Q & A Series: What does it mean in Luke 16:9, ‘make friends with mammon of unrighteousness’?



By Craig Bluemel




Original Message -----

From Maggie

To: Craig

Sent: Friday, April 28, 2006 1:01 AM

Subject: THANK YOU


Dear Craig,


Thank you for your answer to my inquiry about Malachi 4:4-5 which was very helpful to me. I thank you very much for the  time and effort you put into it. I would like to ask you about another verse, Luke 16:9. What does it mean to “make friends with mammon of unrighteousness”?



Many thanks, in Jesus love,





Craig’s Answer:



Hi Maggie,


I’m glad you asked about the meaning of this verse; this passage is best understood by viewing its content in the overall context (as should always be the case).  To understand the background information that helps us interpret the meaning of Luke 16:9, below is a description of the Jewish tax collectors, with whom Jesus was speaking and teaching when interrupted by the grumbling and complaining of the Pharisees concerning these men.


Tax collectors mentioned in the context were employed by Roman publicans.  The Greek word translated ‘tax collector’ in the Amplified Bible is incorrectly rendered as ‘publican’ by the King James Version.  Publicans were wealthy men, usually non-Jewish, who contracted with the Roman government to be responsible for the taxes of a particular district of the imperial Roman state.  These publicans would often be backed by military force.


By sharp contrast, the tax collectors to which the New Testament refers (with the possible exception of Zaccheus) were employed by publicans to do the actual collecting of monies in the restricted areas where they lived.  These men were Jews, usually not very wealthy, who could be seen in the Temple (Luke 18:13).  They were probably familiar to the people from whom they collected taxes.


These tax collectors gathered several different types of taxes.  Rome levied upon the Jews a land tax, a poll tax, even a tax for the operation of the Temple.  The distinctions between the kinds of rule, which a given province received, dictated what type of taxes its people had to pay.  Some provinces, like Galilee, were not under an imposing form of government and therefore the taxes collected stayed in the province, instead of being forwarded to the royal treasury at Rome.  These differences within the taxation system prompted the Pharisees in Judea (an imperial province) to ask Jesus, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”  (Matthew 22:17).


The tax collectors were despised by their fellow Jews, especially the Pharisees and scribes, whose pockets were frequently pinched because they owned land.  Tax collectors were castigated by them as “especially wicked sinners” (Matthew 9:10-11; Luke 15:1-3; Mark 2:15), probably because they were allowed to gather more than the government required and then to pocket the excess amount.  John the Baptist dealt with this issue when he urged tax collectors to gather no more money than they should (Luke 3:12-13).  Also, tax collectors were hated because their fellow countrymen viewed them as a para-government, private militia, working for Rome, whom they considered to be foreign oppressor of the Jewish people.


Jesus, however, set a new precedent among the Jews by accepting and associating with the tax collectors.  He ate with them (Mark 2:16), showed them mercy and compassion (Luke 19:9), and he even chose a tax collector (Matthew) as one of His twelve disciples (Matthew 9:9).  Jesus fellowshipped impartially with the tax collectors, and he contrasted their willingness to repent of their sins to the arrogance and pompous attitudes of the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes (Luke 18:9-14; Matthew 9:11-13).


The context begins in Luke 15:1-10 below; I have inserted {bracketed words} in this text from the Amplified Bible because it will assist in maintaining the reader’s retentive ability.  Identifying the people spoken to, spoken about, and those who actually do the speaking is the key to laying a good foundation for interpretation of difficult verses such as Luke 16:9.  Also, note I have highlighted in red color font words and phrases that have substantial relevance to our hermeneutics (i.e. study of Scripture).



Luke 15:1-2 Now the tax collectors and notorious and especially wicked sinners were all coming near to Jesus to listen to Him.  2 And the Pharisees and the scribes kept muttering and indignantly complaining, saying, “This man accepts, receives, and welcomes preeminently wicked sinners and {he} eats with them.” 


Luke 15:3-7 So, He {Jesus} told them this parable, 4 “What man of you, if he has a hundred sheep and should lose one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness (desert) and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?  5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his own shoulders, rejoicing.  6 And when he gets home, he summons together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep which was lost.’  7 Thus, I tell you {meaning ‘you Pharisees’}, there will be more joy in heaven over one especially wicked person who repents, changes his mind, abhorring his errors and misdeeds, and determines to enter upon a better course of life, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who have no need of repentance.”


