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The unjust steward

is the example of consistent and thoughtful benefaction. Upon a first reading, one may get the impression that the lord in this parable commends his steward for crookedness. However, the Lord told this parable in order to make us think about the depth of its meaning.

"There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? For my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord's debtor's unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations" (Lk. 16:1-9).

In a miserable and hopeless condition, the steward finds a way to acquire patrons and provide for his future with great ingenuity. The rich lord of this parable is God, and the steward that 'wasted his goods' is a man who carelessly wastes the gifts he has received from God. Many people, like the unjust steward, fiddle away God's riches of health, time and abilities, for things vain and sinful. But at some time, everyone, like the steward, must give account to God for the material goods and opportunities entrusted to him. The unjust steward knew that he would no longer have the stewardship then and thought about his future beforehand. His inventiveness and ability to provide for his future is exemplary.

When a man comes up before the Justice of Heaven, he understands that it is not the acquisition of tangible goods which is meaningful, but the good works done by a man. According to the parable, the material goods are "unrighteous richness" because a man frozen onto them becomes greedy and heartless. Very often the riches become the idol that the hardened man worships. The man relies on riches more than on God. That is why the Lord called the earthly riches 'the mammon of unrighteousness'. Mammon was the ancient Syrian god who patronized wealth.

Now we will think about our attitude to material goods. We consider many things our property and use them only for our comfort and whims. But in fact all worldly goods belong to God. He is the Master and Lord of all; we are only His temporary agents or stewards, as in the parable. That is why to share God's goods with the people who need them is not a breach of law, as in the case of steward in the Gospel, but just the other way around, it constitutes our direct obligation. The conclusion of the parable must be interpreted in this light: "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations," i.e., the needy people whom we have helped will become our solicitors and patrons in the future life.

In the parable of the unjust steward the Lord teaches us to be genuinely resourceful, inventive and persistent in the works of mercy. But as the Lord also notices in this parable, "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light," i.e., pious people often lack the skills and quick mind which the unrighteous use to set up their living.

An example of an extremely unwise use of material goods was given by the Lord in the parable of <see next chapter>

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