The Crafty Steward
Jesus also said to his disciples, 'There was a rich man and he had a steward denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, "What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer." Then the steward said to himself, "Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes."
Then he called his master's debtors one by one. To the first he said, "How much do you owe my master?" "One hundred measures of oil" was the reply. The steward said, "Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty". To another he said, "And you, sir, how much do you owe?" "One hundred measures of wheat" was the reply. The steward said, "Here, take your bond and write eighty".
'The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.' 'And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity.
What do you have that money can't buy? When you think about it, you may find yourself saying something like this, 'I have my life and my health. I have the people I love, my family and friends. I have my gifts and talents. I have honesty and integrity. I have the beauty of nature. I have my relationship with God and my favourite saints.' And this is what Jesus tells us: treasures such as these are genuine riches in a way that money and property and material things never can be. The Beatles knew this when they sang: 'I'll give you all I got to give if you say you love me too. I may not have a lot to give but what I got I'll give to you. I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love.'
Jesus lived in the real world where people were concerned with money and possessions. He noticed that in dealing with these matters, dishonest people were often cleverer than honest people. He said that we could learn from dishonest people how to use money wisely. So he told the story about the crafty steward. The steward was fired, but before he left his job, he called in all who owed money to his master and reduced their bills by a half. For this they would be indebted to him; his hope was that when his job was gone they would remember that they 'owed him one,' and would feel obliged to look after him. Jesus praised the steward, not for being dishonest, but for being so astute.
Money makes friends
One dictionary explains the word 'astute' as 'shrewd, sharp, smart, cagey, canny.' Jesus praised the man for the particular way in which he was astute: he used money to make friends. Jesus said that this is exactly what good and honest people need to do too.
I invite you to notice how you do this yourself. When you spend money to meet your real needs and the needs of others, it is likely that you are spending wisely. If you are a parent, the money you spend in providing for your children in the present and in educating them for the future, is wisely spent. The money you pay in taxes is astutely used when it meets the needs of others, especially the most vulnerable. Likewise we may hope that the money we give to good causes is generally well spent.
Money makes enemies
Money that is wisely spent makes friends; money that is foolishly spent often makes enemies. Violent crime is a growing problem in local communities; terrorism is an international problem. While the better off spend money on consumer goods they do not need, millions lack the money to pay for the basic necessities of life. This extravagant spending makes enemies: communities where people live without work or adequate income become seedbeds of violence and terrorism. Every criminal and every terrorist must take responsibility for his or her own behaviour and must answer for it, but when people spend money selfishly and use up the world's limited resources irresponsibly, they need to remind themselves that there is no peace without justice.
Prayer: Psalm 112
Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
who take delight in his commands.
Their descendants shall be powerful on earth;
the children of the upright are blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their homes;
their justice stands firm for ever.
They are lights in the darkness for the upright;
they are generous, merciful and just.
Good people take pity and lend,
they conduct their affairs with honour.
They have no fear of evil news;
with firm hearts they trust in the lord.
Openhanded they give to the poor;
their justice stands firm for ever.
Their heads will be raised in glory.