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The parable of the dishonest steward

Gospel Reading: Lk 16:1-13
Jesus said to his disciples, “A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property. He summoned him and said, ‘What is this I hear about you? Prepare a full account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward.’ The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me?

I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I shall do so that, when I am removed from the stewardship, they may welcome me into their homes.’ He called in his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note.

Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’ Then to another he said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.’ And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.

I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?

If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Jesus belittles worldly treasures to be insignificant, “very small matters,” which do not warrant our restless quest since these will ultimately “belong to another.” No matter how much money one keeps in the bank, or how vast one’s landholdings are, or how huge one’s mansion is – all these are illusory compared to the “true wealth” that God wishes to entrust to his children, in God’s deep desire to “give you what is yours.”

Worldly treasure can be a good servant – it can bring us comfort, enable us to meet our daily needs, and help our neighbors. But it can also be a severe master – if while earning money and collecting possessions, we become avaricious. The greedy person is preoccupied with protecting and increasing his assets that he believes are the fruits of his efforts.

God is toppled from the inner temple of his heart, and his wealth is enshrined as his new god. Jesus recognizes that money is an important and useful instrument to run life’s engine – the economy – and help it flourish and survive. He once instructs Peter to pay taxes. As a rabbi, Jesus brings about a better quality of life to people when he preaches to the ignorant masses, feeds the hungry crowd, heals the sick, forgives sinners, and drives out evil spirits.

Jesus’ strongest desire, however, is that people will have a genuine experience of the Father’s love. Jesus insists that human beings cannot experience the Father’s love when the mind is burdened by anxiety and the heart is consumed by avarice. The First Reading describes how the people of Bethel had fallen into dismal depths of moral depravation by succumbing to greed.

Cheating in business was rampant. They fixed the scales and shortchanged the consumers. While the Hebrews were celebrating their religious festivals, the hands of business people itched for profit. The gap between rich and poor reached scandalous proportions: the lowly was bought for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals. The enticements of this passing world are many.

Jesus nixes the notion that true happiness can be obtained only with great material wealth. Let us turn to Jesus and learn his life choices and examples. He chooses to put his faith and trust in his almighty Father than to rely on the false securities the world offers. We are called to be responsible stewards of God’s created goods, not exploiters.

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.