The Gospel for this week is Luke 16:1-15. This is probably one of the most difficult of the parables of Jesus to explain. It is so challenging primarily because the main character, the “unjust steward,” is, in fact, called “unjust” in Jesus’ story. If it were simply a matter of a master being pleased with a steward who is shrewd enough to provoke debtors to some sort of payment we would be able to understand it easily. But Jesus distinctly calls this steward “unjust.”
Does he then want Christians to be unjust? Not at all. However, when push comes to shove, it is within the master’s desire for the debts to be collected, even partially. The steward did not have authority to reduce the debts, but it was, in fact, the master’s will that the debts be collected. Though the steward was acting out of a self-interest which was not godly, his self-interested actions actually were in agreement with the master’s desire.
How many of our actions are self-interested? If we consider it fairly, we are very likely to find that none of our actions are genuinely done with no self interest. Even in our good deeds, we desire people to think well of us, to repay us, or we want to assuage guilt for something that we have failed to do in the past or will surely fail in the future. We act in our own interest, even if we have someone else’s interest in mind. How does God respond to our poorly motivated, partially accomplished good deeds? He commends us. It is not as if we accomplished something completely good. We didn’t. But we did do something which was pleasing to God.
May we have grace to care for our neighbors in this world, even our work is incomplete and our motivation is not perfect.
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