Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Dishonest Steward

The Dishonest Steward

Luke 16:1-13

Yesterday my wife and I returned from Pennsylvania, having enjoyed three glorious days at a mountain lake retreat. Although we did not have the opportunity to see a bear, - we were able to encounter the goings on of a family of squirrels right outside our window. We all see squirrels every day, but rarely do we take the time to watch them up close. Squirrels are amazing and resourceful creatures – jumping between the tops of the tall pine trees, they are on a never ending quest in search of food. And the only thing on the minds of these Pennsylvania squirrels was “acorns.” each and every day there is only one goal – and that is “SURVIVAL.” And that means gathering nuts and acorns all day long – and burying them in the ground and storing them in old dead tree trunks, so that they will have the nourishment to survive the coming Pennsylvania winter. But alas, the squirrels many times make mistakes. They FORGET where they hide their food. And their forgetfulness can sometimes be a cause for tragedy. Yet this is their nature as God intended. Now for us human beings, God intended a different nature. The squirrel’s nature, as God intended it, lends itself to forgetfulness. Our human nature, as God intended it, lends itself to LOVE.

Today Jesus shares with us the story of the dishonest steward. In last week’s parable of the Prodigal son, a father who owns property decides to hand out an inheritance to a son, before his death. This is a parable of forgiveness and patience. Today we hear another story of a rich man who owns property. One can only wonder if this is the same rich man – the father of the prodigal son.

A rich man (master) employs a steward who has the responsibility to care for his property. The rich man has concluded that his steward has squandered his property. The rich man fires the steward – and he wants a full accounting. The steward, not wanting to do manual labor or become a beggar – thinks about his situation and comes up with a plan. He calls in his masters debtors, one by one he hands them promissory notes – he has them fill the notes out for amounts that are less than what is owed to the master. Now the debtors owed much to the master – 100 jugs of oil (about 900 gallons worth) – 100 containers of wheat (at least 1,000 bushels). This is no small debt. This is big business. When the master sees what the steward has done, he commends him for acting prudently. This is shocking. Why does the master commend the one who has been dishonest in his service? There are many different interpretations of this parable. Maybe the steward is waiving his commission to seek favor with the debtors. Now that he has lost his job, he may need the debtors – for a job, or just a good reference. Could the master be dishonest himself and finds a little bit of his own cunning in the steward? We just don’t know. What we do know is that the master is not commending the steward for his dishonesty – he commends him for his shrewdness. The steward sees his situation clearly and acts to the best of his ability to produce the best outcome. And that is exactly the point of Jesus’ parable.

Jesus wants us to “see clearly” – to discern our situation in terms of our relationship with God. St. Augustine says to “Love God, and do what you will.” We must ask ourselves “Do we love God?” If the answer is yes, we should want to do His will. Are we doing God’s will? We cannot love the material things of the world and also love God. Let us ask ourselves, are we being faithful in our response to God? How do we use the good gifts we have from God? Are WE being good stewards of God’s property?

The squirrel gathers his food and buries it in the ground to provide for his earthly survival. Let us gather all the grace needed for the journey to our heavenly home by serving each other in God’s love.

Let us pray,

Lord, all that I have is a gift from you. May I love you freely and generously with all that I possess. Help me to be a wise and faithful steward of my resources, including the use of my time, money, and possessions. Amen.

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