Feast Day: Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Readings: Amos 8:4-7; Psalm 113; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13
O God, help us to listen to your Word with understanding, to receive it with faith, and to obey it with courage, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
The parable of the unjust steward that we heard moments ago, found only in Luke’s gospel, is famously one of the most difficult parables to interpret. Most of the interpretive challenges stem from trying to make things fit: Who is the master? Who is the steward? What does it mean that the master praises the steward for acting shrewdly? However, what if instead of seeking for the meaning of each individual part we sought rather the meaning of the whole? What would we see?
We see a figure who was tasked with stewarding earthly goods that did not belong to him. Then when it came to light that these goods would be taken away our figure responds with an eye to securing his future. And so the question that I want us to be asking this morning is: How might our stewardship of the goods of the earth which do not belong to us but have nevertheless been entrusted to us change if we had an eye to the kingdom of God? Would it change?
Let’s take a closer look at our reading. Right away Luke tells us that Jesus is speaking to his disciples. Previously he had been speaking to the Pharisees but now he turns to his followers. He is speaking to us. And he tells them a parable. There was a rich man who had a manager and it was reported that this manager, or steward, was squandering the property that the master had entrusted to his care.
The steward in the parable is tasked with taking care of that which does not belong to him but belongs to his master. We are, each one of us, like the steward. In possession of a whole host of earthly goods that are not our own. This is a deeply Biblical view. “The earth is the Lord’s and all that therein is,” says that Psalmist (24:1). Everything we have has been given to us by God. Nothing we have is our own. Nothing at all.
This world, this life, these possessions are finite. They come and go. We can lose them, have them taken away from us. Even those things which we hold most dear are in the end revealed to be not our own—our health, our children, our very life. These goods do not belong to us, we cannot hold onto them, we cannot keep them, we can only steward them. Who we are and what we have is given by God and one day God, like the rich man in the parable, will call us to account. What have we done with what he has given us?
You are accountable. For your material wealth, for your family, for your life. What have we done with these things that do not belong to us but have been entrusted to our care? Have we cared? God wants us to care. This belongs to our dignity as human beings. The Bible does not give us any sense that the animals and other non-human creatures will be called to account. But human beings will be. Why? Because we are made in the image of God, made to be stewards and caretakers of all that he has made and entrusted to us. Have we been faithful with these earthly goods?
Look at our steward in the parable. He is confronted with a crisis. Everything he has that does not belong to him is going to be taken away. So how does he respond? [Allow responses] He asks a question: “What will I do?” This is an important question for Luke (cf. 3:12; 12:17-18; Acts 2:37). And it’s an important question for us. What will I do? What will you do? What will we do, when confronted with the reality that everything we have belongs to God and comes to us by his grace alone? Will I be a different father knowing that my children belong to God? How will I spend my money knowing that it doesn’t belong to me after all? Every day this question confronts us. What will I do? With today? With this span of life that has been given to me? Will I live as if it all belongs to me? Or, will my life be reoriented towards the kingdom of God so that I offer all that I am and all that I have to God in praise and thanksgiving?
That’s what it means to be shrewd, or prudent, or clever: to make use of the goods of this world with an eye towards the highest good, God and his glory. Do we do that? Do we steward what we have for God’s glory? Because we can’t afford to live like everything belongs to us. To treat the things of this world as if they are the be-all and end-all rather than things to be shared in love with God and neighbour is to mismanage God’s good gift.
And we can include the message of the gospel in this. After all, the greatest gift that God has given to us is his only begotten Son Jesus Christ our Lord who as St Paul said, “gave himself a ransom for all,” (1 Ti 2:5-6). Are we being faithful stewards of the gospel? Do we keep it to ourselves or do we give it away to others so that they too might receive salvation and come to a knowledge of the truth of God (1 Ti 2:4)?
You see, you cannot buy your way into the kingdom of God but maybe you can spend your way there by using the things of this world for the glory of God. What do I do with the time that has been given to me by God? How do I raise the children that belong to him? How do I spend the money that he has loaned me? All these things belong to God yet he has entrusted them to us. To you. To bring you to Christ so that you might abide in him and he in you. To be shrewd is to recognize this and to make good use of what he has given us for the higher purpose of our life with God.
 Fr David Curry, www.lectionarycentral.com/trinity09/Curry.html