Luke 15:8-10 “Or what woman, having ten silver drachmas, each one equal to a day's wages, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and look carefully and diligently until she finds it?  9 And when she has found it, she summons her women friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the silver coin which I had lost.’  10 Even so, I tell you {here, ‘you’ is being spoken to Jesus’ other listening audience, the tax-collectors}, there is joy among and in the presence of the angels of God over one, “especially wicked” person who repents & changes his mind for the better, heartily amending his ways, with abhorrence of his past sins.” Amplified Bible


In Luke 15:3-7, Jesus speaks the parable of “the man” who has lost one of his 100 sheep, and is so distressed over the loss, he “leaves” the other “ninety-nine” sheep (i.e. the Pharisees, scribes, and other religious people that think they’re too hoity-toity to repent) and goes searching for the lost one. 


The ‘man’ in the parable is Jesus, who is the Jewish Messiah; the “one lost sheep” that the man finds is referring to the “tax collectors,” which the “other 99” sheep (the Pharisees and scribes) considered “especially wicked sinners.”


This parable is a story that both tax collectors and the Pharisees can relate to; Jesus is directing his words toward them in verse 3-7.  Pharisees were lovers of money, like the leaders of the ‘blab-it-and-grab-it’ pseudo-gospel of avarice today.  Most of their hierarchy were very wealthy men, having obtained their material possessions, including land, farms, herds, flocks of sheep etc, having “fleeced” the human flock!  Sound familiar?


The Pharisees are typical of what is happening today among the alleged “prosperity teachers” who stealthily coerce their listening audience with rhetoric of intimidation.  Their words are drenched in lies, which purport that God’s “blessing” is withheld from Christians that “aren’t obedient to God” and withheld from those who “refuse to plant a seed” (of cash money) into their ministry!   Like these prosperity preachers, the Pharisees gained notoriety and wealth by abusing God’s people thru the use of their religious positions as Jewish leaders.


The second parable of the woman losing and finding the drachma is spoken and directed by Jesus toward the tax collectors, whose exacting revenue collection standards never let pass even the most insignificant amount of coinage as they levied their taxes.  If you read Luke 15:8-10 carefully, you’ll distinguish that Jesus touches the very heart of greed that is remaining in the selfishness of any tax collector that may perhaps excuse his behavior, exempt himself from God’s judgment, or consider misusing Jesus’ teaching as an excuse for his wayward practices of unfairly over-taxing people. 


This rebuke from Jesus to the tax collectors is punctuated by the way he describes the TYPE of repentance necessary for them to enter the kingdom of heaven (see the last half of verse 10, “…heartily amending his ways, with abhorrence of his past sins.”



The Meaning of Making Friends with Mammon of Unrighteousness


Luke 16:1-3 Also Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a certain rich man {the rich man represents God the Father; see verse 13} who had a manager of his estate, and accusations against this man {the manager} were brought to him, {were brought to the rich man} that he {the manager} was squandering his master's estate.  2 And he called him and said to him, ‘what is this that I hear about you?  Turn in the account of your management of my affairs, for you can be my manager no longer.’


Luke 16:3-8 And the manager of the estate said to himself, ‘what shall I do, seeing that my master is taking the management away from me?  I am not able to dig, and I am ashamed to beg.  4 I have come to know what I will do, so that they my master's debtors may accept and welcome me into their houses when I am put out of the management. 5 So he summoned his master's debtors one by one, and he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, ‘A hundred measures; i.e. about 900 gallons of oil.’  And he said to him, ‘Take back your written acknowledgement of obligation, and sit down quickly and write fifty; i.e. about 450 gallons.  7 After that he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’  He said, ‘A hundred measures; i.e. about 900 bushels of wheat.’  He said to him, ‘Take back your written acknowledgement of obligation, and write eighty; i.e. about 700 bushels.’  8 And his master praised the dishonest (unjust) manager for acting shrewdly and prudently; for the sons of this age are shrewder and more prudent and wiser in relation to their own generation; i.e. to their own age and kind; than are the sons of light.”


