Dishonest wealth vs honest wealth. Trustworthy vs dishonest. Small matters vs great ones. What belongs to another vs what belongs to you. What are small matters and what are great ones is never made clear. What is honest wealth and what is dishonest wealth is not defined. A degree of clarity comes when we go back to certain points in the original story.
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By Steve Hall
The introduction to today’s Gospel teaching is the story of the dishonest steward who, finding himself about to receive his pink slip, devises a way to provide for his future. This is one of the few (only?) negative stories that Jesus told. Maybe that is why it gets confusing — or is that just me? In any case, the story concludes with the dishonest steward being complimented, not for his duplicitous acts per se, but for his foresight and subsequent planning. The most precise statement of the intended message is found in the conclusion to the parable: “The master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence; for the sons of this world are wiser in their own generation than the sons of light.” (Luke 16:8)
In Luke’s Gospel, the story is followed by the observations of Jesus that we find in today’s reading. Yet, how these comments relate to the story is ambiguous. Dishonest wealth vs. honest wealth. Trustworthy vs dishonest. Small matters vs. great ones. What belongs to another vs. what belongs to you. What are small matters and what are great ones is never made clear. What is honest wealth and what is dishonest wealth is not defined. A degree of clarity comes when we return to certain points in the original story.
These three facts are suggestive.
Therefore, we see that the story and explanation are focusing on two different but closely related truths.
The story focuses on the steward’s planning for what he will do after his employment is terminated. Here, the negative aspect of the story shows its purpose in that you don’t have to be a good person to plan for your life. This is what’s behind the closing words of the story portion: “The sons of this world are wiser in their own generation than the sons of light.”
The commentary — the verses read today — focus on the appropriate behavior of the believer in utilizing the tools available for planning his future. While not explicitly stated, it would appear that the man of faith should take a lesson from the secular man of the day. Again, certain points recommend themselves to our consideration.