According to Luke 16:1-31

16  Then he also said to the disciples: “A rich man had a steward+ who was accused of handling his goods wastefully.  So he called him and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Hand in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer manage the house.’  Then the steward said to himself, ‘What am I to do, seeing that my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.  Ah! I know what I will do, so that when I am removed from the stewardship, people will welcome me into their homes.’  And calling to him each one of his master’s debtors, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’  He replied, ‘A hundred measures of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take back your written agreement and sit down and quickly write 50.’  Next, he said to another one, ‘Now you, how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred large measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take back your written agreement and write 80.’  And his master commended the steward, though unrighteous, because he acted with practical wisdom; for the sons of this system of things are wiser in a practical way toward their own generation than the sons of the light+ are.  “Also, I say to you: Make friends for yourselves by means of the unrighteous riches,+ so that when such fail, they may receive you into the everlasting dwelling places.+ 10  The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much. 11  Therefore, if you have not proved yourselves faithful in connection with the unrighteous riches, who will entrust you with what is true? 12  And if you have not proved yourselves faithful in connection with what belongs to another, who will give you something for yourselves?*+ 13  No servant can be a slave to two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves to God and to Riches.”+ 14  Now the Pharisees, who were money lovers, were listening to all these things, and they began to sneer at him.+ 15  So he said to them: “You are those who declare yourselves righteous before men,+ but God knows your hearts.+ For what is considered exalted by men is a disgusting thing in God’s sight.+ 16  “The Law and the Prophets were until John. From then on, the Kingdom of God is being declared as good news, and every sort of person is pressing forward toward it.+ 17  Indeed, it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to go unfulfilled.+ 18  “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.+ 19  “There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and linen,+ enjoying himself day after day with magnificence. 20  But a beggar named Lazʹa·rus used to be put at his gate, covered with ulcers 21  and desiring to be filled with the things dropping from the table of the rich man. Yes, even the dogs would come and lick his ulcers. 22  Now in the course of time, the beggar died and was carried off by the angels to Abraham’s side. “Also, the rich man died and was buried. 23  And in the Grave he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and he saw Abraham from afar and Lazʹa·rus by his side. 24  So he called and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazʹa·rus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this blazing fire.’ 25  But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you had your fill of good things in your lifetime, but Lazʹa·rus for his part received bad things. Now, however, he is being comforted here, but you are in anguish.+ 26  And besides all these things, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those who want to go over from here to you cannot, neither may people cross over from there to us.’ 27  Then he said, ‘That being so, I ask you, father, to send him to the house of my father, 28  for I have five brothers, in order that he may give them a thorough witness so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29  But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to these.’+ 30  Then he said, ‘No, indeed, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31  But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses+ and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’”

Footnotes

Or “what is your own.”

Study Notes

steward: Or “house manager; house administrator.”​—See study note on Lu 12:42.

measures: Or “bath measures.” The Greek word baʹtos is equated with the Hebrew bath measure by some scholars. Based on jar fragments bearing the designation “bath” in ancient Hebrew characters, the capacity of the bath measure is reckoned at approximately 22 L (5.81 gal).​—See Glossary, “Bath,” and App. B14.

large measures: Or “cor measures.” The Greek word koʹros is equated by some scholars with the Hebrew cor measure that contained ten bath measures. With the bath measure reckoned at 22 L (20 dry qt), the cor measure equals 220 L (200 dry qt).​—See study note on Lu 16:6; Glossary, “Bath,” “Cor”; and App. B14.

acted with practical wisdom: Or “acted shrewdly (discreetly).” The Greek word phro·niʹmos is here rendered “with practical wisdom.” Forms of the related adjective are rendered wiser in a practical way later in this verse and “discreet” at Mt 7:24; 24:45; 25:2; and Lu 12:42.​—See study notes on Mt 24:45; Lu 12:42.

this system of things: The Greek word ai·onʹ, having the basic meaning “age,” can refer to a state of affairs or to features that distinguish a certain period of time, epoch, or age. In this context, it refers to the present unrighteous system of things and a worldly way of life.​—See Glossary, “System(s) of things.”

friends: That is, friends in heaven, Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, the only ones who can receive others into “everlasting dwelling places.”

the unrighteous riches: Lit., “the mammon of the unrighteousness.” The Greek word ma·mo·nasʹ (of Semitic origin), traditionally translated “mammon,” is generally understood to denote money or riches. (See study note on Mt 6:24.) Jesus evidently viewed this type of riches as unrighteous because they are under the control of sinful humans, they normally serve selfish ends, and they are often acquired by means of unrighteous actions. The possession of or desire for material riches can also lead to lawless acts. Literal riches can lose their value, so a person having such riches should not put his trust in them. (1Ti 6:9, 10, 17-19) Rather, he should use them to make friends with Jehovah and Jesus, who can receive a person into the everlasting dwelling places.

everlasting dwelling places: Lit., “everlasting tents.” Evidently referring to perfect dwelling places in the everlasting new world, whether this be in the heavenly Kingdom with Jesus Christ or on the Paradise earth under that Kingdom’s rule.

hate: That is, be less devoted to.​—See study note on Lu 14:26.

be slaves: See study note on Mt 6:24.