Luke 16:1a certain rich man = this refers to God the Father


Luke 16:1 a manager of his estate = this illustration best relates to the tax collectors, who managed the tax affairs for their wealthy employers, the Publicans; nevertheless, the spiritual precepts found in the illustration had application to all sinners who owe God a debt (for their sins).


Luke 16:1 accusations against this man = again, the illustration best relates to the tax collectors, who symbolize all sinners.  Also, notice that the accusations against this man were brought to the rich man; this is a metaphor for the record of each person’s life, what he or she says and does in this life, when standing before the Judge of heaven and earth in the Day of final Judgment, when God judges the world THRU A MAN Jesus Christ.


Acts 17:30-31 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”  New American Standard Bible


Luke 16:1 he was squandering his master's possessions = just like all men have gone astray; specifically, the Greek word for “squandered” is used elsewhere in the New Testament for the sheep “scattered” when they have no true shepherds to lead them.


Luke 16:2 And he called him = just like all mankind are called; many are called by God, but few are chosen because few repent God the Father.


Luke 16:2 for you can be my manager no longer = though this illustration best relates to the mundane affairs of the tax collectors, who managed the affairs of their wealthy Publican employers.  However, the spiritual lesson to learn from this has direct applicability to our main text in Luke 16:9 because the views extrapolated from this parable apply to every single person.  Even more specific, this parable has applicability in context to the following religious leaders in this order:


1)     The Jewish religious leaders, the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, etc.


2)     The spiritual shepherds throughout all of history, but especially those in the Church of the Lord and Master Jesus Christ 


Those who are given “much” in this life by God, whether ‘much’ is material wealth, or whether ‘much’ is a spiritual calling and God’s gifts and anointing.  The shrewd, but ungodly manager, realizing that his ‘sin’ had surely found him out, had precious little time to redeem his misbehavior and ill-gotten gain, and was forced to readily and rapidly prepare for his earthly future income.


Having been employed most all of his adult life as a ‘manager’ meant that he had very little skills or physical strength to find work outside of his ruined reputation and his sudden loss of a job.  In spite of his employer’s imminent judgment, he acted wisely by reducing the debts that were owed by his employer’s other debtors.  The shrewd manager’s inherent management abilities surfaced almost instantly when necessity became the author of invention.


The manager now recognized that in this life, he would need to rely on other’s generosity.  In the culture of the day, eastern hospitality meant that if a person was accepted into another’s home as their guest, it can actually mean a lifetime of sustenance as a visitor.  So, the manager used his master’s written certificates of debt as his trump card, reducing all the debtor’s owed amounts, knowing he was about to trod the road of judgment in poverty.


Many pastors, preachers, and teachers in the prosperity movement are living off of the generosity of ignorant Christians.  These are believers whose spiritual life has been so shallow they give financially really believing they are “planting prosperity seeds” for their own “blessing” from God.


The master praised the actions of the squandering manager, because in his loss he saw that the man acted shrewdly, and though hastily and under pressure of imminent judgment, he had the wherewithal to prepare for his future.  In this light, Jesus says that the ‘sons of this age’ (meaning worldly unbelievers) act more wisely in worldly affairs than do the ‘spiritual managers’ act in the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus implicates the Pharisees as likened unto the ‘squandering’ aspect of the manager, because they as spiritual leaders had squandered their role as shepherds of Israel, God’s people.




However, because of the other two parables spoken just prior to that of the shrewd manager, his prudent actions in making preparations for his immediate sustenance and earthly future relate to how the “tax collectors” and the “especially wicked” person who repents in response to the imminent judgment throne of God which Jesus warns will come.  In this light, we now read our main verse and its surrounding context in Luke 16:9-17, with the same highlights and inserted words and phrases as before:


Luke 16:9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails, they whom you have favored may receive and welcome you into the everlasting habitations (dwellings).


Luke 16:9 And I tell you = Jesus now speaks directly to his own disciples…


Luke 16:9 make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon = win souls for the kingdom of heaven and God by using material things to care for the needs of those in need; James says to teach those who are rich to be ‘rich in generosity and sharing,


1 Timothy 6:17-19 Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.  18 Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. New American Standard Bible


Luke 16:9 so that when it fails = meaning so that when material possessions i.e. money, or ‘mammon’ and material wealth no longer have any affect upon people.  This only applies when the time comes for you to die, and when your physical life ends, your spirit and soul depart from this life, entering into the eternal realm.


