearts.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

And his lord commended the unrighteous steward because he had done wisely1: for the sons of this world are for their own generation2 wiser than the sons of the light.

  1. And his lord commended the unrighteous steward because he had done wisely. Shrewdly.

  2. For the sons of this world are for their own generation. Their own clan or class.

  3. Wiser than the sons of light. That is to say, the steward, a worldly-minded rascal, knew better how to deal with a worldly-minded master above him and dishonest tenants beneath him, than a son of light knows how to deal with the God over him and his needy brethren about him. The verse contrasts the sons of two households: the children of the worldly household exercise more forethought and prudence in gaining among their brethren friends for the day of need, and in expending money to that end, than do the children of the light. The "devil's martyrs" in their skillful prudence, often shame the saints. If the latter showed a wisdom in their affairs analogous to that which the unjust employed in his affairs, God would commend them as the lord commended the steward.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
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J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "The Fourfold Gospel". Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Because he had done wisely; that is, shrewdly, though dishonestly. It was his shrewdness only, in thus employing his power, while it lasted, to secure favors for himself when it should be gone, that the Lord praised.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary


‘The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.’

Luke 16:8

There are several respects in which the world shames the Church, and in which ‘the children of this world’ prove themselves wiser than ‘the children of light.’

I. There is the clearness of vision with which the worldly man perceives the object of his pursuit.

II. There is the unremitting effort with which, in relation to the attainment of this world’s good, men pursue their object.

III. Think how careful men of the world are to use all their resources for the attainment of their end.

IV. Think how determinedly the children of this world refuse to be deterred from prosecuting their schemes by the temporary failure of their efforts.

V. Is it not true that even the children of light themselves prosecute their worldly affairs in far more vigorous fashion than their religious duties?

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.

Ver. 8. And the lord commended] Gr. ο κυριος, that lord, viz the steward’s lord, not the Lord Christ who relateth this parable. Or if we understand it of Christ (as the Syriac here doth), yet he herein no more approveth of this steward’s false dealing than he doth of the usurer’s trade, Matthew 5:27; or the thieves, 1 Thessalonians 5:2; or the dancers, Matthew 11:17; or the Olympic games, 1 Corinthians 9:24.

Because he had done wisely] The worldling’s wisdom serves him (as the ostrich’s wings) to make him outrun others upon earth, and in earthly things; but helps him never a wit toward heaven.

Are in their generation wiser] A swine that wanders can make better shift to get home to the trough than a sheep can to the fold. We have not received the spirit of this world, 1 Corinthians 2:12, we cannot shift and plot as they can; but we have received a better thing. The fox is wise in his generation, the serpent subtle, so is the devil too. When he was but young, he outwitted our first parents, 2 Corinthians 11:3.

Than the children of light] As the angels are called angels of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14. God’s children are the only earthly angels, have a Goshen in their bosoms, can lay their hands on their hearts with dying Oecolampadius, and say, Hic sat lucis, Here is enough light. (Melch. Adam.)

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Luke 16:8

I. It is a remarkable story told by the poet Cowper of himself, that, when he was a young man, and living in London, where his companions were not only persons of profligate life, but of low and ungodly principles, they always had a great advantage over him when arguing upon the truth of Christianity by reproaching him with the badness of his own life. In fact, it appears that his life at that time was quite as bad as theirs, and they used to upbraid him for it; telling him that it would be well for him if they were right and he wrong in their opinions respecting the truth of the Gospel; for if it were true, he certainly would be condemned upon his own showing. These men, like the unjust steward in the parable, had at least the merit of acting wisely upon their own view of the matter; they made the mammon of unrighteousness—that is, the riches and enjoyments of the world—serve their turn for all that they believed them capable of yielding. And therefore Christ makes their conduct a reproof to Christians, who do not make the world yield to them that fruit which, according to their professed belief, it might afford them.

II. The lesson which the parable of the unjust steward is designed to teach us is, that nothing is more unworthy, nothing more ruinous, than to be a Christian by halves; to begin to build, and not be able to finish. Salt is good, but the salt that has lost its savour is good neither for the land nor yet for the dunghill, but men cast it out; and even so vile and worthless is that Christian, in name only, who does not live according to his own principles but in defiance of them—who, with a journey to an eternal state opened before him, plays away his time on the road, and makes no provision for the end of his pilgrimage.

III. This one parable of our Lord's is to many a stumbling-block and to few so useful as it ought to be. To make to ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, an English reader naturally understands to mean to make the mammon of unrighteousness, or unrighteous riches, our friends; whereas the real meaning of the words is: "Make to yourselves friends with, or by, the mammon of unrighteousness; that is, so use the riches and other advantages of this world that they may gain you friends hereafter—friends that will stand by you, when the riches themselves have perished. I need hardly add what these friends are—the record of good done upon earth, of misery relieved, of folly enlightened, of virtue encouraged and supported—the record of their thankful voices, who, having received from us good things in this world, shall welcome us with thanks and blessings, when we all stand together before Christ's judgment-seat.

