Amos 8:4-7, Ps. 113:1-2,4-8, 1 Timothy 2:1-8, Luke 16:1-13
“If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches?” (Luke 16:11)
Last Sunday, Jesus gave us three parables to illustrate the extent and power of God’s abundant mercy in response to the scribes and Pharisees who felt Jesus was doing something wrong by associating with sinners. Today, Jesus tells us a story about an unjust steward who was commended by his master for his crafty behavior.
Unlike the parables Jesus gave last Sunday which are simple and straightforward, the parable of the unjust steward is quite confusing. Is Jesus recommending dishonesty as a means of getting into heaven? Why would the master praise the steward for using his (the master’s) wealth to make friends for himself? What exactly are the lessons that Jesus seeks to teach us today?
1. We are all Stewards. This World Is Not Ours.
The first lesson we learn from this parable is the fact that we are merely stewards of everything we consider to belong to us. As Job would remind us: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return.” (Job 1:21). Since we came to this world naked, empty, senseless, and fragile, it would amount to mere foolishness for us to assume that anything belongs to us. Like stewards put in charge of riches belonging to another person, we are just account managers and we must relinquish all that we presently control one day; a day we do not know. This calls for humility on our part.
2. As Stewards, We Can Never Hide Anything from God.
Recall that Joseph was a steward in Potiphar’s house and due to his diligence coupled with God’s blessing, Potiphar’s wealth increased exponentially. (Genesis 39:2-6). Wealthy people usually employ others to manage their funds. Having entrusted your wealth to others, it is possible to be cheated without knowing it but as the saying goes: “Every day for the thief, one day for the owner of the house.” A report was brought to the Master that the steward was wasting his goods. If the master caught the steward, how much more God to whom nothing can ever be hidden?
3. The Steward is Praised Not for Dishonesty but for His Proactiveness.
Now, we come to the crux of the matter. The master praised the steward not because of what he did but because of his prudence. The steward upon realizing when the books would be opened, there was just no way he would retain his job acted ahead. He thought carefully about what to do and decided to use his master’s money (the debt others were owing) to do charity by reducing this debt. At face value, even this action of the steward appears unlawful in that you are not supposed to do charity with money that does not belong to you. But come to think of it, is there anything that belongs to us? Since we came naked to this world, can we claim ownership of anything?
In other words, Jesus is teaching us first to think carefully like this steward of what shall become of us after our death (when we are relieved of our stewardship) and secondly, to use “what does not belong to us now” to be charitable to others so that like this steward, we would be welcomed into Paradise. This immediately takes us back to a theme that has been recurring Sunday after Sunday; the importance of charity to the poor and needy. Recall the parable of the rich fool? In truth, on the day of judgment, it is our kindness to others that will speak on our behalf. As Jesus taught us a few Sundays ago: “Sell your possessions and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33)
On the last day, Jesus would say to us: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. (Matthew 25:34-36). Sing: Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren that you do unto me. Jesus says to us today: “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon so that when it fails, they may receive you into eternal habitations.” This brings us to our next lesson for today.
4. The Evil of Social Injustice: How Do You Treat the Poor?
As Jesus says to us, “he who is faithful in very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If you then have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust you with true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what is not yours, who will give you what is yours?” Our first reading is a perfect description of this unfaithfulness that Jesus is talking about. Amos tells of persons who, having made a god of riches, connive to dupe people by distorting the scales thereby selling the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals.
God speaking through Amos today says: “Surely, I will never forget any of their deeds.” As leaders in whatever capacity, we find ourselves, let us always think of the poor; not just the beggars in the street, but those who, no matter how hard they work or their educational attainment cannot rise above a certain level of poverty. The level of insecurity in our land and the seeming helplessness of our security forces is already an indication of silent but dangerous revolution brewing on the way. Our leaders must wake up to this fact before things get out of hand. This again takes us to the next lesson.
5. Let us Pray for our Leaders.
Last Sunday, we saw how Moses prayed for the Israelites when they sinned against God by erecting a golden statue for themselves as an object of worship against the first commandment that God had just given to them. God was almost at the point of giving up on them but Moses prayed and God changed his mind about the people. Our final lesson for today comes from our second reading where St. Paul writing to Timothy encourages us to always pray for our leaders. In truth, “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” We do a great evil when we only criticize our leaders (pointing out their errors) without taking our time to pray for them.
Let us pray: Almighty ever-living Father, deepen in me a sense of wisdom to use what appears to be mine to care for the poor and needy that I may not be turned out from the gate of heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Amos 8:4-7, Ps. 113:1-2,4-8, 1 Timothy 2:1-8, Luke 16:1-13).
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu