Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Unjust Steward

Perhaps the most difficult to understand of Jesus’ parables is the one about the unjust steward found in Luke 16. But if we look at it carefully, it is not so difficult after all and of course has a message for us from Jesus’ own mouth.

The parable.
There was once upon a time a very rich man who entrusted the managing of his financial affairs to a steward. This steward ingratiated himself with his employer who trusted him completely.
But the steward was taking advantage of his position by misappropriating funds and lining his own pockets.
It seems his master never noticed but someone who did brought accusations against him. The steward was called to face the music and while his master seems somewhat reluctant to do so he told the steward to ‘clean out his office’, his employment was terminated – no recourse.

It is interesting to see the steward’s reaction. We see no repentance or self defence…he accepts his judgement but immediately reacts true to character - considering his options.
He could take a job digging.
Manual labour?? Forget it! He is a desk-man.
Beg? Beneath him!!
So how can he turn this to his best advantage?
It does not take him long to come up with a plan. He has had years of experience of looking out for his own best interests.
Wasting no time, he calls into his office, one by one, those who are in his master’s debt – those who lease or rent premises from him – and one by one he lowers their rent or amount owing. He reasons that he can ‘buy’ his future security – by helping them financially they will surely be happy to take him in when he is soon-to-be-homeless.

There is no generosity of heart in his actions, no intention of making amends, although perhaps he WAS in truth only lowering their rent or debt to where it should have been in the first place. Perhaps he was only reversing the exorbitant amount he had added to their debt – that showed up well in his master’s money coffers but also allowed him to make his own pockets heavy.
Now he was ‘buying’ with his master’s money a ‘pension’ plan.

When his master heard of what the unjust steward did, he gave him his grudging admiration. He chuckled at his ingenuity and slapped him on the back – perhaps sorry to see him go.

Jesus always used situations or life experiences that the common people in his audience would understand. And then He used his story to clarify the spiritual truth He was teaching.
The common people in Jesus’ day totally understood the ‘unjust steward’. They all had to deal with dishonest tax collectors.

At first glance, we are surprised that Jesus seems to commend the actions of this unjust steward. Is Jesus condoning shady business practices?? Hardly! To understand what He is saying we need to look a little closer.

What Jesus pointed out as admirable in the unjust steward was that he took advantage of what he had been given to ensure his security and future habitation. In that, Jesus says, he, as a child of darkness was wiser than many children of the light.

Let’s unwrap the parable and look closer at its interpretation and meaning for us.

The master is of course God. The unjust steward is you and me. God has given into our stewardship all that we have, whether it be much or little and has left it in our hands to see what we will do with it.
The day comes, in each of our lives that we realize we stand accused before God.
Satan, our accuser, is ever ready to point out that we are unjust in all our ways. We have no defence, we are guilty and God knows the truth. And so we realize that one day soon our stewardship will be taken away from us… this life will be over. We will leave this life, as the unjust steward left his position, with nothing.
So we are faced with the decision of what we will do. Simply face the inevitable, and take what comes? Make no provisions for our well-being on the other side?
Or will we take the example of the unjust steward and with haste and diligence use what God has entrusted to us to ensure for us a secure and eternal habitation.

It is interesting how Jesus weaves into His story truths that at first glance are not even noticed. The unjust steward’s reactions are full of meaning.
In considering his options he declares he is incapable of manual labour. That is also our declaration. There is no ‘work’ that we can do to earn our salvation, our eternal habitation is built by God – we can add nothing of ourselves.
The unjust steward also found begging abhorrent. We do not have to beg for our eternal well being – it is a gift that God offers freely to those who believe in Him.
Even the master's reluctance to terminate the steward..."What is this I hear of you?" has an echo of God's heart...He has "no pleasure in the death of the wicked". (Ez.33:11)

Jesus gives us the advice that “we are to make friends of unrighteous mammon”.
How do we do that?
The things of this world will one day pass away and the things of this world are ‘unrighteous mammon’ in comparison to eternal riches. But if we USE them to serve others , if we “through patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honour, immortality”, we will find the door to our heavenly home open to welcome us. (Rom.2:7)
And just as the master of the unjust steward commended him, so we also will have the praise of God. (I Cor. 4:5)
If we are faithful with what we have been entrusted with here, then we will be entrusted with much on the other side.

Our thought to ponder for the day…. How can I use what God has entrusted to me to serve Him and others?? - thereby storing up for myself "treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches, nor moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33)

2 comments:

Lovella said...

Good lesson, I generally use my feeling thermometer. I know that feelings are not conclusive nor often a good gauge, however, I just know in my heart when I've enjoyed blessing someone else, I have been a good steward of something God has blessed me with.

Cherie said...

Thanks for your comments - I love you too. It is nice when you have family that you would choose even if you didn't have to. Have a great day.