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Sermon Preparation Part 2 - Making Notes About Exegesis - by C. Matthew McMahon

Sermon Preparation and Guidelines for Expository Preaching

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“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18). (i.e. exegeted the Father).

Making Notes About Exegesis

After the exegetical work has been completed on the text, it is important to take time and compile a set of notes that will ultimately be refined down into the first aspect of the sermon – giving the congregation the intended meaning of the text.

Using our example of Luke 16:1-8, we should also, at some point, consider verses 9-18 as part of the overall intent of the passage. It will have a bearing on the current verses if we decide to preach a sermon on verses 1-8, and then on verses 9-18. But for our example, to keep it relatively simple, we will focus only on Luke 16:1-8.

Summary Luke 16:1-8

This passage seems to be two sections linked together into one by Luke (who is always careful and very specific about the Greek construction he uses in nay text (whether Luke or Acts).

Luke 16:1-8 – the main point surrounds the commendation of the Master to the unjust steward. That is the key, central focus of the parable – the climax.

It is the most difficult of parables – This is most difficult to deal with because of the fact that Christ (who represents the Master) commends an unjust man for acting craftily. (Liberals often use this parable to discredit Jesus) . But it is a very rich parable concerning the mercy of the Master and the character of the Master. Two points that will fill out the second portion of the sermon.

The parable revolves around the question of integrity and purpose.

The difficult question here: Is the Master honorable? Or a partner in crime? Or in layman’s terms “Why would Jesus tell us about an honorable wicked man?”

This parable is set in Luke’s account of the eschatological parables he is giving to the Pharisees in light of the Kingdom coming upon them and all of Israel in His first coming.  What does this mean? These parables answer the question: “What will a person do when the Kingdom comes upon them?…”

The parable is told in order to illicit a reaction from his disciples in the hearing of the Pharisees, “He also said to His disciples:” Luke 16:1.

It is set in the context of 3 eschatological parables on salvation:
Lazarus = honorable
Rich man = wicked

Father = honorable
Prodigal = wicked

Master = honorable
Steward = wicked (unjust)

For the Master, the problem was hearing about wasted property, and the remedy was to call the steward into account.  The steward knew his job was terminated, but that he had some time to “fend” for himself, so he devised a plan to remedy his financial and job situation upon the mercy and character of the Master. He threw himself completely onto the character of the mercy of the Master.

In wholly leaning upon the mercy of the master, (i.e. the mercy of the prodigal’s father, or the mercy of God with Lazarus), each demonstrate the eschatological nature of the coming of the Kingdom and the needed remedy of salvation and repentance.

However, Jesus rebukes the “disciples” as a result of their ignorance, since the sons of the this world, who are interested in financial gain, are more “crafty” in the manner they attain their own temporary goals than that of those seeking spiritual goals.

There is a sub-motif that unjust stewards will be judged, or held accountable for their stewardship – but this is secondary to the eschatological purpose of Christ’s parable.

Mammon, in the next few verses, then addresses Luke’s concern to be sure the reader does have a clear view of what how finances work in light of the coming of the Kingdom.

The are notes to be made on Relevant Language/Cultural work:

The Estate Manager, or steward (οἰκονόμον (Luke 16:1)) on behalf of the master; he is the full manager of the house.

The Problem and remedy– wasted “property” (Luke 16:1b)

The land was used to grow crops and yield a return. People paid rent to the Master (and his steward) to use the land for their own “business.”

The steward had not inflated the bills, but was making money under the table. It would have been publicly known in the documents- immediately.

The Master is given information by someone in the community. (If the whole community knew, he would have been forced to leave. One knew of this since the community in those days would have been very closely knit together.)

Literally, “What is this I am continually hearing?” (Luke 16:2)  This news happened more than once. The Greek tense: he “Had been and continues to hear.”  This could have been a result of a house servant witnessing the unjust stewards dealings with the money of the house? Possibly one had seen the act, and so the master finally confronts the steward after repeated statements made to him.

IMPORTANT: The steward is silentvery important; He is fired on the spot; The Master and Steward both know this.  He is told to turn in the books, not balance them; otherwise the Master would have been foolish because the steward could have taken time to He would have embezzled more (cultural note: Here the listener would be expecting the steward to defend his innocence – be he does not.)

The steward knows he is guilty, he knows the master knows this, he knows that disobedience = judgment, and that he cannot get his job back by making excuses. He sees he is fired but not jailed.

Disobedience = judgment He is also shown mercy, the mercy of the Master. Do not miss this!

The Solution and Commendation (Luke 16:3-7)

Who would have him now? Public Image is at stake – what will the community think?  Will he be cast out of the community?  Manual Labor? Begging? The steward decides to summon the debtors.

The debtors only come because it would have been normative for the steward to deal on behalf of the master.  They believe he has a message from the master, otherwise, if they knew the unjust steward has lost his job then they would never risk the anger of the master who is renting to them.

The steward indirectly asks these questions as if he still has authority and expresses the Master’s generosity.

He wants to give them a deal, but this is unusualUsually it would have been the case for the renters to argue the land owner down on the price. The debtors agree to the reduction, which is sometimes common as a result of crops production, bad weather, etc.

However, if they knew the steward’s plan, they would not threaten their relationship with the master by cheating him.

The Master praises the steward’s wisdom. (Luke 16:8)

The Master is not a partner in crime with the Steward.

The debtors now love the master more: If the master takes the “deal” back from the renters, they would become angry.

Since the master is silent – they see him as heroic, “their hero,” worthy of praise.

