The Shrewd and Dishonest Steward

Luke 16: 1-8
Rom 15:14-21 / Psa 98

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

Being shrewd in his trade may seem
The way out for the steward’s plight,
But what he can never redeem
Belongs to the Children of Light.

Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose steward was accused of squandering his property. So he summoned him and said, ‘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?’ ‘One hundred measures of olive oil,’ he replied. The steward told him, ‘Here is your promissory note, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ ‘A hundred kors of wheat,’ he replied. He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest steward for acting prudently. For the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.” (Luke 16: 1-8)


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 fire 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, unlike the other parables of our Lord, the rich master in this parable does not represent God. If he commended his steward for acting prudently (meaning shrewdly) it was because he himself attained his wealth by manipulative ways, charging his tenants exorbitant fees. The dishonest steward was his protégé who had learned the craft well. “For the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.” (Luke 16:8) There’s the rub. Our Lord was telling His disciples that if the dishonest steward could act prudently by thinking of his future once he lost his job, how much more for them, the “children of light” should be thinking of their own eternal future.

In the same manner, if the master of this world (Satan) could commend the shrewdness of the dishonest steward, how much more would God, our Father commend His disciples for their prudence in preparing for their heavenly inheritance. St. Paul wrote, “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” (Eph. 2:4-5). Unfortunately, there are some like the dishonest steward who pile sin upon sin by lying and scheming to get out of difficult situations. Physical labor or begging would have been the nobler option as recompense for their sins.

We may not be as astute in dealing with this world’s kind, but as God’s stewards in our own individual businesses who deal with transparency in the bright light of Truth, (Be honest even if others are not!) we can stand confidently at the Great Accounting on Judgment day. This could well be the true message that our Lord is 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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