Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”
Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”
‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.
‘And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?
‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’
I’m sure that many of us will share with the disciples in scratching our heads at the images that Jesus has confronted us with. A steward; who is already wasteful cheats his master out of more money to make his own life easier and gets praised for it.
How does that make sense?
We all believe that an important part of our character is how honest we are; how good we are at what we do and how well we can be trusted to do it. And rightly so, but at what cost?
If your expertise as a tax collector allows you to wind through loopholes to help the wealthy protect their assets, that is one thing. If you use that same expertise to help a charity find funding and tax exemptions; is that another?
Does your honesty allow you to point the finger at those who don’t measure up, or, stand aside for someone who is a better person for the task.
We all have gifts that we have developed during our lives; because of these gifts we can achieve our ambitions; make something of ourselves. But is that the only reason these gifts were give to us? How much of the talents that we have do we use for the better life now; rather than the eternal life to come?
These gifts and talents are simply tools given to us by God. In Luke, Jesus shows us the plan, how these tools are to be used; in discipleship and love. And the Spirit speaks to us in conscience and inspiration as we travel through our lives.
But it’s always about free will; our talents can feed our ambitions to take us to where we want to go; to build our own castles in the sky.
God’s desire is that we use these tools to build his Kingdom; loving our neighbour; generosity of spirit; caring for those who need our help.
It’s only once the threat of losing his comfortable lifestyle that the steward realises he has no contingency plan, no future. He knows his limits, he’s no labourer, so he works within the world he knows but changes his strategies to buy friends and influence people. A different strategy – the same gift; and with such expertise that the Master has to appreciate how the steward provides for his future.
God has the same appreciation – knowing that we live in a world of status and achievement it is natural for us to use what we have to make a good life for ourselves but we have to learn that it is not just about what we want. As they say ‘you can’t take it with you’.
We do live in this world but we don’t have to be dictated to by it; we don’t have to be part of the exploitation. In our everyday life we can use what we have, what we know, what we do and we can make change. We can choose where our time is spent, where our money is spent.
We can use the system to question the system. There are so many things you can only change from the inside. Use your gifts and be the change.