As you might have noticed, we have been reading a lot of parables from Luke in the last few months; this is Year C in the Episcopal lectionary. . . the year of Luke. And Luke seemed to concentrate on Jesus and his parables as teaching tools. We started out with some gentle parables and have progressed to some that have more substance to them. I often wonder if the tone of the parables becomes harsher because Jesus is tired of having to answer the same questions all the time.
The name of this parable is the unjust steward. . . a steward being someone who has been given the authority to oversee something for someone else. In other words, a servant – even though a steward may have control over other people and resources, he is still a servant/manager to the master. Stewards can be responsible for the house or the fields, but still have to answer to the master.
Can you see the parallel between the master (Jesus) and the steward (us) in our everyday lives. Are we not responsible for ourselves and our families, but ultimately answer to Jesus and God?
In this case, it has been reported to the master that the steward is skimming from the bottom – is a dishonest man. . . he appears to be lining his own pockets. It is interesting that owner asks for an accounting but also fires him at the same time. Obviously something had been going on, because the steward immediately plots his ‘revenge’.
The steward realizes that he no inclination to go work in the fields; he has had a pretty cushy job and really doesn’t want to resort to manual labor. And his dignity won’t allow him to beg – after all, he has been the manager of a great estate.
But, He still wants to live in the way he had been accustomed to when he was the steward.
What to do??????
Aha, he thought. “If I make deals with those who over the master, they will think kindly of me and give me a job. Then I won’t have to work in the fields or beg”.
So, not caring much for the responsibility attached to this job, he calls in all those who owe his master and make deals with them: changing 100 jugs of oil to 450, 100 bundles of wheat to 80. This was done very quickly, so that no one would catch them making these deals.
Needless to say, those who owed had to be really happy about that arrangement. But, this was
dishonest. Even though it was probably a relatively minor thing for the master, it was dishonest on the part of the steward and those who had obligations to the master.
If someone will cheat on such a small thing, what do you suppose they would do if the situation was REALLY important?
So, here we have all these deals struck, the steward has been fired, and what happens?
The master commends the steward for acting shrewdly!
Wait a minute!! Didn’t he just cheat the master?????????
This is where this parable can get really confusing. We all expect that the master would have been furious with the steward. I know I would have and I think most of you would too. He had just reduced our deserved wealth — money had been lost. Worldly wealth had been stolen.
What was the master commending the steward for? For cheating him?
No, he was commending him for finding a new place when he was losing his current job. He had foresight to set up the situation so that he had somewhere to go when he was no longer steward. He was using his existing resources to provide for a time when he did not have those resources.
I will have to say, that is not how most of us would have reacted.
How does this parable apply to us?
God has made us stewards of our lives and this earth. We are responsible for the ourselves – to live a Godly life and use God’s creation wisely. We do that in two ways.
First, we are to use the resources provided wisely –even the wealth that we earn by the sweat of our brow is only entrusted to us.
- We are to use that wealth wisely, not storing it in a bank or under the mattress where only we have the benefit.
- We are to plan ahead for the times that things will not be as good, being prudent in the good times so that there is no lack in the bad times.
I am afraid that we are all failing in taking care of God’s creation.
- Think of the strip mines that destroy the earth. What are we doing about those?
- What about our gluttonous consumption of oil that is causing extreme shifts in temperature. What are we doing about that?
I have to commend Good Shepherd in their aggressive stance on preserving God’s creation with their green movement — But, is everyone participating? I challenge those who have sit idly on their hands to get up and do something to preserve our world, our gift from God!
Secondly, what we do during our life should please God.
- Instead of hoarding physical wealth, we should be storing up eternal treasure.
- As a child, I was taught that when you did a good deed, you got a jewel in your crown in Heaven. That is very simplistic, but does let us know that God is taking an accounting of what we do with His creation.
- In the Jewish tradition, during Rosh Hashanah, which is being celebrated now, the Book of Life is open to contain an accounting of everything we have done in the last year. People have seven days in which to review those things done in the past and correct their mistakes before The Book of Life is closed again on Yom Kippur.
In the Christian tradition, we have a daily accounting to God of our actions.
Are we happy with what is being written?
Do we need to change our actions?
The friends that the steward made in the parable were gained dishonestly; when the steward was no longer of use to them, he would be discarded. But if we make friends of God, we will never be discarded. We will be a member of his eternal family.
Are you making friends of people for selfish purposes or are you laying treasure in Heaven with God?
The last line of the parable sums it all up:
- “No servant can serve two masters”. (Luke 16:13)
We have to decide whether we are going to store up treasure on earth or in Heaven.
- Is your treasure going to be one that moths eat or rust corrodes?
- Are you going to make friends so that you can accumulate wealth – using people?
- Or are you going to do things that are pleasing in God’s eyes?
The master we should serve is God – we are his stewards. We must serve Him as our master to gain eternal life.
Delivered at Church Of The Good Shepherd, Athens OH, 19 September 2007