We are called to be
And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
Today’s story is an intriguing tale of master and servant, and money and sly dealing. A steward who is about to be fired curries favor with his master’s debtors by forgiving some of their debts. Jesus seems to be commending dishonest behavior.
Jesus’ target audiences are two groups of people who he had been addressing over the three passages from Luke we have listened to over the past three weeks – one that was despised and frowned upon by society and another that enjoyed much honor and respect. Both shared this common love– amassing wealth.
The openly corrupt tax collectors Jesus had been spending time with are referred to as ‘children of this world;’ the Pharisees who fanatically kept the Law, believing it to be the ‘Light of Life,’ are described as ‘children of light.’
The taxmen had no qualms about adopting dishonest means but were known for their liberal spending habits and for using ill-gotten wealth freely to gain favors and friends. The Pharisees amassed wealth through legally right ways but were known to be tightfisted with their hard-earned money.
The tax collectors are commended for their worldly shrewdness. Jesus is speaking to them about giving up dishonest ways – to be shrewd in a new way, so they would receive heavenly treasures. The latter are commended for their honesty and advised to freely use money to gain the friendship of saints who would welcome them into ‘eternal dwellings,’ when their legalistic righteousness fails to gain them salvation.
Jesus calls both groups to break free from the love of money and seek God with an undivided heart. The Pharisees who loved money heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. Though there is no mention of how the taxmen responded, we have reasons to believe that the likes of Matthew and Zacchaeus, both tax collectors, were converted by this teaching.
The lesson is clear. The servant who is about to lose his job knows exactly what he needs to do to get himself into another job and a secure his future.
The steward was shrewd in taking care of himself. Jesus commends his shrewdness to us.
We are to be shrewd in taking care of our faith. We need to reflect on our failings, our sin, and be shrewd in doing what is necessary to gain heavenly treasure. We need to avoid legalism and scrupulosity and truly live generously in the light of Christ.