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 205.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Luke 16:8. And the lord αυτου, his lord, is implied; for it is Jesus, and not the evangelist, who speaks this, as is plain both from the structure of the parable itself, and from the application which Jesus makes of it inthe next verse. By mentioning the commendation which the rich man bestowed upon his steward, our Lord does not mean to approve of the man's knavery, which is sufficiently branded by the epithet of unjust here given him by Jesus himself; neither was it designed to give countenance to the fraud of any person on any account whatever; nor to the conduct of those who are liberal out of other persons' goods. The wisdom of the steward in making himself friends, is that alone which is commended by his lord, and proposed by Jesus as worthy the imitation of his disciples,—not the method by which he made them: or if that be commended, it is commended only as wise, in relation to the plan that he had laid down; there being nothing more common among men than to commend the ingenuity shewn in a fraud, while they condemn the fraud itself. Sir D. Dalrymple observes, that "these debtors seem to have been coloni partiarii, who paid a portion of the fruit of the ground to the master. By lessening the charge of this proportion of fruits, the debtors were relieved. Or we may suppose, that the steward discharged the tenants of one half of the rent without receiving payment, and of consequence charged himselfwithit.Beingbankrupthimself,hemightbeindifferentwhatchargewasagainst him; while, by discharging the tenants, he did a friendly office to them. There is no reason for supposing that the master discovered this fraud; because the phrase he acted wisely, or prudently, may signify 'because he accounted well;' or that the master commended his accounts, because he had acted cautiously, so as to conceal his frauds." Upon the whole, the calumnies which Julian and Porphyry have thrown out against our Lord on account of this parable, are altogether groundless; its true scope being to teach those who have their views extended to eternity, to be as active and prudent in their schemes for the life to come, as the children of this world are for the present; and particularly to do to others all the good offices founded on gospel principles in their power—a duty highly incumbent on those whose business it is to reclaim sinners, not only because sinners are in themselves fit objects of charity as well as saints, but because charitable offices done to them, may have a happy tendency to promote their conversion: but we are to do good especially to those who are of the household of faith:—that this was the lesson which Jesus intended to inculcate by the parable, is evident from his application of it.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Wisely, that is, discreetly, according to the wisdom of the men of this world, whose concern is only for the good things of this life. Christ commends him not absolutely, as a fit example to be followed in wasting his master's goods, but comparatively, as being worthy to be so far imitated by the children of light, as to take the same care to secure heaven as others do to get the world. Christ commends him no farther than we do a person, when we say, such a one is a shrewd man for the world: In a word, the steward is here commended, nor for his dishonesty, but for his policy, shrewdness, and sagacity, having done cunningly for himself, though knavishly for his master; from whence our Saviour draws this conclusion, That the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.

Hence note, that the generality of men are not so wise and provident for the soul, and the concernments of another world, as worldly men are for the interests and concerns of this life. It is seldom seen, that good men are so wise for the concerns of their souls, as worldy men are for their worldy interests.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

8.] ὁ κύριος—of course, the lord of the steward. The E. V. ought to have been expressed his lord, and there would have been no ambiguity.

τ. ο κ. τῆς ἀδ., not ‘the steward for his injustice,’ but (see reff.) the unjust steward. He is not praised ‘for his injustice:’ see below.

ὅτι φρονίμως ἐπ., because he had acted shrewdly, cleverly for his own interest. The point brought out is not merely the shrewdness of the steward, but his lord, whose injury was wrought by this very shrewdness, praising it: for, our Saviour adds, the sons of this world,—to which category both belonged—he who conceived and he who praised the shrewdness—are more shrewd, εἰς τ. γ. τ. ἑαυ., for the purposes of their self-interest,than the sons of light. But this very τὴν ἑαυ. indicates that there is a better and a higher γενεά, the family of light (John 12:36; Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5), whose interests require a higher and better wisdom and foresight. It is hardly necessary to add that the discovery of the steward’s trick by the master is essential to the parable, as exemplifying the φρονίμως and φρονιμώτεροι. Had the master (as Wordsw.) merely seen the result, that the debtors received him into their houses, the praise could hardly have been put in this form. The aor. ἐποίησεν too seems to point at the past device, rather than the permanent result.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



Luke 16:8. And the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.

THE parables never were intended to bear to the same point in every particular: some admit of a fuller, and others of a more partial application: some are to be interpreted solely in reference to the principal idea contained in them. It is of great importance that we should read them under this impression. If we endeavour to accommodate all their parts to the main scope, we shall both mar their beauty, and deduce from them the most fatal errors. This observation is particularly to be attended to in considering the parable before us. It will instantly remove all the cavils which have been raised against our Saviour as a minister of sin; and it will enable us to collect much useful instruction from this valuable portion of Holy Scripture.

The text leads us to consider,

I. The wisdom of the unjust steward—

He had frequently betrayed the trust reposed in him by his lord and master. If he had not purloined, he had profusely wasted, his master’s substance; and for this he was now to be discharged from his stewardship—

[It is in vain for persons to hope that they shall always escape detection. Dishonesty may be practised for awhile; but it will generally defeat its own ends. This steward had hoped to derive pleasure, if not profit, from his unfaithfulness; but in the issue it involved him in much distress and poverty. No sooner was it discovered, than it exposed him to shame, and provoked his master to dismiss him from his service.]

But he contrived a way to remedy, in a measure, the evil he had brought upon himself—

[As soon as he had received warning, he began to say, What shall I do? nor ceased from his inquiries, till he had devised a happy expedient. He felt in himself that he was too idle to work, and too proud to beg: nor had he any hopes of obtaining another situation of trust and confidence. It was probable, therefore, that he might soon experience the pressure of extreme indigence. An artful plan for supplying his wants speedily arose in his mind. He determined to make all his master’s debtors accomplices in his iniquity: he remitted to every one a considerable portion of the sum he owed. Thus he secured their present friendship and future recommendations. They would not dare to oppose him, lest their own dishonesty should be revealed by him. He would be able to make them afterwards accede to any of his proposals. He cared not how much guilt he contracted, or how many souls he ruined. All which he desired, was, to secure a home till he should be otherwise provided: and doubtless his contrivance was well adapted to the end proposed.]

