Gospel Reflections (Luke 16:1-13)

This parable can be deeply disquieting if we take it as an allegory, that is, if every element in the story is meant (as in Matthew’s Parable of the Wheat and the Tares) to have an equivalent in reality. We can’t have God praising the steward for his frauds! No, the point of the story is simply the steward’s energy and inventiveness, his shrewdness as a ‘child of this age’. A lot more thought often goes into how to make money than into how to spend it to the best advantage of others! The danger and encumbrance of wealth is such that skill and imagination is needed in using it to live justly here on earth and to prepare ourselves for life in heaven. The full brilliance of the story is even more subtle: Jews were forbidden to lend to Jews at interest. The steward cuts off the interest from the bills of his master’s debtors, for oil was commonly lent at 100% interest, and wheat at 25%. It was easy to return olive oil adulterated with cheap sesame oil, but if I scatter handfuls of chaff in the grain I give you back, you will spot it immediately. So the steward makes his master obey the Law! The sayings added at the end hit the nail on the head: no slave can serve two masters, God and money. Is there anything in your life which prevents you from fully serving God?


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