Breaking down and Explaining Luke 16

Luke 16

I listened to your reading today and with your permission would like to give you my two cents on Luke 16.

First of all, remember a parable is, literally, something “cast alongside” something else.  Most people assume that Yahshua HaMassiach spoke in parables to teach moral lessons. That is not true. The English word parable comes from the Greek word paraboles, which simply means “comparison.” Yahshua’s parables were stories that were “cast alongside” a truth in order to illustrate that truth. His parables were teaching aids and can be thought of as extended analogies or inspired comparisons. A common description of a parable is that it is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Every one of Yahshua’s parables is a descriptive comparison put in the form of a brief story that points out how two entirely different things are alike. That is why Yahshua began many of his parables by saying, “the kingdom of YHWH is like” this or “the kingdom of heaven may be compared to” that…..

Yahshua explained that his use of parables had a two-fold purpose: to reveal the truth to those who wanted to know it and to conceal the truth from those who were indifferent. The Pharisees had publicly rejected their Messiah and blasphemed the Ruach Hakodesh (Matthew 12:22–32). They fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of a hardhearted, spiritually blind people (Isaiah 6:9–10). Yahshua’s  response was to begin teaching in parables. Those who, like the Pharisees, had a preconceived bias against the Messiah’s teaching would dismiss the parables as irrelevant nonsense. However, those who truly sought the truth would understand. One must always keep in mind the fact that parables do not depict what some unknown reality actually is; they only describe what it is like, by comparing it to something that is already known. But enough about what parables are. Let us get to the meat of your reading.

The great parables of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-13) and the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) are both related to the conflict with the Pharisees. True, the parable was spoken “to” the disciples, but it was “about” the Pharisees.

In verse 1 the rich man represents YHWH and among all classes of people in that ancient world, only the hierarchy of Israel would qualify as stewards of YHWH’s house. To them were committed the oracles of YHWH (Romans 3:2); they alone sat “in Moses’ seat” (Matthew 23:2); and they only were custodial heirs of the religious economy of Israel. Objections to this view derive from a failure to understand WHY the rich man commended the unjust steward. Only YHWH has the power over men to dismiss them from life and custodianship of heavenly gifts, the very things clearly typified by the prerogatives enjoyed by this unjust steward. Furthermore, the allegation against the rich man, to the effect that he was a rascal, or that he endorsed the steward’s dishonesty, is not logically taken. “The Emperor Julian (the bitter apostate) said this parable proves Yahshua a mere man, and hardly a worthy man,” but apostates are blind, by definition, and without any spiritual perception whatever. When it is clearly understood why the steward was commended, all difficulties disappear. In another parable, an unjust judge bore an analogy to the heavenly Father (Luke 18:1-6); and HaMassiach himself likened his second coming to “the thief” (Matthew 24:43). This comparison did not embarrass the holy apostles; for Paul used it (1 Thessalonians 5:2); Peter used it (2 Peter 3:10); and Yahshua himself repeated it from glory (Revelation 16:15).

In verse 2 the accusers of the religious hierarchy were the prophets of YHWH such as Ezekiel (Ezekiel 23:2) and Malachi (Malachi 2:8), and finally, Yahshua himself (Matthew 23:1-5).

In verse 3 the steward Said within himself … This was the first commendable thing the steward did. Like the prodigal son who also said “to himself” that he would arise and go to the Father, this man also faced bitter, unwelcome truth about HIMSELF. He lied to the lord and to the debtors, but he told himself the truth. Many a hapless soul today simply does not have the courage to face unwelcome truth. The lost soul will hardly admit it; the man on his deathbed speaks of what he will do when he gets well; and countless sinners tell themselves the falsehood that they are really all right, in no danger at all, or that they will turn and serve YHWH at some future time. This steward was no such character. He laid it on the line with himself. “I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg!” Nor did he question the fact that he faced eviction from office. The day of reckoning in view here is an analogy of YHWH’s summons to Israel through Yahshua HaMassiach. He would involve all the debtors in defrauding the lord, and then presume upon their charity when he needed it. Human gratitude for past favors is a broken reed indeed.

In verse 5 the lowering of the bills is the perfect analogy of the manner in which the scribes and Pharisees lowered the standards of righteousness as a device for keeping their hold upon the people: allowing divorce on any pretext (Luke 16:18), and by countless devices making void the law of YHWH (Matthew 23:16). And, although the scribes and Pharisees were the deceitful stewards in view here the analogy may be extended throughout Christian history to include countless others who have marked down the gospel and perverted YHWH’s law. This crooked device of the unjust steward was known to Pharaoh who proposed to Moses that YHWH’s command to go three days’ journey into the wilderness might be honored by going “not very far away” (Exodus 8:28). It is, of course, a device of Satan; and it is still being employed against the truth. Yahshua commanded faith, repentance, confession, and baptism into Yahshua as preconditions of salvation; but the unjust steward still offers salvation to men for “faith only” or “confession only.” The moral requirements of Christianity are still being marked down in the matter of easy divorce for any cause, or none at all, just as the Pharisees were doing. The worship of Yahshua is demanded of all who would be saved, in terms of a full hundred measures of oil, or of wheat. That worship requires that men sing, pray, study YHWH’s word, give their means to support the truth, and faithfully observe the Torah. And, despite this, there are great systems of “Christian” religions that reduced the requirements in various particulars.