This device was commended by our Lord—

[Christ himself seems to be the person who gave the commendation [Note: It was the same person who uttered the words in the text.]: but it was the ingenuity, and not the dishonesty, that he commended. The very epithet which he gave the steward shewed his disapprobation of the act. The text itself explicitly declares the only ground of our Lord’s applause [Note: “He had done wisely.”].]

It admirably illustrates (what alone our Lord intended to illustrate),

II. The comparative folly of God’s own children—

“The children of this world” are very indefatigable in prosecuting their temporal interests; but “the children of light” ought to be incomparably more earnest in pursuing their spiritual interests—

[They are called “children of light,” because they are enlightened by God’s word and Spirit. They have been “brought out of darkness into the marvellous light” of the Gospel. They see the vanity of all things that are visible and temporal, and the infinite importance of those that are invisible and eternal [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:18.]. They know what a strict account they must shortly give of their stewardship, and the necessity of improving every hour in securing an “everlasting habitation.” They know how much more important are their interests, more honourable their work, more certain their success, and more glorious their reward: they therefore should be more concerned about their souls than others are about their bodies; and “labour more for the meat that endureth, than others for that which perisheth [Note: John 6:27.].”]

It must be owned however that the children of this world discover more wisdom in the prosecution of their interests:

They seek them more earnestly

[What quickness in conceiving, eagerness in maturing, and promptness in executing his plans, did the unjust steward discover [Note: “What shall I do?—I am resolved—so he called—every one— sit down quickly”—]! Thus worldly men in general find it easy to put forth the whole energy of their souls. But where is the Christian that displays such ardour in his pursuits? How rarely can the spiritual man thus engage in his work! Alas! what backwardness to duty, what languor in it, and what readiness to disengage himself from it, does he feel! Happy indeed would he be who could fully equal the zeal of worldlings: but Christians have to oppose the tide of their corrupt nature, while others have only to commit themselves to its impetuous current.]

They follow them more uniformly

[The children of this world have at all times an eye to their own advantage. Though their thoughts be not immediately engaged about business, they can turn them into that channel the very instant that prospects of gain arise. But the children of light are often wholly indisposed for spiritual exercises [Note: Galatians 5:17.]. Too often do they find occasion to adopt the language of St. Paul [Note: Romans 7:13; Romans 7:15; Romans 7:18-19; Romans 7:21-23.]— and frequently are they ready to compare themselves with the very beasts that perish [Note: Isaiah 1:3.].]

They contrive for them more ingeniously

[If a worldly man have prospects of advancement he will devise a thousand means to attain his end. If he have reason to fear a loss, he will try many expedients to avert, to mitigate, or to remedy the evil. He will rarely lose any thing which his cunning will enable him to secure. But how often does the Christian suffer loss purely through his own folly! How often does he see infallible means of gain, and yet neglect to use them! and infallible means of injury, which he is not careful to shun! Many times is he forced to adopt that most humiliating confession [Note: Psalms 73:22. Proverbs 30:2.]—]

To prevent misapprehension, we subjoin a word of caution—

[Let not any one suppose that one fraud may be committed in order to prevent the consequences of another. This is too often practised: but it plunges the offender in deeper guilt and shame. God has warned us in many places what will be the reward of dishonesty [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.]. It is impossible that they who defraud an earthly master can be accepted of God. However their ingenuity may be admired, it will prove folly in the issue. Let every one then, who professes to be a child of light, remember the Apostle’s words [Note: 1 John 1:6.] —]

To enforce the subject we conclude with suitableadvice—

1. Be faithful to your Lord and Master—

[If ye be Christians indeed, Christ is the Master whom ye serve. Be faithful to him, then, whether ye have little or much [Note: Proverbs 23:26.]. Especially honour him in the distribution of the unrighteous mammon [Note: ver. 13.]. He is a kind and liberal Master, that does not grudge you any thing that is good. Nevertheless he expects that you improve for him the talents he has committed to you.]

2. Be diligent in his service—

[We see how diligent worldlings are in the service of the world. Let not us be surpassed by them. We have a far better Master, and an infinitely richer reward.]

3. Stand ready to give up your account to him—

[We know not how soon he will say, Give an account of thy stewardship: but it will be a joyful word to those who shall be found ready. Let us then be daily inspecting and balancing our accounts. He will then give us the true riches [Note: ver. 11.]: and will bestow upon us what shall to all eternity be our own [Note: ver. 12. Matthew 24:45-47.].]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Luke 16:8. κύριος] not Jesus (Erasmus, Luther, Pred.; Weizsäcker also, p. 213 f.), but, as is proved by Luke 16:9, the master of the steward, to whom the measure taken by the latter had become known.

τὸν οἰκονόμ. τῆς ἀδικ.] ἀδικ. is a genitive of quality (see on Luke 2:14), the unrighteous steward; of such a quality he had shown himself in his service, as well by the waste in general as specially by his proceeding with the debtors.(190) The dogmatic idea (Schulz) is out of place in the context. Schleiermacher and Bornemann (comp. also Paulus) construe τῆς ἀδικίας with ἐπῄνεσεν iniquitatis causa. Grammatically correct (Dion. Hal. Rhet. xiv.; Joseph. Antt. xii. 4. 5; Bernhardy, p. 152; Kühner, II. p. 192; Bornemann, Schol. p. 98), but here it is in contradiction with the parallel expression: ἐκ τοῦ μαμωνᾶ τῆς ἀδικίας, Luke 16:9. Comp. also κριτὴς τῆς ἀδικίας, Luke 18:6. And it is not the ἀδικία, but the prudence, that is the subject of the praise,(191) as is shown from the analogy of Luke 16:9. τῆς ἀδικίας is intended to make it clear that the master praised the steward even in spite of his dishonest behaviour, because he had dealt prudently. In the dishonest man he praised “his procedure, so well advised and to the purpose, with the property that still remained under his control” (Schulz, p. 103), even although from a moral point of view this prudence was only the wisdom of the serpent (Matthew 10:16), so that he was not the πιστὸς οἰκονόμος φρόνιμος (Luke 12:42), but only φρόνιμος, who had hit on the practical savoir faire.

