25th Sunday in Ordinary Time-C
September 22, 2019
Amos 8: 4-7
1 Timothy 2: 1-8
Luke 16: 1-13
There was a farmer who owed a large sum of money to the village moneylender, who also fancied the farmer’s beautiful daughter. The moneylender proposed a deal: he would forgive the farmer’s debt if he could marry the farmer’s daughter.
Both the farmer and the daughter were horrified. But the cunning moneylender proposed a clever scheme. He would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty money bag. If the girl picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father’s debt would be forgiven. If she picked the white pebble, she would not have to marry him and her father’s debt would still be forgiven. If she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into prison until the debt was paid.
They were standing in a pebble-strewn path in the farmer’s field. As the moneylender bent down to pick up two pebbles, the sharp-eyed girl saw him put two black pebbles into the bag.
What could she do? 1) She could refuse to take a pebble, and her father would go to prison. 2) She could pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself. 3) She could pull out both black pebbles from the bag and expose the moneylender as a cheat, and likely incite his immediate revenge.
So here is what the clever girl did. She reached into the bag and pulled out a pebble. But without looking at it she let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it became lost among the other black and white stones.
“How clumsy of me,” she said. “But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.”
Since the remaining pebble was also black, it would be assumed that she had picked the white pebble. And since the moneylender did not dare to admit his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed to be a hopeless situation into an extremely advantageous one.
Don’t we all love stories where the good guys use their cunning and wit to bring down the villain? It disturbs us, though, when villains use their cunning and wit to bring down the good guys. And yet Jesus tells His disciples a parable about a dishonest steward who did just that.
As stewardship parishes, pay special attention to that word “steward.” He was not the owner but the manager, the steward, of his master’s property and goods. And we are the stewards, the managers, of all the blessings that God has entrusted to us. And one day we will all have to account to God for our stewardship
What are we to learn from this parable about the dishonest steward? On his own authority, he reduced the debts that others owed his master so that they would treat him favorably after he was dismissed from his job.
Jesus is not praising the steward for his dishonesty. The steward had rationalized his poor behavior as people still do today: “My boss has lots of money. He drives a Mercedes and always flies first class. I bring in a lot of business to this company and my boss gets the lion’s share of the profits. So I am just taking some of what should really be mine.” And so the rationalization goes.
I read about neighbors talking after a severe storm had occurred. One asks, “What are you going to claim with the insurance company?”
“Nothing,” the other replies. “Fortunately I don’t have any damage.”
To which the first neighbor says, “Are you crazy? Claim something. After all, you have been paying the premiums all these years.”
Many people have grown numb to ethics and honesty. They believe that “the end justifies the means” and that rationalization is the way to accomplish this.
In this parable, Jesus is not commending the steward for his dishonesty. Rather, he is praising him for his drive and ingenuity. The fellow did not just sit back and feel sorry for himself. No, he used his imagination and devised a grand plan.
And, by way of contrast, Jesus says, “The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
This means that, if the Christian were as eager to attain goodness as the person of this world is to attain profit and comfort, the Christian would be a much better person. If people would give as much attention to things that concern their souls as they do to the things that concern their worldly activities, they would be much better people.
So, get busy! Use your drive and ingenuity as “children of light” to be a follower of Jesus, and to do what is good – in amazing ways!
There was a story in “The Saturday Evening Post” some time ago. It was about a church where the sermon had been overly long. At the last verse of the final hymn, the people stampeded out … all except for Abigail. She had been quite taken with what she had heard that day and so she stayed behind to reflect – and Abigail got trampled by the rest of the congregation.
The attorney for the church ran this argument: “The church is a not-for-profit organization, made up largely of volunteers. We can’t expect the church to run with the same efficiency as a business.”
That argument got to me: “The church is a not-for-profit organization, made up largely of volunteers. We can’t expect the church to run with the same efficiency as a business.”
We can’t? Look at what McDonalds does so well: advertising burgers and fries and other fast foods. And look what we have been entrusted with by God: the Gospel of Jesus Christ, His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, forgiveness for our sins, the opportunity to live forever with God in heaven. Shouldn’t we as a Church expend at least as much drive and ingenuity – as much time, talent and treasure – as does McDonald’s?
When you leave church today after the last line of the final hymn, I hope that you will not stampede! But I also hope that you will carry a question in your heart to consider this week: as a grateful steward of God’s bountiful blessings, as a disciple of Jesus, am I fully living my Christian life with drive and ingenuity?
I hope that your answer is an energetic “yes.” For we are graced and blessed by God, with cunning and wit, to live as “children of light.”