Today’s Chocolate: Theo Orange 70% Dark Chocolate
Today’s Passage: Luke 16
“But wait, Jackson! What about Luke 15?” Look, we’ve done Luke 15. We’ve done it five times. I can understand if you’ve forgotten the Triad program, as we’ve had it on freeze for awhile now. That’s why I’m reminding you with all those hyperlinks. And that’s why we’re moving straight on to Luke 16.
At this very moment, I’m looking at the physical page, and dang if that thing isn’t 99% red. Literally the only words in this chapter that aren’t the Words of Our Lord are a “then-Jesus-said” to open the chapter and, later, “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him” (14). (Of course it’s a dunk on the Pharisees.) Everything else? Jesus’ teaching.
And of that, most of it is two parables. Jesus begins by telling a story of an irresponsible steward, who gets his act together when threatened with losing his job, and he ends with the story of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus, who find their fortunes reversed after their death. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on the basic point of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus: that God and humans often value very different things and that the rich are accountable for how they use their wealth. But the Parable of the Unrighteous Steward is a little bit less, shall we say, scrutable. What’s its spiritual significance? Is it simply a story about ruthless practicality? Jesus’ original audiences often found his sayings and parables hard to understand, so it should come as no surprise if modern readers from a completely different culture and versed in a completely different language (e.g. me) also have trouble discerning their meaning. You know what? I’m gonna google up some commentaries. Be right back.
I’m back! One thing the commentaries clarified, which I never realized (thanks again, GotQuestions.org), was that the steward cooks the books. As the parable begins, he hasn’t done anything overtly criminal, but it comes to the master’s attention that the steward has been managing his estate poorly. The master plans to fire the steward for mere irresponsibility, not actual deception. So what does the steward do? He conspires to save his own fortunes through outright fraud. When he goes to the man who owes the master a hundred measures of oil and tells him, “Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty” (6), the steward’s not collecting on the debt. He’s reducing the amount owed: cutting the debtor a break, hoping the debtor will repay the favor when the master kicks the steward out on the streets.
And this is news to me. All this time, I’ve thought the master praised the steward for shrewdness in getting off his duff, working on those outstanding Accounts Receivable, and not giving up on his job in the face of impending unemployment. No, the master is impressed that the steward was prepared to cheat his master to save his job! And Jesus’ point, as far as I can discern, is that if even unrighteous folks like the master and steward aggressively pursue their own selfish interests, we “sons of light” should be similarly assiduous in our pursuit of righteousness.
I never got the bit about the steward’s fraudulent practices until today. As important as the parable’s rather complex, layered point about morality is, the meta-lesson here seems equally important to me: we often carry incorrect assumptions with us for years, and we are never done learning.