ὅτι οἱ υἱοὶ κ. τ. λ.] Immediately after the words φρονίμως ἐποίησεν, Jesus adds a general maxim,(192) in justification of the predicate used ( φρονίμως). Consequently: “Et merito quidem illius prudentiam laudavit, nam quod prudentiam quidem attinet, filii hujus saeculi, etc.,” Maldonatus. Francke erroneously says (compare the “perhaps,” etc., of de Wette) that ὅτι οἱ υἱσὶ κ. τ. λ. refers to the ἐπῄνεσεν κύριος. This the context forbids by the correlation of φρονί΄ως and φρονι΄ώτεροι. The sons (see on Matthew 8:12) of this generation ( עוֹלָם הַזֶּה, see on Matthew 12:32) are those who belong in their moral nature and endeavour to the period of the world prior to the Messianic times, not men who are aspiring after the βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὴν δικαιοσύνην αὐτοῦ (Matthew 6:33). Comp. Luke 20:34. See examples of the Rabbinical בני עלמא in Schoettgen, Hor. p. 298, and Wetstein. The sons of light are those who, withdrawn from temporal interests, have devoted themselves wholly to the divine ἀλήθεια revealed by Christ, and are enlightened and governed by it, John 12:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; Ephesians 5:8. The former are more prudent than the latter, not absolutely, but εἰς τὴν γενεὰν τὴν ἑαυτῶν, in reference to their own generation, i.e. in relation to their own kindred, if they have to do with those who, like themselves, are children of this world, as that steward was so prudent in reference to the debtors. The whole body of the children of the world—a category of like-minded men—is described as a generation, a clan of connections; and how appropriately, since they appear precisely as υἱοί! Observe, moreover, the marked prominence of τὴν ἑαυτῶν, which includes the contrasted saying that that higher degree of prudence is not exercised, if they have to deal with others who are not of their own kind. With unerring sagacity they know, as is shown by that steward in his dealing with the debtors, how, in their relations to companions of their own stamp, to turn the advantage of the latter to their own proper advantage. On the other hand, in relation to the children of light, they are not in a condition for such prudent measures, because these are not available for the immoral adjustment of the selfish ends of those men, as was the case with those debtors who by their own dishonesty were serviceable to the dishonest sagacity of the steward by the falsification of their bonds.(193) Kuinoel and Paulus, following older commentators, explain: in relation to their contemporaries. But how unmeaning would be this addition, and how neglected would be the emphatic τὴν ἑαυτῶν! Grotius, in opposition to the words themselves, explains: “in rebus suis;” Wieseler: for the duration of their life, for the brief time of their earthly existence; Hölbe: in their own manner, according to their own fashion. Comp. Schulz, Lange, and others: after their kind; de Wette, Eylau: in their sphere of life.

Moreover, εἰς τ. γεν. κ. τ. λ. is not to be referred to both classes of men (Kuinoel, Olshausen, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, Brauns, and others), but merely to the υἱοὺς τ. κόσμ. τ. (comp. Dettinger, as above, p. 60 f.), as the words themselves require it as well as the sense; for the prudence of the children of light in general, not merely in their relation to those like them, is surpassed by that prudence which the children of the world know how to apply εἰς τὴν γενεὰν τὴν ἑαυτῶν. On such wisdom the latter concentrate and use their effort, whereas the children of light can pursue only holy purposes with moral means, and consequently (as sons of wisdom) must necessarily fall behind in the worldly prudence, in which morality is of no account. As, however, He also from them ( κἀγὼ ὑμῖν) requires prudence, Jesus says,

