The passage this weekend is known as The Parable of the Dishonest Steward. A steward was responsible for the management of his master’s possessions. It seems that this steward squandered those possessions, rather than investing them so as to increase the value. He was serving two masters: his employer and himself. As usually happens with those who defraud, he was caught. The steward was told to prepare a full account of his work for the employer, for his service was about to come to an end. When the steward calls in the debtors he reduced their debts. This act is not seen as cheating his master whom he had already made money on, nor is it an act of good will or charity. In addition to squandering his masters’ money his dishonesty may also have been the high amount of commission that he added to their debts. By removing the commission he was preparing for his dismissal so that he would be well liked by the debtors, and hopefully would find work with one of them.
The first lesson is this; do not follow the example of the steward in his dishonesty. When it comes to our serving the Lord we are to do so wholeheartedly and with total commitment. We cannot be both faithful stewards of the Lord, and self-serving. We cannot serve two masters, whether it be the Lord and some other individual, group or ourselves. We can only be faithful to one master, and for the Christian our Master is the Lord. Who is the Master whom we are serving? Is it the Lord, or have we allowed other people or things to dominate us in such a way that we have made them masters of our lives, thus straddling between the Lord and some other master.
The second lesson is do learn from the steward’s clever dealing with the debtors. In the midst of undoing his crooked ways he cleverly repays the debtors. Regardless of the motive, this took creativity. Jesus calls on us to take the time and use our creativity to live and proclaim the Gospel. Jesus calls us to work at ways that will make us better stewards and draw others to him. This might move us from being comfortable and away from our daily routine, and lead us to new experiences of living God’s presence.
Finally, he tells us that if we can be trusted with small matters, then we can be trusted with larger ones. Sometimes it is better to start small so as to gain knowledge and confidence. For some this might be increasing daily prayer, for others volunteering, and still for others generosity towards the Lord’s work. Whatever it is, may we be faithful stewards of the Lord.
We live in an era in which we can become very devoted to, celebrities, collectables, or some other hobby or activity. We can be so devoted that we spare no expense in traveling to events, purchasing memorabilia, decorating our vehicles and homes with signs and banners, all to show our support for a particular interest. In doing this are we elevating these interests to a level in which we become so pre-occupied and committed that they take away time and resources that rightly should be given to the Lord? If we are guilty of this, are we not like the dishonest steward in the Gospel, squandering what truly belongs to the Lord? This is a question that is good for us to ponder.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Image: The Parable of the Unjust Steward, Marinus van Reymerswaele (1490-1546)