25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C, 16
It’s no accident that Luke includes two of Jesus’ parables on squandering resources back to back: the prodigal son and the dishonest steward. In one case the son came to his senses and returned to his father, thinking about how even the servants had enough to eat while he was starving. In the other, the steward devised a plan by which he would be welcomed by others to their homes and be able to be fed.
In the son’s case, whether or not his contrition was real, it turned out better than he had hoped. In the steward’s situation, he was commended for his cleverness by his master (and maybe kept his job though he would be watched more closely). By adjusting what was owed, he gave up his commission and some of the owner’s profit, thereby making his master look generous in the eyes of others, especially the debtors. The master would be honored in the sight of all; and, honor in the culture of the day was to be sought more than wealth. The owner was put in a no win situation. If he fired the steward, his generosity would be questioned, and he would lose honor and the steward would be welcomed into the debtors’ homes. If he let the steward keep his position, he would keep the honor afforded him but lose money. In either case, the dishonest steward wins!
What’s the point? Maybe Jesus is saying that no matter the motive, God will welcome the stray back. Once home, God could work on the hungry heart instead of the starving stomach.
Another point that Jesus is making, particularly in the parable of the steward, is that we should use our wealth to help the poor, not just ourselves. Don’t be overly greedy as were the people the prophet Amos took over the coals. We might not notice or remember the harm we have done to the poor and needy either intentionally or through indifference, but “The Lord has sworn … never will I forget a thing they have done!”
As the national and local elections near, we might wonder “What’s in it for me? Which of the various candidates will ensure my and my family’s well-being?” Those are good and natural questions but, we also have to ask: “At whose expense?”
“The Lord has sworn … never will I forget a thing they have done!”