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Luke 16:8. ἐπῄνεσεν) Not merely did He ratify the measure adopted by the steward, but He approved of and praised it.— κύριος, the Lord) of the steward: see Luke 16:3; Luke 16:5.— τὸν οἰκονόμον τῆς ἀδικίας, the steward of injustice [i.e. Hebraicè, the unjust steward]) The steward is called unjust, not merely on account of the original squandering away of his master’s goods, but also on account of his newly-adopted plan, whereby he intercepted fifty baths (measures) of oil and twenty cori,(168) and bestowed them on the debtors, though the property did not belong to him but to another, viz. his master, in order that he might provide for himself. Compare with one another verses 4 and 9, in both of which ἵνα, ὅταν, in order that, when, occur [and mutually correspond]. Furthermore, from this injustice of the steward the mammon of injustice (unrighteousness) himself takes his denomination, Luke 16:9; in the same way as a little after the term unjust is first said of the man, and from him subsequently the term is applied to the mammon, Luke 16:10 [“He that is unjust,” ἄδικος], 11 [“in the unjust” or “unrighteous mammon”]. Moreover, the steward was unjust, not towards the debtors of his master, but towards his master himself: therefore man is regarded as “unjust,” who does not use mammon precisely for the advantage of God, so to speak, but for that of his own self. That injustice is either of a kind, coarse, nefarious, and calculated to accumulate punishment on him: such as is described in the verses after this parable, 10, 11; or else, softening the expression injustice by the parable [to accord with its qualified meaning in the parable], it is of a kind refined, noble, and inoffensive. For as the term just is used according to the aspect of it presented in Isaiah 49:24 [“Shall the lawful captive delivered” or “the captivity of the just—be taken from the mighty”], so is injustice here used.(169) To wit, those goods, which are denoted by the term mammon are the goods of another (“another man’s,” ἐν τῷ ἀλλοτρίω, Luke 16:12), in the same sense as spiritual and eternal goods on the other hand (on the opposite side) are our own ( τὸ ὑμέτερον, Luke 16:12, “that which is your own”). Moreover, whosoever seeks and derives his own advantage from the goods of another is so far unjust. Therefore, it is admirable indulgence, and as it were an exceeding degree of connivance, that God concedes to us, nay even advises us, that we should acquire friends for ourselves by means of His goods. He would have the just right of demanding, that we who are His stewards should dispense His goods precisely and exclusively to His advantage, so to speak, so as not to derive any benefit from them ourselves; whereas, as it is, He wishes that we should, with a noble exercise of the discretion given us, blend with the consideration of His interest, or substitute for it, a regard to our own interest. So God waives His just right, exhibiting thereby great condescension, to which the case is similar of which Romans 3:4 treats; where see the note. When we, right or wrong, i.e. indefatigably(170) receive and embrace the right so waived by God, we incur the charge of injustice, but an injustice of such a kind as is not only not censured itself, but is even regarded as combined with praiseworthy prudence. O how much more unjust as also more imprudent are they, who in the case of the goods of God seek solely their own self-indulgence. All injustice is no doubt a sin against God; and so the injustice, which is ascribed to mammon, might be taken in the bad sense which is the ordinary one: as Lightfoot, who compares the case of Zaccheus [who restored the goods which he had wrongfully taken and in this sense made friends of the mammon of unrighteousness], shows the phraseology ממון שקר, to be most common. But at the same time in this passage the injustice lay in the very act itself of the steward, whereby he acquired friends for himself; and that act drives us to adopt the recondite meaning of injustice given above.(171) Moreover it is a frequent catachresis [not strictly proper use of a word] often combining at once sweetness and grandeur, whereby a term for a thing which is not good is, notwithstanding, used in a good sense, there being extant no other more appropriate term. For instance we have ἄλογον (strictly absurd, unreasonable) in the catachrestic sense, that which is not calculated upon: ἀχάριστον (ungrateful) catachrestically, that for which no sufficiently great thanks can be returned: So also, ἐξέστημεν (“we are beside ourselves” with Christian zeal and love) καταναρκᾶν, and ἐσύλησα, 2 Corinthians 5:13; 2 Corinthians 11:8 [“I robbed other churches, taking wages of them,” etc., “When I was in want I was chargeable (burdensome) to no man”]; and what comes nearer in point to the present case, διὰ κενῆς, Job 2:3; Job 9:17 [without cause]; 2 Kings 2:10, ἐσκλήρυνας αἰτήσασθαι [“Thou hast asked a hard thing;” strictly, σκληρύνω would imply a hardening of the heart]: Jeremiah 49:12 or 11, οὐ νόμος:(172) βιασται [in a good sense] ἁρπάζουσιν in Matthew 11:21 : ἀναίδεια (importunity in a good cause) in Luke 11:8. If this interpretation be thought too far-fetched, the ‘Mammon’ may be supposed to be called unjust, because it does not justly admit of the appellation ‘goods’— ὅτι, since) Jesus adds to the parable the reason for which the steward obtained such high commendation for prudence.— οἱ υἱοὶ) The sons of this world [“the children of this world”] (ch. Luke 20:34), are those who make this world, covered over as it is with thick darkness, and the world’s goods their chief aim: the children [sons] of light (1 Thessalonians 5:5; Ephesians 5:8), are they who though living in this world yet seek those goods of the light which the Father of lights bestows, James 1:17. This is a sublime sentiment, most worthy to come from the Divine lips of Jesus Christ.— φρονι΄ώτεροι, more prudent) The comparative is here used, and that in a not strict and a diminishing sense: For the prudence of the world does not deserve to be called prudence in the positive. The force of the comparative is already in the ὑπὲρ [ τοὺς υἱοὺς τοῦ φωτός] ὑπὲρ) Above. The sons of the light do not exceedingly care for this world. On this account the sons of this world easily excel them, and carry off from them the commendation ( ἐπῄνεσεν) of superiority in this respect; nor do the sons of the light always in very deed (in their actual conduct) evince as much prudence and vigilance even in spiritual matters [as the sons of the world evince in temporal matters]. See Matthew 25:5. They hardly have as much carefulness as is needed; the worldly have more than is necessary. [Hardly any son of the light would expend either fifty baths of oil or twenty cori of wheat, in order that he might gain for himself the favour of a certain (any particular) saint; but the men of this world at times acquire for themselves a friend or a patron at an enormous cost.—V. g.]— εἰς τὴν γενεὰν, in respect to their generation) εἰς, in respect to, is a qualifying limitation. [In truth, even the smallest spark of the more sublime prudence is more excellent than the highest degree of worldly prudence. For the latter, whether you have regard to the affairs of politics, or of war, or merchandise, or literature, or works of art, etc., sets before it an object which is continually fleeting and transitory: Whereas, the former aims at reaching the farthest goal, which alone is of the greatest moment, however ordinarily treated as secondary and utterly neglected it be by the men of the world.—V. g.] The fruit of worldly prudence is brought to its termination in not many years. The antithesis to εἰς τὴν γενεὰν is αἰωνιους in Luke 16:9, everlasting habitations.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

See Poole on "Luke 16:1"

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Luke 16:8". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

похвалил господин управителя неверного Увидев, что обманут, хозяин одобрил хитрость слуги. Его восхищение преступным гением нечестивого управителя показывает, что и он сам был нечестивым человеком. Восторгаться коварством злодея – это естественное стремление падших сердец (Пс. 48:19). Обратите внимание, что все герои этой притчи несправедливы, бессовестны и порочны.

