GOSPEL READING: Luke 16:1-8
1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a steward, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2 And he called him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ 3 And the steward said to himself, `What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, `How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, `A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, `Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, `And how much do you owe?’ He said, `A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, `Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness; for the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.”
Meditation: Do you make good use of your money and possessions? Jesus seemed to praise a steward (a manager entrusted with his master’s goods) who misused his employer’s money. What did the steward do that made Jesus praise him? The steward was responsible for managing his wealthy landowner’s property. The steward very likely overcharged his master’s tenants for their use of the land and kept more than his fair share of the profit. When the landowner discovered the steward’s dishonest practice he immediately removed him from his job, leaving him penniless and ashamed to beg or do manual work.
The necessity of prudent foresight to avert disaster
Before news of his dismissal became public knowledge, the shrewd steward struck a deal with his master’s debtors. In discounting their debts he probably was giving up his generous commission. Such a deal won him great favor with the debtors. Since the steward acted as the landowner’s agent, such a deal made his master look very generous and forgiving towards those who owned him money. Surely everyone would praise such a generous landowner as the town hero! Since the master could not undo the steward’s cancellation of the debts without losing face and making his debtors resent him, he praised the steward for outwitting him and making him appear as a generous and merciful landowner.
Jesus obviously thought that the example of a very clever steward would be a perfect illustration for a spiritual lesson about God and how God treats those who belong to his kingdom. What’s the point of Jesus’ parable? The dishonest steward is commended not for mishandling his master’s wealth, but for his shrewd provision in averting personal disaster and in securing his future livelihood. The original meaning of “shrewdness” is “foresight”. A shrewd person grasps a critical situation with resolution, foresight, and the determination to avoid serious loss or disaster.
Faith and prudent foresight can save us from moral and spiritual disaster
Jesus is concerned here with something more critical than a financial or economic crisis. His concern is that we avert spiritual crisis and personal moral disaster through the exercise of faith and foresight. If Christians would only expend as much foresight and energy to spiritual matters, which have eternal consequences, as they do to earthly matters which have temporal consequences, then they would be truly better off, both in this life and in the age to come.
God loves good stewardship and generosity
Ambrose, a 4th century bishop said: The bosoms of the poor, the houses of widows, the mouths of children are the barns which last forever. True wealth consists not in what we keep but in what we give away. Possessions are a great responsibility. The Lord expects us to use them honestly and responsibly and to put them at his service and the service of others. We belong to God and all that we have is his as well. He expects us to make a good return on what he gives us.
God loves generosity and he gives liberally to those who share his gifts with others. The Pharisees, however, had little room for God or others in their hearts. The Gospel says they were lovers of money (Luke 16:14). Love of money and wealth crowd out love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus makes clear that our hearts must either be possessed by God’s love or our hearts will be possessed by the love of something else. What do you most treasure in your heart?
1 O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
2 The LORD has made known his victory, he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
3 He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: Jesus recommends the foresight, prudence, and ingenuity of the steward, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
“Why did the Lord Jesus Christ present this parable to us? He surely did not approve of that cheat of a servant who cheated his master, stole from him and did not make it up from his own pocket. On top of that, he also did some extra pilfering. He caused his master further loss, in order to prepare a little nest of quiet and security for himself after he lost his job. Why did the Lord set this before us? It is not because that servant cheated but because he exercised foresight for the future. When even a cheat is praised for his ingenuity, Christians who make no such provision blush. I mean, this is what he added, ‘Behold, the children of this age are more prudent than the children of light.’ They perpetrate frauds in order to secure their future. In what life, after all, did that steward insure himself like that? What one was he going to quit when he bowed to his master’s decision? He was insuring himself for a life that was going to end. Would you not insure yourself for eternal life?” (excerpt from 359A.10.)