Summary: Some conclusions drawn from the Parable of the Unjust Steward
This morning’s Gospel reading is the Parable of the Unjust Steward: Luke 16:1-13
This is one of the most difficult parables to understand - because at first blush it looks as if Jesus is condoning sharp practices. On careful reflection however, I don’t think he is.
One of the interesting things about difficult parables is that Jesus explains the difficulties – and this parable is no exception.
What Jesus is admiring is the shrewdness of unjust steward. We see this with Jesus’ comment in Luke 16:8
The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are shrewder in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.
Jesus is not commenting on the morality of the man.
The message of this parable however is not found in this difficulty. Rather the key verse to the parable is found in Luke 16:13
No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
It seems to me that the message of this parable is simply this.
That Jesus is looking for single-minded people - people totally dedicated to God – who have one purpose in life – to serve God in all they do.
If we are Christians, we are God’s stewards and the challenge is - what kind of steward are we.
The Unjust Steward was single-minded – but he wasn’t serving the right master..
As I was preparing my sermon, I found myself saying: Jesus, surely you could have used a better parable to put your point over.
But the more I thought about it - the more I found Jesus’ metaphor appropriate.
It seemed that God was challenging me on three levels:
1. Am I single-minded for God?
2. Am I an unjust steward of what God has given me? And stemming from that:
3. Do I use the same wisdom in when I am in church as I do in business or in secular matters?
1. Let us look at the first of the challenges from the parable of the Unjust Steward
Am I single-minded for God?
The Unjust Steward had a problem and he was single-minded in sorting it out.
He considered all his options. He was not able to do manual work and he was too proud to beg. So he thought of a third course of action - and that was to make friends of his master’s creditors.
He made credible reductions in the bills so that the creditors were more likely to be able to pay the bills.
Story: One commentator - trying I think to get more out of the story than is justified - suggested that it may well be that he took off the interest that he had been charging.
Charging of interest was something expressly forbidden for a Jew to do - to another Jew under Old Testament Law. So to get round it if one borrowed 400 gallons of olive oil one would sign a repayment note for 800 gallons. So no interest was charged because 800 gallons was "borrowed"!!
Obviously for this theory to work in the parable, olive oil attracted a higher interest rate of interest than wheat!
Now if this was the case – that is to say the Unjust Steward simply lopped off the interest - he could be commended. At least according to that commentator. But I think that is being a bit fanciful.
Basically there is no getting away from the fact - the Unjust Steward was a scoundrel. He was lining his own pockets. He was not faithful to his master - yet his ingenuity is to be admired.
And as I thought about it I wondered if I am really single-mindedly devoted to the cause of Christ.
Would I really go where he sends – or do I have reservations.
Story: When I was in Switzerland about 10 years ago, I said to Maddy. I’ll never go back to England, but if I ever go back I’ll never go to an Anglican Church and if I ever go to an Anglican church, I’ll never be a vicar!
Never say never to God! He seems to take it as a personal challenge!
Single-mindedness in God’s cause requires us to spend time with God in prayer.
Story: About 10 years ago a survey of American and Canadian pastors of all denominations was carried out and one of the questions asked was how much time do you spend in prayer a week.
From those honest enough to answer, it appeared that the average time that was being spent in prayer was 15 minutes a week.