It should be noted that the unjust steward moved with all possible dispatch and diligence to put his evil plan in operation. That same line that records his resolution defines also his summary action to fulfill it. He acted then and there, not putting it off a single day.

Furthermore, he exhibited the most efficient thoroughness in the implementation of his scheme. “He called EVERY ONE of his lord’s debtors.” None was skipped, or overlooked.

Thus it is clear enough that in quite a number of the most important qualities, that unjust steward was fully entitled to commendation, not for his dishonesty, BUT FOR THOSE QUALITIES. And what were they?

(1) He told himself the truth.

(2) He took account of his own need which would not diminish merely because he had lost his job.

(3) He accurately appraised the necessity to make some provision against that future need, even as Christ himself commanded (Revelation 3:18).

(4) He used those things which he yet controlled in order to meet that inevitable future need.

(5) He acted at once with all possible speed.

(6) He acted with brilliant efficiency and thoroughness.

It is in these qualities that the steward provides an example of what all men should do with reference to the eternal needs of the soul; and, sadly enough, these are exactly the things that countless millions of men will not do with reference to those very needs.

In verse 8 The lord commended the unjust steward … All of the tedious explanations insisting that it was not Yahshua, 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 YHWH. Certainly Yahshua, 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 Yahshua had not intended this to be understood, there is no way to believe he would have spoken the parable in the first place.

This unjust steward is to us an example, not in cheating his master, but as an example for our attention in spiritual things. Yahshua incurred no risk whatever in using such an example. Throughout the parable, and as always, Yahshua unconditionally condemned in every action and every word, every suggestion of fraud and dishonesty, categorically calling the steward “unjust.” There was no danger that Yahshua’ hearers would interpret his words as a recommendation of dishonest methods.

Verse 9 Mammon of unrighteousness … This refers to wealth and all earthly treasures; but why is it called unrighteous? It would appear that they are in error who supposes that the implication requires us to believe that wealth may not be accumulated except through dishonesty, fraud, etc.; for, while it is true that much wealth is thus acquired, there are countless instances of persons acquiring wealth innocently. But all wealth of this world is unrighteous, however acquired; and by this the wealth itself, not the possessor, is meant.

(1) Wealth deceives the owner into believing that it is his.

(2) It strongly tempts him to trust in riches.

(3) In making a man depend on them for happiness, riches rob him of salvation and the glory of YHWH.

(4) It estranges him from earthly friends.

(5) It surrounds him with false friends.

(6) Wealth promises much and delivers nothing.

(7) It is a constant hazard to his spirituality.

The clear meaning here is that mammon of unrighteousness does not mean wealth unrighteously acquired, but deceitful wealth.

When it shall fail … is a reference to the ultimate failure of all worldly assets, which under no circumstances can ever continue any longer than the lifetime of the holder; and it is the end of life in view here, because of the Savior’s reference to being received into eternal tabernacles.

They may receive you … Some have viewed these “friends” as poor people helped during the life of the one received; but this is a forced view, derived from the error of making this parable primarily a teaching on the Christian’s responsibility for the proper use of his wealth; but, despite the fact of such teaching being included, the parable lays special stress on making the proper spiritual preparations prerequisite to being received into heaven.


The rich man in absentia = the heavenly Father.

The unrighteous steward = the scribes and Pharisees.

The accusations = the protestations of the prophets and last of all, of Yahshua HaMassiach.

The day of accounting = the first advent of HaMassiach.

The lowering of the bills = the corruption of YHWH’s law by the religious leaders.

The impending eviction of the steward = the impending removal of Israel as a chosen nation.

The corruption of the debtors = the ruin of the vast majority of Israel by their leaders.

The lord’s commendation = a tribute to the persistence and ability of the evil leaders.

On the last of these analogies, a further word is appropriate. The mystery of iniquity has always been an awesome wonder. When the apostle John saw the vision of the apostate church, he “wondered with a great wonder” (Revelation 17:6), the true meaning being “wondered with a great admiration.”[21] It is the same wondering admiration which surfaces here. The steward’s evil genius was so original, daring, and thoroughly crooked, yet serving his personal ends, that the lord in the parable, ignoring all loss to himself, commended the scoundrel. If there was ever a class of religious leaders entitled to the same kind of praise, the Pharisees and their crowd were that class. The satanic achievement of that class in engineering the rejection of the Messiah sent from YHWH was truly a marvel of adroit cunning, deceit, and persistent energy.

