This coming Sunday, the 25th In Ordinary Time, we hear another parable from the Gospel of Luke, and the wisdom Jesus derives from it.
The parable that leads this Sunday’s reading exhibits Jesus having a bit of fun as story teller and teacher.
He tells the story of a crook to urge his followers to righteousness.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”
Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”
‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.
‘And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?
‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’
Jesus delights in the creativity of the dishonest steward. He urges such creativity on his disciples.
In the parable, the steward is inventive and effective not only in drawing others into his scheme but earning the praise of his master. ‘He might be a crook but he’s our sort of crook!’
Jesus does not praise the crookedness, but longs for the children of light to give themselves over the more fully to the work of winning people not for this world only, but for the kingdom of God.
Church and world. London. (c) 2012, Allen Morris