догадливее Т.е. большинство неверующих более изворотливы в обычаях этого мира, чем некоторые верующие («сыны света», ср. Ин. 12:36; Еф. 5:18) способны к принятию Божьего.

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Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

The lord; the master of the steward.

Commended; not his injustice, but his sagacity.

Done wisely; acted shrewdly; manifested forethought and skill.

Children of this world; those who seek earthly things as their chief good.

Wiser than the chidren of light; more sagacious in the selection, and more skilful in the application of means to obtain temporal, than Christians are to obtain eternal good.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

“And the lord commended the unrighteous steward because he had done wisely, for the sons of this world are for their own generation wiser than the sons of the light.”

It is impossible to be certain whether ‘the lord’ refers to his master (as it does in Luke 16:3), or to Jesus (see Luke 18:6 for support for it meaning Jesus, and Luke 14:23 ff. for support for it being the lord in the parable). The fact that in Luke 16:3; Luke 16:5 ‘the lord of me’ means his master must be seen as confirming the probability that ‘the lord’ means the same here. It does, however make little difference, for certainly the second part must be referred to Jesus, and the point is simply that the steward’s action, involved as he is in the murky world of business, has demonstrated his efficiency and has thus shown how men of the world are wiser in business matters than the people of God.

‘The unrighteous steward.’ The estate manager has probably done nothing that could land him up in court. What he has done is make large margins, charge high penalties for late payment, and then make reductions to suit his own purposes. His lord may well still be looking at fat profits (even if not as fat as they might have been), and is certainly looking at a good deal more in terms of real cash than he was expecting. He may well not have seen him as unrighteous (that is Jesus’ description). He may rather have been impressed by his manager’s explanation of how he had got the debtors to pay up. (The estate manager was no doubt as slick in his explanations as in his dealings, as such people usually are).

‘Unrighteous’ is Jesus’ term for him because of his harsh and unscrupulous business methods, methods probably very familiar to some in the crowds who had suffered under them. From the world’s point of view they were not necessarily dishonest. He overcharged (although had in fact charge the right to charge what he liked, as long as it was compatible with market prices generally, or even more if he had cornered the market), added on large penalties, and gave large discounts, the last not in order to benefit the business but for his own benefit. But what cannot be disputed is his shrewdness and ability, and probably the large profits obtained for his master. From the world’s point of view he was the picture of success. Thus Jesus commends his application of business astuteness to the task in hand, but not his morals. Indeed ‘unrighteous’ is deliberately put in for the very purpose of deprecating his morals.

By it Jesus is also quite probably saying that such slick business methods are not really compatible with being a Christian even though they are not dishonest and have achieved their purpose. Christians should neither overcharge, nor charge heavy penalties (in the case of Jews it was contrary to the law against usury), even if such tactics are seen by other businessmen as legitimate, nor should they offer discounts which were mainly to obtain favours for themselves rather than for the estate’s advantage. But He is also saying that it does demonstrate how shrewd non-Christian businessmen can be, and that Christians should strive to be equally as shrewd in dealing with heavenly affairs, while of course avoiding the sharp practises.

‘The sons of this world (age).’ ‘Sons of’ is normal Jewish phraseology for depicting people of a particular class (compare Luke 10:6), and ‘sons of the age to come’ and ‘sons of the age’ are both found in Jewish literature. While ‘sons of this age’ is not found, it is the comparative equivalent of ‘sons of the age to come’ in terms of this age. It is thus typically Jewish, and very much emphasises the worldly nature of those so described. The point is that they are totally taken up with this age and have no thought for the future. ‘The sons of light’ is a phrase found at Qumran, where it indicates initiated believers. Compare John 12:36 where ‘sons of light’ (without the article) are those who have believed in the One Who is the Light. Compare also Paul’s ‘children of light’ (Ephesians 5:8) and ‘sons of light’ (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

‘For their own generation.’ This compares the sons of this world with the present generation of worldly people to which they belong.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

8.The lord—The landlord. The same lord as in Luke 16:3; Luke 16:5.

Commended the unjust steward—Though he had been the victim of his fraud, and saw no way of redress, yet he commended the acuteness of the trick. He laughed at the stratagem like a shrewd worldling, if for no other purpose than to turn the laugh from himself. He would himself have played the same manouvre, or one twice as good.

For—These are the words of Jesus, explaining why the landlord laughed, and why the steward was commended by the landlord.

The trick and the laugh at the trick were in the spirit of the children of this world. In so saying our Lord guards us against the idea that either the fraudulence of the stratagem or the commendation of it by the landlord was by him approved. They are before condemned as not belonging to the children of light; he would have the child of light be in his way as acute as the children of this world in THEIR way. As the former are wise for this world, so he would have the good be wise for the better world. As the former are wise in the things of darkness, so he would have the latter wise in the things of light. We should be as wise in holiness as they are wise in wickedness.