Yahshua at once extended the analogies in the parable to encourage the same quality of skillful and persistent efforts on the part of all men who would attain spiritual values (though, of course, without the dishonesty and deceit).

In the comparisons pointed out by Yahshua, the great lord in absentia is still the only YHWH; every man, like the unjust steward, controls certain assets such as life, talents, and property; and like the case with the unjust steward, all must give an accounting of their use. Yahshua admonished that all men, as the steward did, should use whatever is in their control now, and, unlike him, use it to receive approval from YHWH, that is, make to themselves friends, by the wise and faithful administration of YHWH’s gifts.

Friends … It was noted above that some have supposed these to be the recipients of the Christian’s charity; but the fact of their preceding him to glory and being on hand to welcome the Christian’s arrival compromises that view. As reasonable a view as any makes the friends envisaged here to be the Father, the Son, the Ruach Hakodesh and the angels of YHWH.

Verse 10 and 11 Yahshua included this verse in the parable in order to prevent a possible misunderstanding owing to the commendation of the unjust steward. Here Yahshua insists upon the necessity of fidelity in dealing with earthly possessions. A man’s faithfulness is measured by what he does with whatever amount of it there may be. People, who suppose that if they were rich they would give large sums to charity, and who yet give nothing from their meager possessions, are deceiving themselves. What a man does with a little is a fair measure of what he will do with much.

Every man is but a steward of YHWH’s gifts, even including life; and if he should misuse these which, in a sense, are only loaned to him, how would YHWH give to him, as his very own possession, such a thing as eternal life? On the “unrighteous mammon,” see under Luke 16:9.


The Latin word for “rich man” is dives, and this is sometimes used as a proper name; but Yahshua left him nameless.

Clothed in purple … Ancient craftsmen of Tyre discovered a process of making a very expensive and durable purple dye from the murex shell; and, due to its cost, it could be afforded only by royalty and the very rich. From this, “royal purple” has entered into the vocabulary of all nations.

Fine linens … faring sumptuously … These are additional touches to show the extravagant luxury in which the rich man lived. It should be noted that there is no hint of any unrighteous acquisition of wealth, nor of any overt, sinful action against Lazarus, nor even any hint that he denied the crumbs desired by the beggar. It is his total indifference to human suffering at his very gate which looms so ominously in the parable.

And is this a parable? It would appear to be certain that it is; the placement of it alone is sufficient grounds for understanding it as a parable. Besides that, the element of Abraham presiding over Paradise forces one to seek an analogy. It is YHWH, not Abraham, who has custody and control of the departed dead.

In verse 20 Lazarus … This is the only example of Yahshua using a proper name to identify a character in one of his parables, and there must have been a good reason for this. It cannot be made the basis for advocating the parable as an historical event, as noted above; but there is quite possibly, in this, a prophecy of the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11). True, the Lazarus raised from the dead was presumably rich; this Lazarus was a beggar; but the use of a proper name for one who the rich man pleaded would be sent back from the dead to warn his brothers cannot fail of suggesting the fact that a Lazarus did rise from the dead, and true to the Lord’s prophecy here, the Pharisees did not believe, but instead plotted to kill him!

The conviction expressed here is that by the use of this proper name, Yahshua clearly hinted at what John recorded in that famed eleventh chapter. Nor is this the only hint of that “seventh sign” recorded by John. In his first open break with the Pharisees, after healing the man at Bethesda, Yahshua promised the Pharisees “that greater works than these” the Father would show, that the Pharisees “may marvel” (John 5:20). By such a promise, Yahshua meant that he would raise the dead; for he immediately foretold a time when all the dead on earth would “hear the voice of the Son of YHWH, and COME FORTH” (John 5:29), those last two words being exactly the ones he cried in a loud voice over the grave of Lazarus (John 11:43); from this, it is mandatory to believe that Yahshua had in mind to raise Lazarus at least three years before the event took place; and, knowing what he would do, and as the time for Lazarus’ resurrection was then approaching, it was most significant that Yahshua, contrary to all other usages in his parables, would throw in this word “Lazarus.”

There is indeed here a suggestion of the great seventh miracle in John is implicit in the fact of the critical scholars’ allegation that John’s great miracle was only a drama invented to illustrate the point Yahshua made here, a conceit that may be rejected out of hand. The exegesis here points out the true connection between this parable and the wonder of Lazarus’ resurrection.

Verse 22 the two deaths here are distinguished by the fact that the rich man had a funeral, whereas none was mentioned in the case of Lazarus. The Hadean world, as understood by the Jews, had two distinct places, one for the righteous and another for the wicked. Yahshua’ use of those ideas here endows them with utmost significance; for there can be no doubt that this parable was intended to shed light upon the intermediate state between death and the eternal judgment.

