This parable has been known as the ‘Parable of the Dishonest Steward.’ Possibly there could be another title.
Luke tells the story of the rich man who is going to fire his steward for “squandering his (the rich man’s) property.” Apparently the steward, who according to the customs of the time, not only has been attending to the man’s business affairs, but also has been padding his own wallet in the process. Both practices are common to the time. The rich man is not unduly upset about the padding, but is concerned about the squandering of his property.
What is the steward to do? Unemployment and hard labor are not appealing. So, he follows his habit of self-protection. He continues to protect himself, by summoning the master’s debtors and instructing them to re-write their debts. He has them remove the interest he initially charged them. The debt now reflects what is owed to the master, minus his own personal cut. Clever fellow!
Is this the news of today? What is Luke trying to tell us? Where is the goodnews?
Is this reading about honesty – possibly, and then some. The steward may be clever, but there has been no conversion to honesty per se. Possibly this reading is as much about vulnerability as it is about honesty. The steward moves from one form of cocooning his vulnerabilities to another. The steward’s actions stem from feelings of insecurity and a need to protect himself and possibly his family. He needs a job and apparently feels he needs more than the job pays, so he steals; he squanders and pads the accounts. When he is caught he feels threatened – physically, socially, personally. More vulnerable than ever the steward moves toward those who “may welcome me into their homes.” There is an implied trust that he will be welcomed, offered hospitality. We can only imagine how fearful, scared and vulnerable this man feels regarding his future. His instinct, his habit is to protect himself, only this time it is not with extra funds, but with the anticipated hospitality of others. In spite of his past behavior, he trusts he will be forgiven and welcomed.
Vulnerability is nothing new. It is a sacred ancient gift. It is in vulnerability that I am nurtured, grow and become the woman I am created to be. It is the hard crust of bad habit and the quick sand of temptation. It is the nakedness of fear and the chill of doubt. It is also the fertile ground of growth.
The good news: Within my deepest vulnerability our patient, gentle, loving Jesus enters and invites me into his gracious and generous hospitality. Jesus’ hospitality is offered not in spite of who I am, but because of who I am.
So goes the parable of the ‘Vulnerable Steward.’
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