Read Luke 16:1-13
Jesus said to his disciples, “A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. Read More…
Meet Sister Edithann Kane
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Edithann met the Sisters of Notre Dame in Washington, DC when her father was stationed there. Read More…
This is one time (of many) when I regret not being a scripture scholar! What are we to make of Jesus’ saying: “Make friends for yourself with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” On the other hand, I think I know what he means by: “The person who is trustworthy in small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.” But do I – do we – understand in either case? Mostly, I will share my questions and hope they prompt your own.
We are told that the parables use images that were commonplace for the audience. The people listening to Jesus must have been familiar with stewards, like the one in this story, who demanded greater payments from the customers than were due, so as to line their own pockets. He had made friends with dishonest wealth. Is it possible that this was the way he squandered his master’s property—giving false reports of what he had collected, being unjust to the master as well as to the customers?
Perhaps this parable is better named The Just Rich Man. Did the master learn somehow about the steward’s activities – both before and after telling him that he is fired? Perhaps he could not tolerate the injustice, especially to others. And yes he could see how astute the steward was in using his dishonest ways to protect himself financially when unemployed. Certainly the landowner was not praising dishonesty.
How does this parable and the words that follow about trustworthiness come together? What is the challenge of the parable? What does it mean about living in God’s reign?
Is it that we are called to be wise “rich” people? Certainly, we are rich in resources, friendships, security, inspiration, and witnesses to goodness, unlike so many in our world today. Is my - our - challenge to recognize the injustice in which we are inadvertently participating and doing what we can to remove ourselves from it? Does it pose a challenge for us to use the wisdom of the Spirit to embrace the values of God’s kin-dom as assiduously as the “steward” used earthly wisdom to attain what he wanted?
Suddenly I’m reminded of the custom we once had of never claiming anything as ours…always, things were “for the use of.” The steward obviously forgot that the things entrusted to him did not belong to him. We have so many resources available for our use, resources of our community and resources of the earth. Perhaps remembering daily that everything is only “for the use of” each one of us could be one way of exercising our concern for the environment.
Or perhaps we need to find out – as the landowner did – that somehow we are participating in injustice. Unlike the steward, we are probably not doing it deliberately. How we use water, electricity, food, fuel –all of which comes to us most likely on the backs of others treated unjustly – all of which we have in abundance while millions do without. Can we be trustworthy in our use of these goods? Can we be wise enough to use them as seekers of God’s kin-dom and its values?
What questions does this parable pose for you?
Holy Spirit of God, guide us to ask the right questions, even if we have no answers for them yet – even if the answers are too hard to accept. Give us confidence in your ever guiding presence and the support of one another as we seek to respond to the messages of the Gospels.