If you struggled with what you just heard in today’s Gospel, you’re not alone. For about 2,000 years, in fact, folks have wondered if Jesus could really have told such a parable to teach his audience something about the reign of God. More recently, earlier this week, two groups of parishioners spent a half-hour each on this passage in our weekly Lectio Divina sessions, and they, too, were scratching their heads about dishonest wealth and what seems to be an immoral hero.
What helps, I think, is if we read back into the story from the final line, “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” This is the takeaway. And when we get that, we start to see that Jesus uses such an unsavory example to show us how single-minded, unwavering, purposeful, creative action can help us in our discipleship.
Jesus uses such a tawdry, worldly example not to lift up cheating or stealing. In fact, Jesus doesn’t even care enough about the plot of the story he started that he doesn’t even finish it. We don’t know how it turns out for the manager. We do know that Jesus wants us to apply his smarts, creativity, passion and dedication to our pursuit of the reign of God. We have to be all in. Nothing else will work.
The dishonest steward was commended for acting prudently, and we, too, have the opportunity to act prudently for Christ. If a problem or crisis comes our way, we can use all of our spiritual tools, especially those gifts of the Spirit we received at Confirmation, to discern a way through. The little ways we focus on the reign of God in daily life will add up and help us when the big moments come around.