Of all of the parables that Jesus gives us, the one today for me is the oddest. It doesn’t seem to fit. All of His other stories have a moral message in which the protagonist does some good thing whether small like finding the lost coin or large like doing what the Good Samaritan did for the robbed man.
Today we have a Steward, a manager of the rich man’s estate being fired for squandering the rich man’s resources. What he had actually done we do not know, or if he was indeed, guilty. But that made no difference to the rich man.
So, the steward, fearing for his future and probably for his family took matters into his own hands and did something that seems to me to be another danger to his future. He altered the documents of loans made by the rich man. If this had been found out he probably would have been it more trouble than just losing his job.
Now before I go on any further, I should say that many Bible scholars have stated that in those times the steward, who probably negotiated the loans was allowed to add his commission to the total amount. They say that what the steward did was only reduce his commission. To me that also seems risky because if he was going to be out of work, he would need the money.
When I was at the Athenaeum for Deacon formation, I bought a book called Preaching the Hard Sayings of Jesus. I bought it for readings such as this one. What it said about this reading seemed to me to be the reason that Jesus told this parable.
What the author said was that by reducing the debt the steward was gaining the favor of the debtors. That we can figure out. Since he would have to be the steward in order to reduce the debts, he probably did not tell the debtors that he had been fired.
Because of this the debtors would think that he was acting under the instructions of the rich man and the rich man would gain the esteem of all the people in the community. If he objected and restored the loans to their original amount, he would lose that esteem and be judged harsh. The steward’s plan was safe, and the fact that he had improved his master’s image he would have an easier time getting another steward’s position.
So why did Jesus tell this story? I think that the tell is in the passage “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
Jesus wants us to be sly if we need to to bring about his kingdom. Let me tell you of an incident of cunning that occurred right here at St. Agnes. There is a member of out Pro-Life Committee who made a very small, some would say insignificant donation to Planned Parenthood. Why did he do this? He wanted to get on their mailing list to get what they were sending out and see what they were saying.
Was this a little dishonest? Perhaps, but no one was hurt by it and it accomplished something that may be of value to the building of the Kingdom of God. Jesus sent the disciples out with instructions to be as shrewd, some versions say cunning, as serpents. That is why, I believe this odd parable is in the Bible, so that we would know how to deal with enemies of Jesus and he church, with shrewdness and ingenuity. Jesus wants us to be as sharp as those that oppose Him. God Bless you.