The Gospel: Luke 16:1-13
Jesus said to his disciples,
“A rich man had a steward
who was reported to him for squandering his property.
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 the position of steward away from me?
I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.
I know what I shall do so that,
when I am removed from the stewardship,
they may welcome me into their homes.’
He called in his master’s debtors one by one.
To the first he said,
‘How much do you owe my master?’
He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’
He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note.
Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’
Then to another the steward said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’
He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’
The steward said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note;
write one for eighty.’
And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.
“For the children of this world
are more prudent in dealing with their own generation
than are the children of light.
I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,
so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
The person who is trustworthy in very small matters
is also trustworthy in great ones;
and the person who is dishonest in very small matters
is also dishonest in great ones.
If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth,
who will trust you with true wealth?
If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another,
who will give you what is yours?
No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
After the Gospel:
You can picture the steward sitting there: middle-aged, beard more grey than black, wearing a turban and an expensive robe with flowing sleeves, rings on each hand, large keys hanging from his sash – scrolls spread across the table.
He’s an important person, trusted to manage all his master’s properties, someone who doesn’t do common labor. But this guy is a crook. He just got caught cheating his employer. Caught and fired.
In today’s world, he’d be called in Friday afternoon at 3:00, told to pack his things, clean out his desk, turn over his keys, and be escorted by security out the front door.
This steward, however, had time to stick around for a last few last actions, which is when our story kicks in: his dilemma is obvious, and he ended up deciding that, instead of letting events control him and his fate, he will control events.
Not strong enough to work in the fields, ashamed to stand at the crossroads begging, with no family connections to count on, he gets an inspiration: “I know what I shall do…” To get another job, he’ll need to do a few favors today, get on the good side of other employers, so one by one, he calls them in to trim back what they owed his master …
You can imagine their reaction to the reduced payments: They’ll be eternally grateful to the steward, saying as they leave, “Listen, I’ll never forget what you’ve done.”
Should the steward show up asking for a job, the debtors will be favorably disposed. What a stroke of genius to ingratiate himself with those able to help him in return!
Which is why – with a hint of admiration – the master commended the steward’s “shrewdness” – not for what he had embezzled, but because, of his ingenuity.
Instead of blaming someone else, or whining and crying, instead of complaining or despairing, the crook used his brain to ensure he would bounce back on top.
Don’t think Jesus is condoning the steward’s morality, because he was immoral, a man whom Jesus labeled “a dishonest steward.” Jesus is not approving the deceit, the stealing, the dishonesty…
He IS praising the man’s decisive action, his ability to prioritize, put the most important thing first, then work for it!
Others may have frozen up, become confused, incapable of action.
But the steward stayed focused … picked his goal.. kept his compass pointed True North, kept working at being a survivor, and being a winner.
Jesus asks why His followers are not as shrewd as people of the world,
why people of the world look out for themselves in a way that God’s people often neglect to.
When it comes to getting into heaven, Jesus wants us to come out on the winning side, He wills everyone to be saved.
That’s the single most important thing. How many times did Jesus ask: “What good does it do if you have everything else and miss out on heaven?”
He wants us to come out survivors, to think long term, to store up treasures in heaven, to make sure we’re doing everything it takes to be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
If only the children of God’s Kingdom could use their life like a business transaction, invest what they have with shrewdness, and keep their eyes set on maximum gain.
If only we could capitalize on the virtues which give us the greatest profit:
If prayerful vigil gives you much grace, then keep watch and pray!
If fasting gives you more grace, then you should fast!
If being nice, treating others according to the Golden Rule, gives you grace, then Just Be Nice!
Whatever your virtue, capitalize on it, accumulate interest from it, not 4% or 7% but 100% and even more!
One tragedy of the dishonest steward is: he was such a genius, yet, if you really knew him, you wouldn’t trust him with anything.
We possibly inherited that same gene, so Jesus gives us a self-test to measure how trustworthy we are: What’s the smallest thing I cheat at…. because I cannot be trusted with more than that. That’s my value, that’s all I’m worth… no more than that.
Finally Jesus points to something so obvious, yet something we have trouble with: You cannot serve two masters.
Just as, at a fork in the road, you can’t go both ways … you have to go one way or the other,
so too, either you serve the Lord or you serve the interests of the world.
You can’t pay lip service to God.
Either look to the Holy Spirit for your consolation and reward, or accept reward from the spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
It’s one or the other; you can’t serve two masters.
Well, that day finally came, and the steward is sitting at his new job, it’ll be his last job.
At least he got a second chance.
If he’s smart, he’ll change and get his moral priorities straight,
he’ll end up making it to heaven, which is the one thing that measures success. Heaven is filled by the successful.
If he doesn’t change, if he can’t let go of the old ways in exchange for a better deal …
then no matter how many lucrative transactions he pulls off,
no matter how much currency he piles up,
he’ll end up bankrupt in the currency of the Kingdom of God,
he’ll end up missing out on heaven,
then what good will all that other stuff be anyway?