This parable is sometimes viewed as the most challenging of all due to the lord’s commendation of the steward. Is he commended by Jesus Christ the Lord or by the lord/master of the household? And why? Note that the steward is not accused of taking the master’s money for himself, but of diaskorpizo the master’s wealth: scattering it abroad; dispersing, squandering, wasting it. Tellingly, the steward does not dispute the charges. Instead, he responds with further diaskorpizo, reducing the debts in the collections book.
Interestingly, the root word of the verb for scatter is a word used for the liberal distribution of blessings. So what if the steward is commended because of his generosity and liberality, his ability to build relationships through gifts and mercy? What if he is not only commended by the Lord, but represents the Lord? Christ Jesus was accused by the powers-that-be of squandering what should have been theirs, of sharing mercy with the unrighteous instead of with the chosen people. He disrupted their ideas of good. How could a Samaritan be “Good”? How could the beggar Lazarus be better than the rich guy? What if what matters is how as stewards we spread abroad what is entrusted to us to share? To build relationships based in giving and mercy instead of who owes how much to whom? Perhaps these are the “unjust” actions that grant residency in eternal homes.
For more, see Dieter H. Reinstorf, “The parable of the shrewd manager,” HTS, 69 (1), 2013.
Barb Hedges-Goettl is a PC(USA) pastor with a special passion for liturgy who teaches emotionally disturbed middle school kids in Philadelphia.
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