φρονίμως, prudently, wisely with craft. (v 8)

The Greek word crosses over from a Hebrew word “hokmah” “wisdom” (חָ֭כְמָה)  The idea here is “self-preservation, a resolution to do so.”  Proverbs 4:7, “Wisdom is the principle thing…”

We know the master does not praise a crooked heart because he does not hire back the steward. This is subtle to us today, but very blatant to the hearers of the parable, possible doctrine – the Master chose to pay the price for the steward’s shrewdness.

Two Important Points in Light of the Coming of the Kingdom

Of Judgment; eschatologically, (Matthew 4:17, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heb. 9:27, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”)

The books will one day be required by everyone – The Steward was not expecting the Master to speak with him in this way.

The Master’s Character was Righteous = Just in his Judgment. (Jeremiah 9:23-24, “Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD.” Job 36:17, “But you are filled with the judgment due the wicked; Judgment and justice take hold of you.” Isaiah 9:7, “Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”)

Possible doctrine. Temporary benefits all find their purpose in Jesus Christ, the fountain of God’s mercy.

Possible doctrine: The Steward’s Trust – Entrusting everything to the quality of mercy in the Master. Not a blind faith!  But a trust based on knowledge He knew the Master was like this – not guessed, hoped, etc.  He knew the people would then care for him after losing his job.  A stratagem for life-preservation!

Disciples who follow Jesus need this same kind of trust. (Matthew 8:10, “When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” 2 Cor. 3:3, “And we have such trust through Christ toward God.” John 12:36, “”While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”)

At this Point:

Once exegeisis is completed and notes are made of the context and information based on the study, it would be beneficial for the exegete to check his work. Cultural works, commentaries, word studies, lexicographical studies and the like are helpful. Here are some examples:

Cultural Comparison of Luke 16:1-8 and Luke 16:9-13 (14) – See Kenneth Bailey, Poet and Peasant, Page 111.

  1. In the parable there is a master, a steward and a problem between them.  In verse 9 there is no master, no steward and no problem between them.
  2. The steward is penniless in the parable, and considers begging and farm labor.  In verse 9 the man with mammon presumably has a significant sum of “mammon.”  He is offered “advice” on how to spend it.
  3. The steward makes reductions for the relatively rich.  In verse 9 the man with mammon is encouraged to give to the poor (presumably.)
  4. The steward is dealing with someone else’s money.  The man with mammon is dealing with “his own money” (though it be God’s – Matt note.)
  5. In the parable, the steward is already in the crisis.  He is dismissed.  The man with mammon is encouraged to plan for his future.  His crisis is in the indefinite future.
  6. The steward’s problem is his own sin, and his master’s expectations.  The man with mammon faces the problem of insecurity of worldly goods.
  7. the steward is dealing with debts not yet due.  The man with mammon is offered advice about cash in hand.
  8. We will note below a relationship between verse 9 and 13.  In verse 13 a servant is mentioned.  The parable speaks of a steward.
  9. The steward is unfaithful and unrighteous.  The character of the man with mammon is not criticized.


The poem is arranged in Greek VERY carefully.  It is very poetic utilizing a number of different poetic techniques to make the point of the poem very striking – which helps the reader understand the section.

Why is the poem placed directly after the parable if there is no “immediate” connection in Jesus’ teaching?

As a non-Hebrew, Theophilus (to whom Luke is writing) could have easily misunderstood the line of thought Luke (Jesus) was intending in this section, so he placed this teaching (a poem written by a very skilled and careful poet (Jesus)) on mammon in this section to further clarify finances.  It seems (in the Greek) that Luke may have moved the section from after verse 16 to before it.

Eschatological Warning – 16:1-8 – directed to the unjust steward (i.e. the stewards of God’s people the Pharisees).

Money and the life to come: the Pharisees 16:9-15

Eschatological warning 16:16. “pressing into the kingdom” (This almost seems like it should go after verse 8)

IMPORTANT – Someone who misunderstands the parable, who is not familiar with a Hebrew community, as Theophilus would not have been in this case, would have misunderstood (As the Liberals do, and often we do) what this parable is actually teaching (eschatologically).  He would have thought Jesus was teaching “dishonesty” in the parable.  Luke corrects this by adding in this section right after the parable on how to deal with your finances in light of God’s truth.  No, Jesus is not teaching dishonesty.

Bailey Links the whole section together to continue the thought, but this must be broken up in “sermons.”


Friends of the “mammon of unrighteousness” is not a negative connotation.  Luke inserts Jesus’ teaching at this point on how Theophilus should understand money as a steward.

  • He is to make friends with it; i.e. use if for good; even though it is “unrighteous” or used in that way normally by men.
  • He will receive a reward for utilizing it in a manner to glorify God and help those in need; i.e. he will be received into an “everlasting habitation.” An OT “idea” for heaven.
  • Verse 11 is a “proverbial transition” which is demonstrated by the “If therefore…” i.e., if the former is true, thus, “wisdom” would be to implement what I am about to say next.
  • Faithful men are faithful in both the least they do (making friends with unrighteous mammon) and much (whatever much may be.)
  • The crux of this poem, and Luke’s application of the parable in this way for Theophilus, is based on the character of the steward – whether good or bad, whether faithful in little or not faithful.
  • Those who are unjust with little (like the unjust steward) are also unjust with much. Its by their nature.
  • If Theophilus is unfaithful with temporary riches, how could God entrust him with everlasting riches? (Thus, being Rich = difficult to get into the Kingdom)
  • If you are unjust in your dealings with men, how will men deal justly with you? Will they not deal unjustly with you as well?  Of course they will! Is the point.
  • Servitude to a master cannot be compromised, only one can be served in full capacity at any one time. Universal negative stated – “cannot” serve 2 masters.
  • Use the worldly goods of the world (mammon) for the glory of God in a manner pleasing to God to the best of your ability.
  • The Pharisees, in hearing this, lifted up their nose at him. They did not speak in this instance, but the facial expression noted by Luke is enough.


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