Parables Of JesusThe Gospel Of Saint Luke

Parable of the Unjust Steward

Luke 16: 1-8


1 AND he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
5 So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
7 Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.
8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.

Today’s parable may seem to us to be very strange. Fired for corruption, for being wasteful with the rich man’s property, the dishonest steward goes on to compound the error with outright criminality, marking down the debts of the rich man’s debtors in order to secure future favours. And Jesus praises him!

The picture Jesus presents us with is of a very shrewd, very worldly person. Caught out in his dodgy dealing, the steward finds himself in a desperate situation, an emergency. The future has suddenly become completely uncertain, a complete unknown, to him. He races in his mind to discover a solution to his problem, and he is shrewd and a solution presents itself. Having decided what to do, he acts with great energy.

The parable now speaks of the ‘lord’, or ‘master’, praising the dishonest steward. The rich man has receded and we understand now that it is Jesus offering praise. If only, he seems to say, people put as much energy and ingenuity as this thief has shown into their spiritual lives. The children of this world know how to work it to their material advantage. The children of light should similarly make every effort in terms of our faith, our salvation, our witnessing Jesus and growing the Kingdom of God. Perhaps we might think here of the great sense of urgency experienced by Saint Paul, and the phenomenal energy and drive with which he spread God’s word. Such wonderful missionary activities inspire us.

‘What zeal people put into their earthly affairs: dreaming of honours, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike. When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls, we will have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works.’ St Josemaria Escriva.

Concluding Prayer

Almighty Father,
let your light so penetrate our minds,
that walking by your commandments
we may always follow you, our leader and guide.
We make our prayer through our Lord.