In their generation—See note on Luke 22:32. By a derived meaning, their kind, class species. One class are the children of God; the other class are the children of Satan.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Jesus commended the agent"s shrewdness or prudence (Gr. phronimos, i.e, practical wisdom) in spending his (the steward"s) wealth (his commission) to secure his future (cf. Luke 12:42). He commended him for his wise use of opportunity. He did not, of course, approve of his squandering his master"s money earlier through incompetence or dishonesty ( Luke 16:1), whichever option may have characterized him. That simply marked him as an unrighteous man. The fact that he had not been shrewd at first sets off his later shrewdness as even more commendable.

The sons of this age are unrighteous unbelievers who live simply by the principles that govern most people in the present age. Sons of the light are people who live in the light of God"s revelation and are therefore believers (cf. Luke 11:33-36; Ephesians 5:8). The implication is that they are believers who are in fellowship with God (cf. 1 John 1:7). Jesus" point was that prudent dealings characterize unbelievers more than believers. Disciples can do well by learning from them as we anticipate the future. People of the light should be as shrewd in their kingdom investments for God as people of the darkness are in their business investments for themselves.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary



Villicum iniquitatis, i.e. iniquum, Greek: oikonomon tes adikias.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

the lord = his master.

wisely = shrewdly. Occurs only here.

children = sons. App-108.

world = age. App-129.

in their generation wiser, &c. these two clauses should be transposed.

in = to; i.e. with reference to. Greek. eis. App-104.

their = their own.

wiser = more shrewd.

than = above. Greek. huper. App-104.

children of light. Supply the Ellipsis: [are with reference to theirs]. In the former case they are all unscrupulousalike.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.

And the lord (that is, the steward's lord, as he is expressly called in Luke 16:3; Luke 16:5), commended the unjust steward - not the injustice of the steward; for what master would praise his servant for defrauding him? but he commended the man,

Because he had done wisely, [ fronimoos (Greek #5430)] - 'shrewdly,' 'sagaciously,' 'prudently;' with commendable promptitude, foresight, and skillful adaptation of means to end: for "men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself" (Psalms 49:18).

For - this, now, is the reflection of the glorious Speaker of the parable,

The children of this world are in their generation, [ eis (Greek #1519) teen (Greek #3588) genean (Greek #1074) teen (Greek #3588) heautoon (Greek #1438)] - rather, 'for their own generation;' that is, for the purposes of their own kind, or sort, or class; their own sphere of interest and action,

Wiser, [ fronimooteroi (Greek #5429)] - 'shrewder'

Than the children of [the] light, [ tou (Greek #3588) footos (Greek #5457)]. Let us examine this most weighty saying. It divides all men, according to the all-pervading doctrine of Scripture, into two great classes. The one is called "THE CHILDREN OF THIS WORLD" [ tou (Greek #3588) aioonos (Greek #165) toutou (Greek #5127)] - (see the note at Ephesians 2:2), meaning what we call worldlings. The Psalmist, after calling this class "men of this world," gives the following striking definition of what he means - "who have their portion in this life" (Psalms 17:14); and of the same class the apostle says, they "mind" [ fronountes (Greek #5426)] or 'are taken up with,' "earthly things" (Philippians 3:19). Their whole ambition, whether their inclinations be grovelling or refined, is bounded by the present sphere, and they have no taste for anything, beyond it. The other class are beautifully called "THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT," as being the offspring of supernatural heavenly teaching, for "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). "While ye have the Light [ to (Greek #3588) foos (Greek #5457)], believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light" (John 12:36). "Ye are all the children of the light and of the day" (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

See also Ephesians 5:8. And yet, though the latter class are to the former as superior as light is to darkness, the children of this world have in one point the advantage of the children of light-they excel them in the shrewdness with which they prosecute their proper business. It is not that they are more truly wise; but that in their own sphere they display a sagacity which the children of light may well emulate, and should strive to outdo. Their sphere is indeed a wretched enough one. But let the children of light observe what a definite and firm grasp they take of the objects at which they aim; how shrewdly they adapt their means to their ends, and with what untiring energy, determination, and perseverance they prosecute their purposes. All these are wasted, to be sure, on perishable objects and in fleeting enjoyments. Spiritual and eternal realities are a region they never penetrate-the new life is an air they never breathe, an undiscovered world, an unborn existence: they know nothing, sympathize with nothing, live for nothing but "their own generation." But why should such excel the children of light in anything? This is exactly what our Lord here says they should not; and in giving forth this parable He would stir up our jealousy to roll away that reproach-just as on another occasion He sends us for lessons of this same "wisdom to venomous "serpents" (Matthew 10:16).

Having laid down the great general principle, that 'it is not enough to have a high and holy sphere of action, but there must be such a discreet and determined prosecution of its objects as the children of this world so much excel in'-our Lord now comes to particulars; and, first, to that point of wisdom which the parable most directly illustrates.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

8. The master of this dishonest manager praised him. Not for his dishonesty, but for his shrewdness in preparing for his future. Are much more shrewd. The shrewd manager knew better how to deal with his master and the debtors [who were probably tenants] under his control, than people of light know how to deal with their God above and their needy brothers here. Central idea: The one point taught in this parable is to use our earthly resources shrewdly to prepare for the time when these very things will fail us.




