Although the parable of the dishonest manager is sometimes read literally, particularly by churches promoting the idea that the church or its ministers should be shrewd in financial matters, it is often missed that Jesus explains the parable in verse 15 where he identifies the laughing Pharisees as the target of the parable.
The text does not makes sense without being read with irony. While those reading without allowing irony see the defrauded master praising the man who is defrauding him to “eternal dwellings” meaning heaven, the reader with an eye and ear for irony will see the “eternal dwellings” being the grave (as Psalm 49:11, Ecclesiastes 12:5, etc.)
11 Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they called lands by their own names. (Psalm 11:49 ESV)
– Note that the Greek Septuagint rendering of Psalm 49:1 (numbered LXX 48:12) is very close to the Greek used by Luke 16:9: καὶ οἱ τάφοι αὐτῶν οἰκίαι αὐτῶν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα σκηνώματα αὐτῶν εἰς γενεὰν καὶ γενεάν ἐπεκαλέσαντο τὰ ὀνόματα αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τῶν γαιῶν αὐτῶν
Regarding the laws of God short-changed by the Scribes and the Pharisees, this would cover many examples, such as the corrupt writing of Corban letters in Mark 7:11, but Christ’s comments after the parable of the unjust steward conclude with the example of writing divorce letters, one of the most corrupt ways for Scribes and Pharisees to profit from a Jewish man cutting off his wife without alimony and taking another.
Read now the full text of the parable and following explanation, which extends to verse 18.
Full text of the Parable of the Dishonest Manager, with Christ’s following comments (Luke 16:1-18)
16:1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3 And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. 16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. 18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
The following parable
The context continues to tell the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, which is again targeted at Jewish religious leaders, but more specifically at Caiaphas and his family who were Sadducees not Pharisees.