Then he also 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.” (Luke 16:1-8)
Today’s scripture is often misunderstood or, at least to many, it’s a “head scratcher”.
We need to think about all that is going on here to be sure that we understand the parable correctly.
The manager was certainly dishonest. He clearly squandered his master’s property and was being fired because of it. But it is important that we understand correctly what his actions were, once his dishonesty had been found out. Normally we presume that when he brought in his master’s debtors and reduced their bills that he was further cheating his master. But this is not the case. In the ancient world managers were given their income through commission. When the manager in the parable reduced the debtors’ bills, he was not removing his master’s profit but his own. His hope was that by giving back to the debtors what was his own, they would recognize his shrewdness and generosity. Then, once he was fired, they might welcome him into their own financial operations. It was a risk to be sure. There was no guarantee that the debtors would respond in this way.
But what is noteworthy about this dishonest manager is that he had the insight to size up his situation and realize that the only possibility for future employment and security was to give away what he presently possessed.
It is this insight and this action that Jesus commends and invites us to imitate. Because Jesus knows that if we correctly size up our present situation, we will realize that the only way to our future security is to give away some of what we possess today.
What is our present situation? Everything we have is a gift: our life, our time, our relationships, our health, our money. Everything we have is a gift. This realization should certainly lead us to thankfulness. But thankfulness is not enough. Thankfulness has to give way to generosity. For generosity is the sign of the kingdom of God. The person who understands God’s kingdom understands that everything that we have been given has been given to us to share. Faithful stewardship requires giving back part of what we have been given.
Why is giving back so important? Two reasons: others need it and generosity is good for us. There is no doubt that others need the things that we possessPeople need our time, our presence, our money. God loves all people. So, whenever anyone is hungry or sick or depressed God is counting on us and on our resources to help that person. Christians know this better than anyone else because the gospel tells us that whatever we fail to do for the least of our brothers or sisters we fail to do for Jesus. Therefore, refusing to give of what we have been given is a bad idea, a poor decision. Our relationship to God is connected to our generosity to others. We give because others are in need.
We also give because generosity is good for us. The deepest joy in life is giving out of love. Parents know this. Lovers know this. Sometimes we think that what is going to make us happy is to hold onto our time, to conserve our talents, to hoard our money. But this is not true. Joy comes from giving, giving freely and with love. The deepest moments of joy occur in the context of generosity.
Everything you have is a gift, a gift for which to be thankful and a gift to share. Holding onto the things we have been given will not make us happy. Giving what we have away will help others and give us the deepest joy.
So that is our present situation. That is how things stand. When the dishonest manager in the gospel saw how things stood, he did not hesitate. He swung into action. He started giving what he had away. We are called to follow his example. In the days ahead, you will be given time, the opportunity to use your talents, and money. You could choose to hold onto all of these things and use them only for yourself, but that would be a bad idea, a poor investment. The gospel today poses a wiser and more helpful question. It asks us, “This week, how much of your time and your talent and your money are you willing to give away?”
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, all that I have is a gift from you. May I love you freely and generously with all that I possess. Help me to be a wise and faithful steward of the resources you put at my disposal, including the use of my time, money, and possessions.”
Daily NoteJesus is concerned here with something more critical than a financial or economic crisis. His concern is that we avert spiritual crisis and personal moral disaster through the exercise of faith and foresight. If Christians would only expend as much foresight and energy to spiritual matters, which have eternal consequences, as they do to earthly matters which have temporal consequences, then they would be truly better off, both in this life and in the age to come.