Whether verbalized or not, Christians tend to be uncomfortable if not downright confused when reading Jesus’ parable about the dishonest steward. From Bible commentaries to adult Sunday school discussions, the uneasiness is evident. Can we blame them?
After all, Jesus created a story where a rich man commends the unethical practices of a wasteful, recently fired but shrewd manager bent on self-centered preservation. These principles fly against everything Christian.
The Christian mind reels. How could Jesus tell such a story?
Unfortunately, we can develop a myopic tunnel vision fixated upon the darkness of the steward. By so doing we fail to perceive how Jesus has both shamed us and challenged us. Before we can hear his message, we need to break our preoccupation with Jesus’ use of dishonesty in this parable.
Quite simply, Jesus’ own subsequent musings unveiled that this is a story about how worldly people interact with each other. Lying, cheating, and self-centeredness are simply to be expected fare within such a story.
Furthermore, upon closer examination we discover it is not the practices of darkness that are being commended, but the profound perception that a person can use the resources at his or her disposal to ensure one’s future.
With this observation, Jesus shames us. Worldly people know how to use resources as tools of influence to provide for their future.
Before we can brace ourselves, his challenge catches us broadside.
“And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by how you use worldly wealth, so that when it runs out you will be welcomed into the eternal homes” (Luke 16:9 NET).
Jesus’ message unravels the prevalent idea that how Christians behave makes no impact for their eternal future. Jesus would counsel us to lay up treasure in heaven by using the wealth we manage to “make friends.”
Elsewhere Jesus’ words ring in our ears:
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves purses that do not wear out – a treasure in heaven that never decreases, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (Luke 12:33).
Maybe it is more comfortable to be fixated upon the seeming commendation of evil practices than to hear Jesus’ prescription for living as a disciple.