Gospel Luke 16:1-13

“The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness.”

I am confused.

I am sure I read something about honesty and the immorality of stealing a little earlier in this particular book.

It almost seems that Jesus is praising lying and thieving here on the part of the dishonest steward. That can’t be the case, can it?

The Prodigal Son, which immediately precedes this one, gives us a glimpse into a deeper meaning here – the key player in this story is not the steward, but the master.

As in the parable of the prodigal son, it is the Father and his mercy who are the key. In this story we see this dishonest steward, first untrustworthy in small things, prove himself to be untrustworthy in the bigger things. The result sees the mercy of the master enlarged beyond what anyone would think reasonable.

This is unsettling for sure. In fact, this sheds light on the fact that God’s mercy continues to break open our limited conceptions.

Jesus is not praising dishonesty, nor is he advocating that one can do evil with the intention that good can come from it (cf. Rom 3:8). Instead, his emphasis is on the seemingly inexplicable depth of mercy that overflows from the heart of the Father.

At the conclusion of this passage, Jesus reminds us that nobody can serve two masters – and here is the interesting part – he leaves us with the freedom to make our choice. This is a radical risk on his part, and this is the risk of love more broadly. In choosing to love, as God would have us do, we inevitably open ourselves to the risk of hurt, hence the temptation to close ourselves off.

The example of the master in this parable, points us analogously to God the Father, who creates us and sustains us in his mercy, despite our occasional (or perhaps or more accurately continued) closure to his love.

He takes a massive gamble – making himself vulnerable, as He invites us to respond in love.