Date: Sunday, September 18, 2022
Our Gospel today, the parable of the rich man and his steward, is unsettling. We are surprised to hear Jesus tell a story about a dishonest steward who is praised by his master for his devious behavior before he is dismissed. Jesus, in telling the parable, is not praising dishonesty but making a point that the crafty steward realizes his precarious circumstance and makes a decisive move regarding his future. Jesus is making an appeal to his listeners that they too must make a commitment regarding the Kingdom of God.
Remember it is a story and we should appreciate that it reflects a different place and time. Most people hearing the parable of Jesus are subsisting, living day to day, with no network of social assistance. They will have more sympathy for the steward than for the rich man, likely an absentee landlord, especially when the steward comes up with a scheme that reduces their indebtedness to the owner. Growing up, I watched Robin Hood on TV. Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Little John, Friar Tuck, and the merry band of outlaws in Sherwood Forest robbed the rich and gave to the poor. The Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John are not happy with these bandits, but the poor peasants are not making any complaints.
Jesus is making a point with his disciples. If the crafty steward makes a decisive move to ensure some benefit for his own future, material gain, shouldn’t we be willing to give more energy and effort, use all our wirs, to embracing the Gospel of God’s salvation and mercy and in seeking what is truly precious. You can’t serve both God and Mammon. Amos, the Jewish prophet in Israel, the Northern Kingdom, during a time of affluence, speaks out against “those who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land.” Amos, speaking for God, ends with a sobering indictment, “Never will I forget a thing they have done.” The Bible warns us that unbridled pursuit and acquisition of wealth is the root of evil. The words of Jesus resonate in our capitalistic and democratic society. What do we accomplish if we gain the whole world and lose our immortal soul?