Luke 6:24-26But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.  25 Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry.  Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.  26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets.  New American Standard Bible


Matthew 6:19-24 Jesus said, “Do not gather and heap up and store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust and worm consume and destroy, and where thieves break through and steal.  20 But gather and heap up and store for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust nor worm consume and destroy, and where thieves do not break through and steal; 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  22 The eye is the lamp of the body.  So, if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light.  23 But if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the very light in you is darkened, how dense is that darkness!  24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon; i.e. deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in.” Amplified Bible


Luke 16:9 they whom you have favored may receive and welcome you into the everlasting habitations (dwellings).= meaning those people that you demonstrated love, mercy and compassion to by caring for their physical needs with your material wealth, so that they could see and know that you are truly a disciple of Christ, and filled with God’s love, thereby winning them as converts to the gospel, and making them also sons of light, so they too might share an ‘eternal dwelling’ in the kingdom of heaven.


Luke 16:10 He who is faithful in a very little [thing] is faithful also in much, and he who is dishonest and unjust in a very little [thing] is dishonest and unjust also in much.


He who is faithful in a very little thing

meaning he or she that has been faithful to use whatever they own to further God’s eternal purposes thru the use of the ‘littleness’ of material wealth.  The term ‘little’ is meant to be a comparison to the eternal riches that are to be found in Jesus Christ


is faithful also in much

meaning there is much, much more to be done when we cross from this earth into a new heaven and new earth, and our inheritance in God’s eternal kingdom has direct proportions to what ‘little’ we have been faithful with while here in this physical life


he who is dishonest and unjust in a very little thing is dishonest and unjust also in much

the implications here for those Christians—especially those Christian teachers and shepherds—that have squandered all that they possessed in this life, woe be unto them in the next.


Luke 16:11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the [case of] unrighteous mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions), who will entrust to you the true riches?


Therefore if you have not been faithful in the case of unrighteous mammon; i.e. deceitful riches, money, possessions; who will entrust to you the true riches?

The parallels between the unfaithful Jewish leaders, the Pharisees and scribes and today’s “prosperity gospel” teachers and pastors, who love money more than God and His people, especially the widows, orphans, and the needy and poor


Luke 16:12 And if you have not proved faithful in that which belongs to another; whether God or man, who will give you that which is your own that is, the true riches?


The tax collectors would certainly have best related to this statement because they knew whether or not they had proven faithful or unfaithful to that which belongs to someone else in higher authority (i.e. the Publican they worked on behalf of collecting taxes).  But Jesus takes this parable and its spiritual likeness to the next level, making it applicable to all who are in Christ, and who all have responsibility.


Luke 16:13-14 No servant is able to serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (riches, or anything in which you trust and on which you rely). 14 Now the Pharisees, who were covetous and lovers of money, heard all these things taken together, and they began to sneer at and ridicule and scoff at Him.  15 But He said to them, “You are the ones who declare yourselves just and upright before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted and highly thought of among men is detestable and abhorrent (an abomination) in the sight of God.  16 Until John came, there were the Law and the Prophets; since then the good news (the Gospel) of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone strives violently to go in would force his own way rather than God's way into it. 17 Yet it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to fail and become void. Amplified Bible


In closing, not much else needs to be explained, as the text of Luke 16:13-14 is very self-explanatory.  Today, we see the false teachers that are wolves in sheep’s clothing, parading on television like pompous, arrogant, lovers of money, self-righteous, and greedy Pharisees.  These are the ones Jesus is describing and whom God will one day judge, because they scoff at those who suffer, and who are in need, and who are sickly, saying that they “lack faith.”  These wicked, despicable wrongdoers and purveyors of evil, will one day, like the squandering manager, but without the repentance of the tax collectors and sinners, will find themselves on the wrong side of an awesome God.


Hebrews 10:30-31 For we know him that hath said, “Vengeance belongs unto me, I will repay,” says the Lord.  And again, “The Lord shall judge his people.”  31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  King James Version


It is the true and living word of God in Scripture; I hope I have done it justice for you Maggie.


Love in Jesus~




Craig Bluemel

The Bible Answer Stand Ministry

1 Peter 3:15 Always be ready to give reasonable justification to anyone who asks you for an explanation of the hope that is within you,  but do it considerately and courteously.




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