If we had invested our money with Bernie Madoff, we might not appreciate the story Jesus tells in the Gospel reading. Madoff had billions of dollars from other people who trusted him to invest their money wisely and prudently. His Ponzi scheme was so clever, his costumers thought they were making money, not losing money. Individuals, corporations and foundations lost everything to Madoff’s greed. His greed and the losses he caused were enormous and unimaginable. The scheme is named after Charles Ponzi, who became notorious for using the technique back in the early 1920s. Crooks have always been with us!!
Jesus seems to compliment the steward who wisely schemed to protect himself. The steward had mishandled his employer’s funds and was about to be fired. He strategically called in his employer’s debtors and reduced the amounts they owed. By doing this, the steward hoped to be able to find alternative employment with one of them. Surprisingly, the employer, far from being angry, praises the farsightedness of his dishonest steward. Like Madoff, the steward acted with shrewdness and intelligence, according to the steward’s boss.
Jesus is not really condoning the steward’s dishonesty and corruption. His point is that even greedy people who defraud others work hard at providing for their futures. We, as children of the light, must also work hard to prepare for our future, for the final judgment. We should be taking the necessary steps to guarantee our future life with God, not by greed or dishonesty, but by building a life, here and now, based on truth and integrity, on love, compassion and justice. Our future is best prepared for not by fraud or by getting people to like us, but by reflecting to others the image of Christ in our words and deeds. Our work is to build up the kingdom of God by making God’s will our own will. If we do this on a daily basis, even though we are not always successful, then we have nothing to worry about and our future is assured.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.