RCL C Proper 20 Complementary
Amos 8:4-7, Psalm 113, 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Saint Luke 16:1-13

“For the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”[1]

The parable of the Dishonest Steward likely fails to stir in you the warm feelings of the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son. It is based in the world of trading and business rather than helping and forgiving. This parable requires the preacher to do a little more explaining than most of the parables in the Gospels. A couple of points need to be made in order for us to benefit from Jesus’ teaching.

The first point is that the Dishonest Steward has done his dishonesty before the parable truly begins. In the first verse, charges are brought against the Steward for squandering his master’s property. That is his dishonesty, and the parable and Jesus do not commend dishonesty. That is the first point. The Steward is dishonest, and the parable does not teach that such dishonesty is a fine thing to bring into the kingdom of God.

The second point is this. When the Steward goes to the debtors, to the one who owes olive oil and to the one who owes wheat, and tells them to rewrite their bills in a smaller amount, he is not acting dishonestly. He is acting wisely and shrewdly. His master commends it, and Jesus commends it. The parable teaches us to act with similar wisdom and similar shrewdness.

And here is why. According to the Palestinian custom of stewards acting as agents for their masters, the profit or salary of the stewards was built into the bills the debtors wrote. All the Steward is doing when the debtors rewrite their bills is cutting out his own profit. He is doing the will of his master at his own expense.

That is the quality that Jesus commends. You and I are to be devoted to our Master in the same way. We are to see in his service the perfect freedom that only our Creator can bestow. For what God has to give us has been ours from the beginning of creation. We get in the way of ourselves by putting something or someone in God’s place.

“No slave can serve two masters.”[2] Thus Jesus reminds us that our dependence, our reliance, is upon God and none other. That is part of what it means to be Christ’s own and Christ’s own forever.

[1] Saint Luke 16:8b. NRSV.

[2] Saint Luke 16:13.