C Cycle – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time 19
It is a well-known fact most pastors hate to talk about money and most parishioners hate it when pastors talk about money.
So, if you consider this parable where Jesus talks about the steward that squanders his master’s money, you must wonder what Jesus is trying to teach us and how should we respond to our role as stewards of God’s gifts.
Let us try to hear the parable from the perspective of our call to be disciples. Many of us like the disciples are not wealthy individuals nor do we consider ourselves stewards of another person’s property. The disciples were familiar with the concept of a steward and they knew a steward was in charge of the estate and was responsible for its maintenance, its personnel and for not only protecting the investment but was responsible for making the masters estate and his investment grow.
You cannot hear this parable without connecting it with the parable of the talents where the master chastises the steward who did nothing to increase the talent, he was given. We must apply that same lesson to this parable and understand one key point Jesus was making is that the status quo is never good enough in our relationship with God.
The steward in today’s parable did much worse than that individual who just preserve the talent, so the master’s gift was not lost. No, this steward did much worse, he never attempted to make it grow for he squandered it. Where have you heard that someone squandered what God gave him? Just last week you heard the parable of the prodigal son who also squandered what the Father gave him. However, the lesson we learn from that parable was forgiveness and this week the master’s response is not forgiveness because Jesus is teaching us something about ourselves and not the Father.
This steward wasted what he was given. He did nothing to enhance and he did not even attempt to protect it from those people and things who enticed him to forget about the master’s expectations of him. He was apparently self-absorbed in enjoying the fruit of his labor while ignoring the position God gave him to build upon the master’s gift.
The truth is we do not know why he squandered the master’s property. But in his failure, we can see our own failures in our own relationship with God.
Perhaps he felt secure in the fact the master was understanding and merciful. Perhaps he was lazy and thought there was enough time to satisfy the masters demands of him. Perhaps he was greedy, and the enticement of riches was stronger than the discipline of always working to please a demanding master. Perhaps he just forgot the rules of honesty, discipline and ignored his own instinct telling him it was wrong but often the lines of right and wrong get blurred because we are not in contact with the master enough.
What we do know is Jesus was making a point and we better pay attention to it before we find ourselves being questioned about what we have squandered.
There was another point Jesus was trying to teach his disciples and us and that is one of understanding what we must do when we realize how badly we have failed.
This steward began to ingratiate himself by writing down the debts they owed the master. Note he was not diminishing what the master was to receive by reducing their debt. Instead he was forfeiting his commission on the transaction and the master praises him for being proactive, calling him prudent. This is a word we need to stop and reflect on before we go any further. Like many words spoken by Christ we tend to overlook them and often never take the time to reflect on them.
Do you think God desires us to be prudent, to act with care, concern and thought about the future?
Of course, he does, or Jesus would not have used that word in speaking to us. It goes to the heart of the lesson we should learn from this parable. The failure of the steward is he was not concerned, did not give thought, nor did he care about the future until it was too late. This is a worldly trait that much of society is caught up in and we Christians fall into the same mindset because we believe we are doing what the master desires us to be doing.
The concept of future thinking lies at the heart of the parable and the mindset of the world is they do spend a lot of time and energy trying to gain the things they believe will make them happy. This does not mean they are ignoring the concept of “being good people” for most of them are generous, give of their time, and do good works. Yet, their lives are all about feeling and enjoying the gift of life and creation.
We Christians may not be as invested in worldly things as they are, but we fall into a comfortable place with God and we fail to be prudent and work to grow in our relationship with God and in using our gifts to enhance the kingdom in the lives of others. We fail to use every gift given to us to make the love, the mercy and the gift of salvation grow in the hearts of others. What we do with our money is one of the things we keep out of our relationship with God.
Ever wonder why Jesus talks so much about money and very seldom sexual sin? Could it be we understand the concept of sin and do not think about money except when we get upset because the pastor is pleading for more giving.
The truth is this parable teaches us stewardship demands more of us than just putting $10 or less in the basket each week or signing up to help with the fall festival. Stewardship means each of us have been given something to build up the kingdom of God. We are being told we are to make it grow and use it to do something good for our community of faith. Each of us have been given spiritual gifts, natural talents and money. Are we squandering those gifts by using them only for ourselves, our families, our own interest or are we looking at them as gifts to be used for spreading the good news of God’s love and mercy?