As many times as we may hear the parable in today’s Gospel, I think we always end up scratching our heads and wondering what point Jesus was making, precisely. It’s just so unlike anything we would expect him to preach, this idea of the steward basically cheating his employer and making friends with the customers in order to save his own neck. Even the whole idea of money changing was so foreign to anything that Jesus ever took time to deal with. So the question is, why now? Why does Jesus suddenly have this interest in money, and dishonest wealth at that?
I think the answer to that question is why the Church gives us this Gospel reading, from just past the middle of Luke’s Gospel, right here at what is just about the end of our Church year. Jesus is telling us that time is running short. We don’t know when the end will come, but we know that it will come some day, and is would be best for us to be hard at work for the kingdom so that we might enter into it. Not that we should attempt to cheat God as the steward did his employer, but that we might seize the day and take advantage of the time we may have in order to assure the eternity we definitely want.
Many scholars conjecture that the steward was basically writing off his own commission, and not really cheating his employer. That makes sense if we think about it; what good is a commission he wouldn’t be able to collect anyway? Better to have the good will of those customers to help him when he really needs it. And for us, what good are the temporal things of this world? We can’t take them with us. Better to write them off and have an eternity to go to.
The days are shorter now, aren’t they? It’s dark way too early, and the days are getting colder. Winter will be with us for a while, and so we turn our thoughts to the end of time. As we do so, maybe it’s time for us to think about what are the things we need to write off so that eternity can be ours. When we do that, our Lord may congratulate us too for acting so prudently.