Are we as capable as the wicked steward in securing our future with God?

by May Tam
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Amos 8:4-7

1 Timothy 2:1-8

Luke 16:1-13

One of Jesus' preferred methods of teaching is through parables. Though His parables are simple, often making use of everyday things, they conveyed messages that are deep and memorable. Like the parable of the unjust steward in this Sunday's Gospel Reading; the story is straightforward and the deeds of the steward are rather commonplace. What is surprising and disturbing is the commendation that the steward receives. How can we expect to hear from Jesus that a dishonest steward who swindles his employer's wealth and later even stealing more from him, gains praise from his employer? Certainly a puzzling parable that many of us find difficulty to understand!

To understand this parable's unusual ending, let us first focus on the steward himself. We cannot but appreciate the decisiveness, resourcefulness and prudence of the steward when faced with the specter of disgrace and poverty. He does not waste time to justify himself with the master, nor he allows himself to have any illusion of finding another employment. His concern is to secure his future now. He is quick to come up with a solution and immediately acts on it. This is what Jesus' comment about; he is not approving the steward's immorality, but his cleverness. Jesus purposely sets the scene to draw from the story an important but unexpected lesson – the disappointing fact that, worldly-minded people show a keener sense of shrewdness to secure their future without delay than Jesus' disciples do about the Kingdom of God.

While it is nothing wrong to provide ourselves and our loved ones a good life and a promising future, we should use our resources and abilities wisely and honestly. We should understand that we are that steward and God is the master. One day, each one of us has to give our master an account of what we have been entrusted – talent, time, wealth etc. Cardinal Thomas Collins, in his pastoral letter on
stewardship (October 7, 2018), reminds us of God's gracious gifts and the proper attitude in using these gifts, namely, to live gratefully in service to others through sharing of these gifts. We are to act as responsible trustees with a deeper spirit of stewardship. He further points out that “the ideas of servant, disciple, and apostle – so central in the scriptures – all include the idea of stewardship”.

And stewardship is not limited to only looking after earthly assets; for no matter how successful one looks after one's possessions, like the rich fool in Luke's Gospel (rf Lk 12: 13-21), these will all pass away. But if we apply the same shrewdness in building God's kingdom here on earth, we lay up for ourselves the inexhaustible treasures in heaven where “neither rust nor moth destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.” (Mt 6:20). Are we as capable as the wicked steward in securing our future with God?