"For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light." Although this steward acted sinfully (as a son of the world), he was wise to the extent that he planned for his future physically. Disciples of Jesus (i.e., sons of light) are often lacking in the wisdom necessary to properly plan for their future, spiritually speaking. How sad it is that people of the world often work harder in their pursuit of material things than Christians do at laying up treasures in heaven (cf. Matt. 6:19-21)! Could it be that we work harder at the pursuit of material things than we do in pursuing spiritual blessings from God (cf. Luke 16:13)?
Let it be observed that though the steward's conduct is used to teach a valuable lesson, he is still condemned as "unjust." This lesson is definitely an argument in contrasts. If an unrighteous steward was commended by his earthly master for his forethought in providing for his future by a fraudulent use of what had been committed to him, then consider how much more a righteous servant will be commended by his heavenly Master for providing for eternity by a good use of what has been committed to him!
Jesus continued teaching on this theme in Luke 16:9-13:
"And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
A better translation of Luke 16:9 might be this: "Make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon that when it fails they may receive you into an everlasting home." Jesus is admonishing His disciples to use their material means to accomplish good that they might reap eternal benefits. Money is here called "unrighteous mammon" because it is generally used for evil deeds (cf. "filthy lucre" - I Tim. 3:8, KJV). It may also be called "unrighteous mammon" to clearly distinguish between it and true heavenly riches (cf. Luke 16:11).
To make friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness is simply an admonition to use one's money for benevolent purposes that will result in the salvation of others. This is the wise thing to do because eventually all physical wealth will fail, but money invested in heavenly treasure will not (cf. I Tim. 6:17-19).
The phrase "they may receive you" may be a reference to the friends one has made by the proper use of his money (e.g., investments in preaching to those who are lost, assisting the needy, etc.). If this is the case, then it is implied that we will recognize in heaven those we knew from earth.
God wants His sons of light to be equally shrewd and wise in the management of their affairs as are the sons of this world. However, we must only use those means and methods that are authorized by God.
In Luke 16:10, Jesus cautions His listeners to be faithful in their stewardship, whether they are rich or poor (i.e., whether they have been entrusted with little or much; cf. Matt. 25:14ff). Good stewardship is a matter of quality, not quantity. For instance, have you ever heard someone say: "If I had a million dollars I would give it to the church to preach the gospel and help others"? While such an attitude is noble, this person should be asked what they are doing now with what God has given them. If we are not faithful with a little, then we will not be faithful with much, despite our own claims to the contrary (cf. Luke 19:17)! This is true with regards to money, time, resources, knowledge, etc.
Let it not be forgotten that worldly riches are physical, deceitful, and temporary. True riches are spiritual, reliable, and eternal. If one desires to be entrusted with true riches, he must prove his stewardship in material things (this is how heavenly treasures are stored up!). If we are wasting God's "goods" with self-indulgent living, how can we expect to be found faithful as a steward (and therefore able to be trusted with "the true riches")?
Luke 16:12 reiterates the truth that the things of this world do not belong to us; they are merely loaned to us and we must demonstrate our responsibility as good stewards (cf. I Chr. 29:14). Those who are faithful will go to heaven and be entrusted with that which is their own (cf. Matt. 25:29). May we not be deceived into thinking that our loyalty can be divided between God and this world (cf. Matt. 6:24,33; James 4:4).
Dear friends, what kind of steward are you? Are you faithfully managing God's things that He has entrusted to you or are you "wasting His goods" and consequently serving another master?