Mironov, Andreĭ (Andreĭ Nikolaevich), 1975-. Parable of the Unjust Steward, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57060 [retrieved September 15, 2022]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%D0%9F%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%82%D1%87%D0%B0_%D0%BE_%D0%BD%D0%B5%D0%B2%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%BC_%D1%83%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%B5._%D0%9A%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B0_XXI_%D0%B2%D0%B5%D0%BA%D0%B0..jpg.

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

By now you know that the Lessons for a particular Eucharist become The Assignment for the preacher. The Lessons, in the context of the Liturgical Season or the occasion being celebrated, become the boundaries of what the preacher can address in a particular Eucharist. What would a preacher do if a set of Lessons boiled down to Psalm 68:21, “God shall crush the heads of his enemies, * and the hairy scalp of those who go on still in their wickedness”?

A difficulty like that faces the preacher and the worshippers today. The Parable of the Dishonest Steward has an unsavory character acting at first dishonestly and then wisely, and then being praised by his master with these words: “And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”[1] The Dishonest Steward has good qualities to go along with his dishonesty. A good quality that he has is lacking in the children of light, the true believers. That makes him a more complex character than most characters in the Bible as well as in the parables.

He reminds me of the real-life character, Oskar Schindler, a true Nazi through and through who used his rank to increase his profits as an arms merchant while being capable of saving hundreds of Jews from the Holocaust.

The Dishonest Steward is a scoundrel who has the good sense to know that God loves those who love the poor. So, he cuts out his own profits from the bills of his master’s debtors for his own benefit later, and his master commends him. Jesus commends him also for having more shrewdness than the children of light. The point Jesus makes for us today in this Eucharist is that Christians should be at least as shrewd about saving their souls as the Dishonest Manager is about preparing for life after leaving the service of his master. He sacrificed his profits for welcome later from the debtors; we should sacrifice the pleasures of our disobediences and self-indulgences now for a welcome later in the heavenly realms.

I observe that we all have our virtues and our sins. Every scoundrel has one or two virtues that could become the means of his salvation. Every saint has one or two weaknesses that could cost him heaven. And so it is with us. And Jesus knows it. This parable of the Dishonest Steward is his way of letting us know that he knows who we are. And he is telling us we should use every asset and remove every liability we have for the purpose of remaining his. For he “stoops to behold the earth,” and [h]e takes up the weak out of the dust * and lifts up the poor from the ashes.”[2] He only wants to do the same for you and for me.

[1] Saint Luke 16:8.

[2] Psalm 113:5b-6.