Saturday, August 04, 2007

Musings on the Unjust Steward

The parable of the shrewd steward is an intriguing Gospel. Jesus uses the example of a steward who, accused of mishandling his master's goods, seemingly sets about to mishandle them some more, in order to gain for himself a place to stay when his time of stewardship comes to an end. And this steward is commended by the master and by Jesus. What are we to make of this? Several observations are in order.

First, it's likely that the steward has full authority to do what he did--authorize the lessening of the debt in order to get payment at once--and in so doing, to make friends with his master's debtors. Second, it's also likely that in doing so he actually became a good steward in a way; that is, by this shrewd move he helped out his master who, we can surmise, might otherwise never have been paid. Third, I think it's helpful to note that the measures of oil owed are reduced from 100 to 50, which is the number of Pentecost, i.e., the number of the Spirit. Oil is used in connection with Baptism; not only so, but Baptism is the washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the measures of wheat are reduced to 80, and as wheat is pressed into service to make bread, and is not earthly bread best used to make heavenly Bread? Therefore we, receiving the new Bread (the number 8 signifies newness, being the first of a new week) which is Christ, at length (that is, in tenfold multiplication) shall receive the fruition of the glorious Godhead.

What, then, is the message of the unjust steward? At least this much: that the things on this earth are put to best use when they are pressed into service for use in the Holy Sacraments. Not only so, but even the finances of the people of God are put to best use when they are pressed into service for the purchase and use of these Things. For, as it is said, "you can't take it with you."

For the mystery of the grace of God is this, that although it certainly does not in any way depend on the merit or works of men, yet there is this wonderful mercy whereby nevertheless God takes our worthless works and pours His life into them, as the Psalmist declares: establish Thou the works of our hands. And this is most manifestly so in Christ, for by His holy incarnation, He takes upon Himself the very flesh which we have despoiled, purifies it by His merit, and offers it in sacrifice for the sin of the world. And this, then, is what we preach in the churches, whereby men hear, believe, and are saved.

Therefore take what you have, and used it shrewdly, that, when you fail, they may receive you into eternal habitations. Who, then are "they"? Angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven. The best use of earth's resources is what transpires in the churches, in the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Blessed Sacraments.

1 comment:

Father Eckardt said...

I had to make an adjustment to the first-published version, since I had inadvertently applied the number 80 to the oil rather than to the wheat, and 50 to the wheat rather than to the oil. This way works much better. Fifty is Pentecost, the number of the Spirit, when thousands were Baptized.