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The Parable of the Unjust Steward - Luke 16:1-13

What we’ve just heard in the Gospel reading is known as the parable of the Unjust Steward.  How is it that an unfaithful steward, about to be relieved of his position, gains praise from his employer when he ends his career by stealing more from him?

In order to better understand this parable, we need to look at the context in which it was presented.  We have to run briefly through Luke’s previous chapter, Ch.15.  And I’m going to quote from this book, the Street Bible, to review the story so far:

 “Jesus is surrounded by a whole range of undesirables.  Course, the religious leaders and law enforcers spot this and start their ‘tutting and frowning’ – the old whingeing routine again; ‘this chap doesn’t only talk to these lowlifes; he actually shares his lunch with them!’ they whine.

So Jesus tells them three stories about losing things, loud enough for the whingeing club to hear.  But the first two, about a lost coin and a lost sheep (we heard these two parable last Sunday!) are just warm-ups for the big one - about the dad of the decade” - the parable of the Prodigal Son.  The Street Bible tells us in two full pages about the son who went off and squandered his inheritance and ended up living hand-to-mouth and doing work that nobody else would touch.  Finally, it dawns on him that he has a home to go back to, so he heads off back there.  And his dad’s so pleased to see him that he pulls out all the stops and they party.  But his brother who’s been slaving over the accounts and things keeping thing going at home isn’t best pleased.  “Come on Son” his Dad tells him, “We have to party.  Your brother was lost but now we’ve found him again, and he’s found us.”

You see, those Pharisees and the scribes had entirely the wrong viewpoint. 
They saw men and women who sinned.  Jesus saw people who needed to be saved.

Next comes today’s Gospel reading.  And for this, Jesus turned to his disciples – turned to his disciples, remember; this part is important - and within earshot of the tutting and frowning club he told them the parable of the unjust steward.

 “There was a rich man who had a manager,” whom, following complaints, he called into the office.  “What’s this I hear about you?  They’re saying that you’ve been squandering what I’ve put you in charge of” he said.  “I want to see you here by 9:30 am tomorrow morning, together with your management report.  Meanwhile, you’re on notice of dismissal.  OK?”

Have you ever been in this position?  I know I have.  And believe me, it’s a wake-up call!  A situation like this focuses your mind.  Your first concern in the outgoings.  If my job goes, what then?  I’ve a family to provide for.  What do we owe?  Who to?  How long for?

Well, returning to our Parable, this manager starts looking out for number 1. 
Going through the boss’s debtors list, he negotiated discounts in return for prompt payment; 20% here, 50% there, earning a goodwill investment with the debtors.  His boss recognized the shrewdness of the manager and commended him.  Job safe?  Possibly!  Problem sorted!  Yes!

All parables are aimed toward a particular point.  They start to break down when they are stretched too far or applied to the wrong point.  In essence, Jesus is stating that the ungodly people in this world know how to get the most from worldly things that, truth be told, they don't even own; but, the so-called godly people don't know how to get the most from spiritual things.  "For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light" (Luke 16:8).  The Pharisees were squandering precious resources.  There were people in their midst who needed to be brought back to God and they refused to see their value.

So we need to pay close attention to this Parable.  Bear in mind who said it – our Saviour himself.  And whom it was directed – to his disciples then - and to us, his disciples today.  Who, then, is the rich man, and who is the manager?

Our Anglican Prayer books, the Book of Common Prayer, and today’s Common Worship do a double job for us.  They not only set out an excellent framework of worship day-by-day and year-by-year providing for our needs throughout our lives.  Within that framework is all the teaching that we need for us to see how we fit in the universe we are part of, and our purpose in it. 

In a short while, we’ll stand during the Offertory and proclaim, “Yours Lord is the greatness, the power, the glory, the splendour, and the majesty; for everything in heaven and on earth is yours, and of your own do we give you.”  You see, for us, the rich man of the parable is our Lord, and we are the managers of his bounty.  Yes, us!  You and I!  Every last one of us!

To enable us to do that; to be shrewd and astute managers of His bounty; we need His support.  And that’s why we’re here!  At the Eucharist, that’s what we’re preparing ourselves for.  So when at the end of this service you stand and pray, “Send us out in the power of your Spirit, Lord, to live and work to your praise and glory; remember this Parable.

I know I will!



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