And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.
For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light. –Luke 16:8
In today’s gospel Jesus shares a parable that seems straightforward. There is a steward who is accused of squandering his master’s property. I’d like to note few things before we dive into the story. First, the Greek word that is used for “accuse,” carries with it a sense of defamation. Also, it doesn’t necessarily mean a truthful accusation. This word is often used to indicate someone being falsely accused. Second, the word “squandering” means to throw about recklessly. So, we need to bear in mind that the steward wasn’t stealing from his master; he just wasn’t very good at his job. And we’re not even sure he was guilty.
In any case, the master gives him the pink slip. The steward is directed to clean out his desk and get his records in order to pass on to the new guy. So far, everything seems pretty normal. Surely Jesus is going to bring this around to a story about how we should do our jobs well when put in a position of responsibility. But then the steward goes on to actually commit a crime. He cheats his master out of what is due to him in an effort to ingratiate him with the debtors, thereby guaranteeing him a welcome when he no longer has a job.
But this is where Jesus takes the parable down an unexpected road. The master praises the dishonest steward for acting wisely in securing his future. Are we to understand that Jesus is telling us that it’s all right to be dishonest if it serves you? I don’t think so. If I read on further in this chapter of Luke, we see that Jesus says that we cannot serve two masters: God and riches. But he does say we should become friends with riches. Could the lesson here be: do you provide for your future but don’t be a slave to it? Do you learn how the world of finance and riches works but use that knowledge in service to the community? Remember, in 1 Timothy it says, “The love of money is the root of all evil,” not money itself. As it is often said, we are in this world, but we don’t need to be OF this world.
My prayer for myself today is that I find a way to handle my “riches” in a manner that benefits us all and not hold them tightly for my own gain.
Talib Huff is a member of the retreat team at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center in Citrus Heights, California. You may reach him at [email protected].