Last week we heard a parable directed towards the Pharisees and the scribes who were grumbling against Jesus because he ate with sinners and mixed with tax collectors and known sinners. He told them the story of the son who squandered his father’s possessions and was left desolate. He told them the story of the Father who came running to greet the return of his son in what has become a fantastic story of compassion, forgiveness and hope for a new start.
This week the parable is directed towards the disciples. He (Jesus) turns to them and directs his words to them. The parable this time is also about a man who squandered possessions that did not belong to him. The same words are used in this parable as they were in the prodigal son. “There was a certain rich man. He had a household manager who was reported to him as having squandered his possessions.” Similar to the prodigal Son he finds himself in a crisis. Having done the wrong thing he should have expected to be punished, imprisoned or laden with a large payback scheme. Instead the master lets him go. He releases him from his job but seemingly without retribution. In some way there appears to be a certain leniency in his action. On the other hand there is a swift and decisive action from the master – if you cannot administer my possessions in a responsible way then you have forfeited your right to be my manager.
In this moment of crisis the steward acts quickly to invest wisely in his own future by the clever re-ordering of the debts for those who were indebted to the master. It is unclear if this means that the master is being disadvantaged. We don’t know whether or not the steward is reducing his (legitimate) cut or taking potential income from his master – or both. That does not seem to be the point. Instead the master praises the steward, for he seems finally to have realised that the use of possessions can be used for the building up of good relationships. They should not simply be squandered.
If the stewards and hence the listener to the parable can learn to use possessions well how much more should we be able to use the gifts of the kingdom entrusted to us by the visitation of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
And this is the point, I think, of Luke’s Gospel. There is a crisis moment when the demands of the Gospel are placed before us. We can learn to manage our possessions in a crisis. What will we do with the call to discipleship? What will we do as a Church? What will we do as individuals?
By Fr Brendan Reed