Gospel Meditation

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.” It’s important to pay attention to the details of the parable Jesus tells in today’s Gospel. At first glance, it might seem as if Jesus is encouraging us to be dishonest. But in fact, it’s just the opposite. The steward in this tale was reported to his master “for squandering his property.” In other words, the steward was not being responsible with what he was in charge of. And the master was ready to fire him on account of it. But then, the steward had a change of heart. (This isn’t so hard to comprehend–sometimes it takes a real threat for us to realize we need to change our ways, doesn’t it?) So the steward went to the people from whom he had previously collected money to “make friends” with them. How? By reducing their debts.

This might seem to be dishonest yet again, but we need to bear in mind that in the end, the master was pleased with the steward’s behavior. So this debt reduction must not have affected the master’s pocketbook. Rather, it seems probable that the steward had originally hiked up what the debtors owed the master and put the extra cash in his own pocket. This was the sort of extortion that was common in those days, among tax collectors for example. Now, when the steward was about to lose his position, he thought it wise to go back and return that “dishonest wealth” to the folks who had lost it, and gain some sympathy in the process. So, in the end, the steward was making up for his previous cheating behavior by doing something RIGHT and smart. It’s this honest behavior that will enable him to take his place in “eternal dwellings.” And surely our honest behavior will have the same effect.