Jerusalem Bible © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Company Inc.
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘There was a rich man and he had a steward who was denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”
Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”
‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.
‘And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own? ‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’
Did you know?
Points of interest and Catholic lore
- One of the dominant themes in Luke’s Gospel is the right use of money and the need to beware of becoming distracted by it from the pursuit of God.
- A measure of oil was around 35 litres so 100 measures was a considerable debt.
- A measure of wheat was about 10 bushels so, again, a considerable debt.
- In Jesus’ time, wealth was seen as a reward for virtue so these words were a great challenge.
Exploring the Word
At first reading, this text is very puzzling. How can dishonesty be so rewarded? The action in the text is easier to understand when we know something of how commerce was conducted at the time. According to Jewish Law, it was not permissible to charge interest. To get around this, the practice developed of increasing the original debt to cover what would have been a normal interest rate. What the cunning steward has done is to reduce the debt to the level of the original loan. The Master will be paid his due according to the Law, but no more. If the Master complained of this action, his sin would come to light. The real criticism in this text is directed to those who have been entrusted with the riches of God’s kingdom and have not used them well. The point is that all who are called to share the riches of the kingdom must commit themselves to careful administration of those inestimable treasures. This is much more important than administering the riches of this world.
- In what ways can money be used in our world to create barriers between people or to break down barriers between people?
- Pope John Paul II often spoke of aspiring to ‘be more’ rather than to ‘have more’? Pope Francis has said, ‘Money has to serve, not to rule.’ What do you think they meant by these comments? Explore the implications.
Opportunities for group discussion and personal prayer
- Are you the sort of person on whom others can rely, whether it is for little things or great things?
- On what are your real friendships based?
- What is the single most important thing in your life?
- The steward was praised for being ‘astute’. Explore together what talents and gifts you can identify in members of the group. What talents or gifts would you like to have? How can you cultivate these talents?
- Use your talents for others this week. Be good stewards of creation and act in an ecologically sound way.
- This prayer is attributed to St Ignatius of Loyola. Use it daily this week.
Lord Jesus Christ, take all my freedom,
my memory, my understanding, my will.
All that I have and cherish you have given me.
I surrender it all to be guided by your will.
Your grace and your love are wealth enough for me.
Give me these, Lord Jesus, I ask for nothing more.
Sharing the tradition
A closer look at the Scripture of the day, to see how it makes more explicit God’s word to us through the teachings of Jesus Christ
Truth, honesty, integrity and trustworthiness are among the virtues to be cultivated by Christians who are committed to following the way of Jesus. The Church has formulated a series of virtues over the ages: ‘Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called “cardinal”; all others are grouped around them. They are prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance’ (CCC, §1805).
- Use the Catechism of the Catholic Church to explore what these terms mean. How may they be practically understood in the present age?
The theological virtues are faith, hope and charity (CCC, §§1812–1829).
- Again, use the Catechism of the Catholic Church to explore what these terms mean. How may they be practically understood in the present age?
St Paul gives lists of virtues to be cultivated and vices to be avoided (see, for example, Galatians 5:19–23 or 1 Thessalonians 5:12–22).
- Find and read some of these lists, and discuss how these ‘virtues’ and ‘vices’ are manifested in practical ways in our world and in our daily lives.
- How are Christians called to respond in certain situations? Be very practical in the examples chosen for discussion.
Symbols and images
Just like the steward in this story, we are entrusted with God-given talents and we must use them in a way that will yield genuine riches. Increasingly in the modern world, we are also aware that we must be good stewards of God’s creation to ensure its riches for future generations.
Living the Word
Practical ideas for group leaders to employ in connecting Scripture and daily life, with suggestions for music and environment
- Who are ‘the stewards’ of your local community? Who is entrusted with the ‘administration’ of the parish? What tasks do they perform? You could invite members of the Pastoral Council, or others involved in ‘stewardship’, to share their reflections on the work they do. What priorities are set that guide the use of the resources of the local community?
- Use small parcels wrapped as gifts as a focus for prayer. Affirm the gifts and talents of each person in the group. Pray for each other as you seek to strengthen the virtues required for Christian life. A suitable song could be ‘Come as you are’ (GA 212). Conclude with the blessing in the RCIA at §97D.