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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(8) And the lord commended . . .—The “lord” is, of course, the rich man of the parable, the steward’s master. He too, in the outer framework of the story, is one of the children of this world, and he admires the sharpness and quickness of the steward’s action. In the interpretation of the story, we trace once more the grave, half-veiled indignation, more keenly incisive than if the veil had been withdrawn, which so often appears in this phase of our Lord’s teaching. If this world were all, there would be a wisdom worthy of praise when a Church or its teachers adapted themselves to men’s passions or interests at the expense of Truth. That which makes such action hateful is that by so doing the children of light transform themselves into the children of this world.

The unjust steward.—Literally, the steward of unrighteousness, St. Luke using the half-Hebrew idiom of a genitive of the characteristic attribute. (Comp. the “mammon of unrighteousness” in Luke 16:9, and the “unjust judge” of Luke 18:6, where the same idiom is used.)

The children of this world are in their generation wiser . . .—Better, for their generation, with a view, i.e., to their own advantages and interests, and those of others like them.

Wiser than the children of light.—The word for “wise” is that used by our Lord in “wise as serpents” (see Notes on Matthew 10:16). In “children of light” (literally, sons of light), though usage has made the Hebrew idiom familiar, we have another example of the genitive of characteristic attribute. We may note the recurrence of the phrase (with the variation of the Greek word for “children” instead of “sons”) in Ephesians 5:8 as another instance of the way in which the phraseology of St. Paul was influenced by that of the words of the Lord Jesus collected by his fellow-labourer. “Children of light” are those in whom light is the prevailing element of their life, and they are necessarily also children of God; for “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

It must be left to the thoughtful reader to judge how far this exposition of the parable is coherent and satisfying in itself, and in harmony with the general teaching of our Lord. Those who will may compare it, apart from the real or imagined authority of this or that name, with the other interpretations which find in it a lesson (1) to the publicans (like that of Luke 3:13) to exact no more than that which is appointed them; or (2) to all Christians to be as lenient in dealing with their “debtors” as the steward was with his master’s; or (3) a simple example of quickness and prudence in things temporal, which Christians are to reproduce, mutatis mutandis, in dealing with things eternal; or (4) which hold, as the main point of the parable, that the steward’s master was ignorant of his fraudulent collusion with the debtors; or (5) find in the call to give an account of his stewardship nothing but the approach of death; or (6) teach that the master is Mammon, and that the disciples were accused by the Pharisees of wasting his goods when they became followers of Christ; or (7) that the steward stands for the publicans as a class, and then for all Christians generally; or (8) for Judas Iscariot; or (9) for Pontius Pilate; or (10) for our Lord Himself; or (11) for St. Paul; or (12) for an example of the true penitent; or (13) for the devil. The wild diversity of interpretations which this list partially represents, should make any commentator more or less distrustful of what seems to him an adequate and complete exposition; and it may well be, even after an exposition as full as the conditions of the case seem to render possible, that there are side-lights in the parable which are yet unnoticed, and further applications which, as being founded on real analogies, might be instructive and legitimate.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
10; 18:6
4; Genesis 3:1; Exodus 1:10; 2 Samuel 13:3; 2 Kings 10:19; Proverbs 6:6-8
children of this
20:34; Psalms 17:14; 1 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:19
Psalms 49:10-19; Matthew 17:26
children of light
John 12:36; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 3:10
Reciprocal: Genesis 38:17 - Wilt thou;  Joshua 9:4 - work wilily;  1 Samuel 29:4 - Make this fellow;  2 Samuel 16:23 - all the counsel;  2 Samuel 17:14 - good counsel;  1 Kings 20:33 - the men;  2 Kings 5:20 - my master;  2 Chronicles 11:23 - he dealt;  Esther 1:22 - according;  Job 28:3 - searcheth;  Proverbs 2:4 - searchest;  Proverbs 12:8 - commended;  Ecclesiastes 2:19 - wise under;  Ecclesiastes 7:11 - good with an inheritance;  Jeremiah 4:22 - they are wise;  Acts 12:20 - because;  Acts 27:18 - the next;  Acts 27:32 - General1 Corinthians 2:6 - not;  Ephesians 2:2 - walked according;  Philippians 3:7 - GeneralColossians 3:2 - not;  James 3:15 - but;  1 John 4:5 - are

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

8.And the master commended the unjust steward Here it is obvious that if we were to attempt to find a meaning for every minute circumstance, we would act absurdly. To make donations out of what belongs to another man, is an action which is very far from deserving applause; and who would patiently endure that an unprincipled villain should rob him of his property, and give it away according to his own fancy? It were indeed the grossest stupidity, if that man who beheld a portion of his substance taken away, should commend the person who stole the remainder of it and bestowed it on others. But Christ only meant what he adds a little afterwards, that ungodly and worldly men are more industrious and skillful in conducting the affairs of this fading life, than the children of God are anxious to obtain the heavenly and eternal life, or careful to make it the subject of their study and meditation.

By this comparison he charges us with highly criminal indifference, in not providing for the future, with at least as much earnestness as ungodly men display by attending to their own interests in this world. How disgraceful is it that the children of light, whom God enlightens by his Spirit and word, should slumber and neglect the hope of eternal blessedness held out to them, while worldly men are so eagerly bent on their own accommodations, and so provident and sagacious! Hence we infer, that our Lord does not intend to compare the wisdom of the Spirit to the wisdom of the flesh, (which could not have been done without pouring contempt on God himself,) but only to arouse believers to consider more attentively what belongs to the future life, and not to shut their eyes against the light of the Gospel, when they perceive that even the blind, amidst their darkness, see more clearly. And, indeed, the children of light ought to be more powerfully excited, when they behold the children of this world making provision against a distant period, for a life which is fading, and which passes in a moment.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Luke 16:8". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.