Parable of the Dishonest Steward

Luke 16: 1-8
Phil 3: 17—4:1 / Psa 122

For the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.
(Luke 16:8)

Being prudent in his trade had seemed
The way out for the steward’s plight,
But Jesus has already redeemed
The souls of the Children of Light.

Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose steward was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.’ The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, now that my master is taking away my job as a steward? I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their homes.’ So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. The steward told him, ‘Here is your promissory note, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ The master commended the dishonest steward because he had acted prudently. For the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. (Luke 16: 1-8)

Reflection

This must be one of the most difficult parables that our Lord Jesus related for our reflection. First of all, why did the rich master inform the corrupt steward that he was going to get rid of him while he still had the authority to handle his master’s business affairs? Then the steward cheated his master further by discounting the debts of the tenants who owed him their share of the crops, thinking he could win their favor for his future security. I’m sure those people would not even bother to give him the time of day when he went to them for a job, knowing what a cheat he was. Then, most puzzling of all, the rich master commended the dishonest steward for acting prudently (?!).

First of all, our Lord’s parable demonstrates the benevolence of the Master (God) in dealing even with His errant servants. He will give us all the chances to redeem ourselves. The psalmist tells of the great compassion of God, “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love”(Psa 145:8). St. Paul likewise said, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love He had for us, even when we were dead in trespasses, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:4-5). Unfortunately, (and here, Jesus knows our human nature), we are like the dishonest steward who piles sin upon sin by lying and scheming to get out of a difficult situation. Still, Jesus was not commending the steward for his dishonesty. He was merely giving him credit for thinking ahead to secure his future. If the “children of this world” could be farsighted enough to plan for their temporal well being, surely those who regard themselves as “children of light” have more prudence in preparing for their eternal future. We may not be as astute in dealing with the world’s kind, but as God’s stewards who deal with transparency in the bright light of Truth, we should be able to stand confidently at the Great Accounting on Judgment day. This, in fact, is the other message that our Lord may be telling us in today’s Gospel. As St. Paul said, “So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God” (Rom 14:12).

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever (Psa 118:26).” We know how guilty we are, Lord, for squandering the blessings that You entrusted to us. And yet you continue to give us opportunities to redeem ourselves because of Your great love. Forgive us, Lord for all our transgressions, and thank You for never giving up on us. Amen.

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