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

Preaching the Parable of the Dishonest Steward can be tricky. The Dishonest Steward cheats his master before the parable really begins. He is about to be dismissed from his master’s service. He prepares for that upheaval by having his master’s debtors rewrite their bills in their own favor. His master commends him for this, because the Steward gives to the debtors his own profits. Jesus commends it as well, saying that the children of light should imitate the children of this age who are more shrewd than they are.

The trickiness of the parable lies, then, in the ambiguity of the Steward’s behavior. He is dishonest in one moment and then in another moment he is shrewdly honest. His shrewd honesty Jesus commends and teaches, for the parable teaches the honest and shrewd use of material goods in the face of an imminent crisis.

Clearly Jesus wants us to be shrewdly honest in a similar way. The Dishonest Steward gives up, sacrifices, his legitimate and honest profit in the present for a future return after he is dismissed. His master’s debtors will do business with him, and he will enjoy profits then.

The Steward plans to give now and to profit later. His master commends him. Jesus commends him. That dynamic, that rhythm, of sacrificing now and profiting later I call the Miracle of Stewardship. It always occurs when the sacrificing is for God. When one genuinely gives to God, the reward inevitably comes. It comes with interest and with the generosity only God has. I have never known it not to come. The Miracle of Stewardship is the way God does things: we give a little, and we get a lot.

Preaching the Parable of the Dishonest Steward can be tricky. The Dishonest Steward cheats his master before the parable really begins. He is about to be dismissed from his master’s service. He prepares for that upheaval by having his master’s debtors rewrite their bills in their own favor. His master commends him for this, because the Steward gives to the debtors his own profits. Jesus commends it as well, saying that the children of light should imitate the children of this age who are more shrewd than they are.

The trickiness of the parable lies, then, in the ambiguity of the Steward’s behavior. He is dishonest in one moment and then in another moment he is shrewdly honest. His shrewd honesty Jesus commends and teaches, for the parable teaches the honest and shrewd use of material goods in the face of an imminent crisis.

Clearly Jesus wants us to be shrewdly honest in a similar way. The Dishonest Steward gives up, sacrifices, his legitimate and honest profit in the present for a future return after he is dismissed. His master’s debtors will do business with him, and he will enjoy profits then.

The Steward plans to give now and to profit later. His master commends him. Jesus commends him. That dynamic, that rhythm, of sacrificing now and profiting later I call the Miracle of Stewardship. It always occurs when the sacrificing is for God. When one genuinely gives to God, the reward inevitably comes. It comes with interest and with the generosity only God has. I have never known it not to come. The Miracle of Stewardship is the way God does things: we give a little, and we get a lot.

That is the behavior that Jesus commends in the Steward. You and I are to give and to be devoted to God, our Master, in the same way. We are to see in his service the perfect freedom that only our God can bestow. For God’s storehouse contains infinite amounts. The things he has to give us have been marked for us from the beginning of creation. We start down the wrong road by thinking material goods have a better use than being returned to the one who is the source of everything that is.