In verse 23-25 Yahshua departed from the Jewish views which reckoned the diverse places of the just and the wicked as separated by only a handbreadth. “Afar off,” as here, and “a great gulf fixed” (Luke 16:26) show that the separation is extensive.

Basic teachings from this parable include the state of felicity for the righteous and the state of torment for the wicked, with no time-lapse whatever between death and the entering of the soul into one or the other of the Hadean compartments. The wicked life will not wait one second after death to begin reaping the rewards of unrighteousness; and yet, the eternal reward for both classes will not actually begin until the judgment.

The rich man did know Lazarus, after all, apparently even fancying that Lazarus was under some obligation to him, perhaps for the crumbs, but he was not in hell (Gehenna), for no one is sent there till after the last judgment.

A moment earlier, the rich man had addressed Abraham as “Father,” and here Abraham did not deny the fact of the rich man’s being one of the patriarch’s fleshly descendants. This circumstance makes it easy to identify the class of men represented by the rich man. Who but the Pharisees were always proclaiming their rights as children of Abraham (Matthew 3:8; John 8:37-44)? Mere fleshly descent was exposed in this parable as having no value in the sight of YHWH.

The great teaching in verse 26 is that death seals the soul’s destiny. There will be no crossing from one side to another after death has closed life’s day of opportunity. Such theologies as those related to the doctrine of purgatory are destroyed by the Savior’s words in this verse.

Verse 27 the ingrained selfishness of the rich man first appeared in the request that Lazarus be sent to himself, a selfishness that might be overlooked in view of his misery; but, when all thought of his own improvement was denied, his selfishness was continued in this request that was concerned with nobody except his own kin. Furthermore, there was an implied argument in this request, which was a way of asserting that he would never have come to such a place of torment, provided only that YHWH had made proper provision to establish his faith, such as sending someone back from the dead! Are not the Pharisees continually in view here? Were they not the ones always clamoring for a sign? This rich man was one of their very own.

Verse 29 ties this whole parable and its teachings into Yahshua’ conflict with the Pharisees, due to their unwillingness to hear, believe, and obey the Law of Moses. This shows that the opportunities of the rich man to know YHWH’s will were more than ample, there being no reason whatever why some special sign should have been provided for him. The same is true of every man.

In verse 30 it comes out. The rich man thoroughly understood why he was in torments. It was not because he was rich, but because he would not repent. The rich man’s desire that his brothers repent indicates that he had discovered that he was not in hell because he was rich, but because he had failed to repent of self-lordship and place himself under the Lordship of YHWH.

Verse 31 is a striking example of the truth of what Yahshua proclaimed here occurred not many days later in the resurrection of Lazarus; and there is no way to avoid the perception that Yahshua actually had that miracle in mind here. Lazarus (another one) did indeed come back from the grave in the very presence of the Pharisees; but did they repent? No! They set about to kill Lazarus. In a sense, Lazarus came to the Pharisees who were present when he rose from the dead.


This great parable teaches many things.

(1) the souls of men do not die with their bodies

(2) the soul is conscious after death

(3) the righteous go to a place of happiness, the wicked to a place of misery

(4) we should not envy the rich

(5) he who is lost in death is lost eternally

(6) YHWH’s word is sufficient to save men

Going back to Augustine and Gregory the Great, many brilliant students of the word of YHWH have found analogies in this parable with a scope of application broad as mankind itself.

Abraham is YHWH, who alone presides over the destinies of men.

The rich man is primarily the ecclesiastical establishment of Israel. They wore the purple of YHWH’s royal favor, and the white linen of the sacred priesthood, and fared sumptuously in the bountiful knowledge that YHWH delivered unto them in the Holy Scriptures.

Lazarus begging at the gate is the whole Gentile world lying in wretchedness, sin, and misery, which awful state Israel made no move whatever to alleviate.

The reversed status of Dives and Lazarus foretold the reversal of the status of the Jews and Gentiles in YHWH’s favor, as related so copiously by Paul in Romans.

The dogs that licked Lazarus’ sores correspond to the ineffectual treatment of the Gentiles’ wretched and sinful miseries by their philosophers, poets, and legislators.

The desire of the beggar to be fed suggests the longing of men’s souls for a truth which they have not; but a truth which the Jew had, and had richly; and which, if he had been faithful to his trust, he would have imparted to the benighted nations of the Gentiles.

It is in the primary application to the Pharisees and others like them in the leadership of Israel that the full impact of this remarkable parable appears. The Pharisees were not merely rich materially, but they were the custodians of the whole treasure of YHWH’s revelation to mankind; and it was their unfaithfulness to THAT TRUST, more than their mere misuse of money that earned them the denunciation apparent in this parable.