Riches: See study note on Mt 6:24.

The Law and the Prophets: “The Law” refers to the Bible books of Genesis through Deuteronomy. “The Prophets” refers to the prophetic books of the Hebrew Scriptures. However, when these terms are mentioned together, the expression could be understood to include the entire Hebrew Scriptures.​—Mt 5:17; 7:12; 22:40; see study note on Mt 11:13.

pressing forward: The Greek word used here conveys the basic idea of forceful action or endeavor. Some Bible translators have understood this in a negative sense (that of acting with or suffering violence), but the context, the Kingdom of God is being declared as good news, makes it reasonable to understand the term in the positive sense of “going after something with enthusiasm; seeking fervently.” These words evidently describe the forceful actions or endeavors of those who responded to the preaching of the good news about God’s Kingdom, which put them in line to become prospective members of that Kingdom.

one stroke of a letter: In the Hebrew alphabet current in Jesus’ day, certain characters featured a tiny stroke that differentiated one letter from another. Jesus’ hyperbole thus emphasized that God’s Word would be fulfilled down to the smallest detail.​—See study note on Mt 5:18.

commits adultery: The Greek verb moi·kheuʹo refers to committing marital sexual unfaithfulness. In the Bible, adultery refers to voluntary acts of “sexual immorality” between a married person and someone who is not his or her mate. (Compare the study note on Mt 5:32, where the term “sexual immorality,” rendered from the Greek por·neiʹa, is discussed.) During the time when the Mosaic Law was valid, having sexual relations with another man’s wife or fiancée was considered to be adultery.​—See study notes on Mt 5:27; Mr 10:11.

a woman divorced: That is, a woman divorced except on account of sexual immorality.​—See study note on Mt 5:32.

a beggar: Or “a poor man.” The Greek word can refer to one who is very poor, or destitute. The use of this word provides a stark contrast to the rich man in Jesus’ illustration. It is used in a figurative sense at Mt 5:3 in the phrase rendered “those conscious of their spiritual need,” literally, “those who are poor (needy; destitute; beggars) as to the spirit,” conveying the idea of people who are painfully aware of their spiritual poverty and of their need for God.​—See study note on Mt 5:3.

Lazarus: Probably the Greek form of the Hebrew name Eleazar, meaning “God Has Helped.”

dogs: According to the Mosaic Law, dogs were unclean. (Le 11:27) The dogs that licked the beggar’s sores were apparently scavengers that roamed the streets. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the term “dog” is often used in a derogatory sense. (De 23:18, ftn.; 1Sa 17:43; 24:14; 2Sa 9:8; 2Ki 8:13; Pr 26:11) At Mt 7:6, the expression “dogs” is figuratively used of people who do not value spiritual treasures. Because dogs were unclean animals to the Jews and thus have an unfavorable figurative sense in the Bible, the mention of “dogs” in this illustration clearly indicates the low state of the beggar named Lazarus.​—See study notes on Mt 7:6; 15:26.

to Abraham’s side: Lit., “to the bosom of Abraham.” The bosom position was one of special favor and close fellowship. (See study note on Joh 1:18.) This figure of speech is drawn from the practice of reclining on couches at meals in such a way that one would lean back on the bosom, or chest, of a special friend.​—Joh 13:23-25.

the Grave: Or “Hades,” that is, the common grave of mankind.​—See Glossary, “Grave.”

by his side: Lit., “in his bosom.”​—See study note on Lu 16:22.

They have Moses and the Prophets: That is, the writings of Moses and the prophets, which were read every Sabbath in the synagogues (Ac 15:21) and should have led them to accept Jesus as God’s Messiah and King.

Media

Written Agreement Acknowledging a Debt
Written Agreement Acknowledging a Debt

In his parable of the unrighteous steward, Jesus referred to the practice of recording business transactions in a written agreement. (Lu 16:​6, 7) The papyrus document shown here is written in Aramaic and is dated to about 55 C.E. It was found in a cave located in Wadi Murabbaat, a dry riverbed in the Judean Desert. The document describes the debt and the terms of repayment agreed to by Absalom son of Hanin and Zechariah son of Jehohanan. This type of document may have come to mind when people heard Jesus’ illustration.

Purple Dyes
Purple Dyes

Purple dye was obtained from shellfish or mollusks such as the Murex trunculus (left) and the Murex brandaris (right) shown here. The shells measure from 5 to 8 cm (2 to 3 in.) in length. In the neck of the flesh of these creatures is a small gland containing only a single drop of fluid, called the flower. This fluid initially has the appearance and consistency of cream, but on exposure to air and light, it gradually changes to a deep violet or reddish-purple color. These shellfish are found along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and the shades of color acquired from them vary according to their location. The larger specimens were broken open individually, and the precious fluid was carefully removed, whereas the smaller ones were crushed in mortars. The amount of fluid acquired from each shellfish was small, so accumulating a large amount was a costly process. Hence, this dye was expensive, and garments dyed purple became the mark of wealthy people or those in high station.—Es 8:15.