Good morning, happy Friday, and many blessings.
Today the Gospel (Luke 16:1-8) presents a parable that concerns the administration of goods which is found only in Luke’s Gospel. It is called the parable of the dishonest steward. It is a disconcerting parable.
This is a strange parable. As the dishonest manager tries to deal with the consequences of his imminent dismissal, he does so by perpetrating further dishonesty. For this even his employer praises him "because he had acted shrewdly". Cleverness, astuteness, canniness (even if morally reprehensible) are admired in this world of business. Although our dishonest manager does not repent (like the prodigal) or act virtuously (like Lazarus), he nonetheless does something with the rich man’s wealth that reverses the existing order of things.
If you are in debt it would be such a relief to have the bank manager cut your debt. God has already cancelled my debt. I am now free before God, and very grateful. How am I managing the gifts God has given me? They are meant to be at the service of those who are most needy.
Let's have something clear. Jesus praises the dishonest steward in today's parable, but it's not entirely clear why. It seems to me that Jesus is praising the steward for his shrewdness, not for his dishonesty. Jesus says that we can learn even from dishonest people who are smart! The manager adapts quickly to a crisis. When a crisis hits me, do I turn to God and work out what to do, or do I let the crisis ruin my life?
The people who use this parable to justify underhanded or dishonest methods are simply misrepresenting it for their own purposes. The end NEVER justifies the means. Let me repeat that: The end NEVER, NEVER, NEVER justifies the means. If the parable is not about justifying dishonest behavior and the end justifying the means, what is the deeper meaning of the parable? So, why would Jesus tell his disciples this parable? I don't think he's telling us to be dishonest or for us to cheat others in order to fend for ourselves, but, perhaps he's telling us to use greater wisdom and shrewdness in the way we interact with the world, in the way we use our earthly riches. Moreover, that life is NOT about accumulating wealth. Rather it’s to make sure that the wealth we have is used properly. Life is about looking beyond ourselves to the needs of others and to causes and actions that bring people to the Kingdom of God.
And you need to understand that this parable is not only about money, it’s also about having a long-term vision. It’s about expanding our horizon, getting the big picture of life. It’s about understanding where we’re going, long term, so we can know how to live our lives here and now
honestly. We don’t need to oppress and exploit other people. But we also need to learn how to share what we have with other people.