The Parable of the Dishonest Steward in Luke’s gospel can be a little confusing. What is Jesus saying here? Is he commending dishonesty?
18 September 2022
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
So, what is the point of Jesus’ parable? His main point is to stress urgency and preparedness. Let’s take a look at this parable.
First, we have a rich man who discovered that the steward in his employ—his manager—is squandering his wealth. Perhaps he’s been cooking the books or lax in his duties. Whatever the case, the rich man tells the steward that he’s fired.
The steward is in a dire situation. He knows he can’t make a living by digging or begging. He responds by formulating a shrewd plan to make friends with his master’s debtors. He does this by calling them in and allowing them to write promissory notes for a lesser value than what they actually owe the rich man. This, of course, wins the favor of these debtors and helps to secure the steward’s future.
The rich man commends the steward for his shrewd business dealings. Although they are dishonest and unjust, they did help to secure his worldly future.
So, what’s the overall message of this parable? Jesus is making the point that if children of the world will so shrewdly prepare for their temporal future in the world, how much more so should we, as children of light, prepare so as to ensure for our eternal well-being in the kingdom of God.
Again, Jesus’ main point is to stress urgency and preparedness. We should prudently and diligently organize our time and our lives so as to ensure we are accepted into the kingdom of God. Said another way, we must strive to secure our future with God.
Jesus, then, is contrasting the diligence of the dishonest steward with how we, as followers of Christ and children of the light, must be diligent in ensuring our friendship with God, so as to secure our eternal future with him.
Finally, remember that the Pharisees are listening to this parable. In fact, they’ve been listening to Jesus since the beginning of Luke 15, where Jesus tells a few parables, including the Parable of the Prodigal Son, who squandered his father’s inheritance.
It is implied in the Parable of the Dishonest Steward that the Pharisees are serving mammon rather than God. They are devoted to wealth rather than God and his kingdom. That’s why at the end of his teaching, Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Finally, how are we to prepare for our eternal future? By living the Catholic and Christian life. We attend the holy sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays and other holy days. We receive the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, worthily. We confess all grave sins in the sacrament of Penance and we do so with regularity. We build our eternal inheritance through prayer and through almsgiving in which we assist those in need.
The overall message here is serve God, not wealth. Prepare and exercise spiritual diligence, for we do not know when the Son of man will come and demand an account of our lives.
Image Attribution: (A.N. Mironov), CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.