Today’s Gospel: Luke 16:1-8
Today’s gospel tells the story of a steward who squanders his master’s property. When the rich man finds his steward is guilty of squandering his property, he’s about to fire him. First, however, the steward is to give account of what he’s been up to, so he goes to each of the master’s debtors and writes off part of the debt. That way those who have been forgiven a huge debt will owe him and help him out after he’s unemployed. He is so good at protecting his self-interest that his master is impressed.
Jesus is not trying to condone waste and dishonesty, he is painting a picture of worldly values here. The steward represents any person for whom self-interest is the guiding principle of life. It is the quintessential worldliness-selfishness and temptation, what Scripture and Tradition call the world, the flesh, and the devil. The flesh is not the body, but that worldliness that can only conceive of goodness as what satisfies me right now. It ignores the ultimate value of life, the goal of which is happiness in God, and orients itself to building up the ego. This can be a habitual way of living and it is common for people to live in this way. Without grace we all would.
Jesus calls this type of person “children of this world.” It is not surprising then that the steward exhibits this self-serving quality. He wastes his master’s wealth and then finds a sly way to avoid paying for his selfish doings. In our own time, we have examples of such children of this world when politicians, bankers and many others refuse to take responsibility for their actions, because those same actions fit into a moral framework that condones it. That is why the Master commended him. They shared the same values.
But Jesus laments, “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light.”
As Christians, we have our own guiding principles. They are charity, faith, patience and acceptance of the cross, hope, and working for a better world. It is the antithesis of the worldly way. In our culture, it is easy to forget our guiding principles, because we are taught so many other values, such as, “As long as you don’t get caught”; “Not in my backyard”; “Succeed at any cost”; “My neighbor is not my responsibility”… the list goes on. The Lord asks us to live in a different way, a counter cultural way. We cannot do this, without coming to know Jesus in prayer and without the help of our brothers and sisters. Together, however, as children of the light, we can embody the seeds of a new world, in which might does not make right and the ways of the Lord prevail.
Lord, you are my true Master. Give me the zeal of a child of the light, so that I may live out the Gospel and one day be judged by you as a worthy servant.
Who do I relate to in this reading, the prudent steward or the child of the light? Perhaps I carry something of each. How can I nurture the values and lifestyle of a child of the light in myself?
Copyright 2014 Julie Paavola