Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Dishonest Steward

While I'm on a scripture kick...

Something struck me last week while listening to the gospel on the dishonest steward -- a parable that's always a bit troublesome. The question that one struggles with is: Why exactly is this fellow being held up as an example for defrauding his master in a totally self-interested way -- though it helps others in the process?

Well, how exactly would a dishonest steward have been living it up all this time? He's been stealing from his master's property (treating it as if it's his own to spend) and also defrauding his master's tenants by demanding more from them than the master is actually asking for. With a lord who wasn't around much, a dishonest steward could practically live at the level of nobility. After all, he had all the resources of a noble estate to work from.

So this defrauding is hardly new. The steward has been defrauding both master and tenants for years in order to line his own pockets. But what happens when the steward learns that the audit is coming? He knows he can't conceal all the wrongs he has done. And he knows that even if he steals one last big amount, he might get it taken from him, and it wouldn't last the rest of his life anyway. So what does he do? The man who has always taken everything for himself starts giving away to others.

The point being, that if even someone who had previously stolen everything not nailed down could suddenly discover generosity when it came down to it -- why don't we do the same when we think that "you can't take it with you"?

Maybe nothing very new, but somehow it "clicked" for me in that sense in a way it hadn't before.


John Farrell said...

Funny you should bring this up. I was disappointed when the priest at our parish decided not to talk about the gospel last Sunday, but instead the readings.

So I went back to look at it myself. Turns out, one crucial bit of info that St. Luke did not bother to relate: stewards normally got a commission for their deals--so what the dishonest steward essentially did once he knew his master had caught him...was to go back and waive his own usurious commission with his master's clients, and this fact makes it a little more understandable why the master commended him.

mrsdarwin said...

John, that's how I'd always understood it myself.