The dishonest steward: lessons

This coming Sunday is the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. In yesterday’s post we considered the troubling v.8: And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently. Today we look at the “teaching portion” that follows the parable which contrasts key words: trustworthy/dishonest, dishonest wealth/true wealth, small/great, what belongs to another/what belongs to you. Verse 13 forms a conclusion to the parable formed by an:

  • An opening assertion – No servant can serve two masters
  • Two supporting observations – He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other
  • The conclusion – You cannot serve God and mammon – The word “wealth” in v.9 is mamōnás The Greek miamōmás seems to come from an Aramaic noun which most probably derives from the root ’mn (“that in which one trusts”).

The word translated “serve” in this verse is not the usual word for serve (diakoneo), but douleuo, which more literally means, “be enslaved to” or “be controlled by.” The same word is used in 15:29 of the older son stating to his father: “Look, all these years I served you…” One cannot be controlled by God and mammon. We can have only one God – and it shouldn’t be wealth.

As in this world, so in the kingdom: trustworthiness in small things leads to a greater trust; spiritual realities but also concerned with physical stewardship (v. 13). The community of Jesus will have to deal with problems of spiritual and material stewardship as there is always the danger of subordinating the spiritual to the material without realizing that a new master has taken over.

Craddock (Luke, 191-2) concludes his comments with:

Verses 10-12 contain sayings all of which are framed on what logicians call an argument a fortiori, that is, an argument from the lesser to the greater. The life of a disciple is one of faithful attention to the frequent and familiar tasks of each day, however small and insignificant they may seem. The one faithful in today’s nickels and dimes is the one to be trusted with the big account, but it is easy to be indifferent toward small obligations while quite sincerely believing oneself fully trustworthy in major matters. The realism of these sayings is simply that life consists of a series of seemingly small opportunities. Most of us will not this week christen a ship, write a book, end a war, appoint a cabinet, dine with the queen, convert a nation, or be burned at the stake. More likely the week will present no more than chance to give a cup of water, write a note, visit a nursing home, vote for a county commissioner, teach a Sunday school class, share a meal, tell a child a story, go to choir practice, and feed the neighbor’s cat.

Image credit: Андрей Николаевич Миронов (A.N. Mironov), CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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