Living as once I did in the fair city of Chicago, I have a great appreciation for the story about the unjust steward as related in Luke 16: 1-13. After all, that city has not always been known for great transparency for portions of its history. How well I remember being there during the time that the honorable Richard J. Daley—the original Mayor Daley, not his son—held the office of Mayor. During that time, Mike Royko, a journalist for the Chicago Daily News, published a book titled Boss. All about the abuse of mayoral power, the book was an overnight sensation as it was a scandalous exposé of the Daley administration.
Knowing he would not survive the audit, the unjust steward in Luke cut corners to make friends among his master’s creditors so that he might have a position of gainful employment after he was fired from his present position. A favor here… a kindness there… a little kickback– so that people would remember the favors he had done for them.
The parable of the unjust steward resonates with so many aspects of our popular culture. “If it feels good, just do it,” “it is not a crime, if you don’t get caught.” Then of course, there is the ubiquitous excuse, “I’m sorry I got caught,” which of course implies total lack of remorse for doing a wrong thing at the outset. But it also conveys a sad state of moral development. Dogs and small children have a conscience developed nearly as much—a thing is wrong so long as as Mom or Dad is there to see it because punishment might ensue.
Much as we might like to duck it, the parable of the unjust steward is really about stewardship, and not necessarily about moral development. Jesus reminds us that we cannot serve two masters, for we will hate the one and love the other. He also tells us that WE cannot serve two masters which are named as God and wealth. So, in an uncomfortable way, this parable is an invitation to self-examination. Are we justly the stewards of what God has given us? Do we do right by God? Or, do we cut corners just the same as Almighty God?
The theology of stewardship stands between us and the absolute expectation of the Lord Jesus. Rather than give up all our possessions, we are invited to consider how to use those possessions in the service of the Gospel. Wealth is not in itself an evil thing—it is a thing that can be used for tremendous good, or it could be used for tremendous evil. The whole idea behind stewardship is that we take stock of what we have, realizing that all that we are and all that we have is a gift from God. And then we take that which we are able and we offer it to God with thankful hearts and minds.