The parable of the dishonest steward is about the wisdom of this world versus the wisdom of God. It shows us how the people of this world think and behave when caught out in wrongdoing. It is a lesson and a warning for Christians for it contrasts the difference in where the loyalties of the world are compared to where they are for a Christian.
The Dishonest Steward
The parable tells us of a rich man who had a steward that was in charge of all the rich man’s goods. This steward had a duty of care to do the right thing by his master, but he failed in that duty and was caught out. He was wasting his master’s resources to his own advantage and gain. As a result the master instructed the steward to turn in an account of his stewardship, that is, he was being fired from the job.
The steward was aghast as he did not want this fall from grace even though he was guilty. He said to himself that he was not strong enough to do manual labour and too ashamed to beg. His solution was cunning and crafty and a continuation of the wasteful ways that got him into hot water in the first place.
He called all of the master’s debtors and re-wrote their debts giving massive discounts to each of them. Naturally the debtors were ecstatic at this and would have thought the steward was the most wonderful person around as he reduced their debts significantly. Even the master recognised the shrewdness of the servant, even though it was at the master’s expense, for by doing what he did the steward ensured he would still be befriended by the debtors after losing his stewardship.
Wisdom of the World
The scripture then says, “…the sons of this world are wiser in their own generation than the sons of light.” (Verse 8) When it comes to shrewdness and cunning, the people of the world are far more wise in the ways of the world than the children of God. The world is their place and their domain and they work it to their advantage. The people of the world focus on what is good for themselves rather than what is good for others, and it is worse now than it ever has been in history.
The catch cry of the world is, “What’s in it for me,” often called the WIIFM concept. It is broadly spoken of and understood in Marketing and Sales and it is the basis of most sales pitches that are made. Why? Because it works. If a salesperson can appeal to the selfishness or greed of people they can sell their products. (This is a broad generalisation as not all are like this, but it is one of the most widely used techniques of marketing and selling).
Wisdom of the Lord
The wisdom of the Lord however is different. Unlike the world where the focus is WIIFM, in the Lord the focus is on “Love your neighbour,” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The focus of Christianity is on helping your fellow man. It is about service and serving and being a giver rather than a taker. Its not about what’s in it for me, but rather how can I help you.
But as Christians we need to live in the world and amongst the people of this world. We cannot go out of the world and so we too may suffer at the hands of those who are selfish and self-seeking. Quite simply, when the people of the world are looking after their own interests they are not caring at all about the interests of others. We saw this in recent years on a global scale where the collapse of world financial systems under the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) was driven by the selfish and self-serving greed of a handful of bankers and investors, but with ramifications across the globe.
This was not the wisdom of the Lord but of this world, and unlike the Lord’s wisdom which builds people up, this evil selfishness crippled and tore down a great many people.
Lessons to be Learned
There are warnings in this section of scripture for all of us. Firstly to be aware of the self-serving attitudes of many people in the world whose main concern is to look after themselves at yours and my expense. Be aware as the Lord counsels and be, “…Wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) Then we need to ensure that we do not fall prey to these same selfish desires, which are not of God but of man.
There is a strong message here too for those in service situations, especially in the service of the Lord. Do not waste the resources of the Lord for your own benefit but employ those gifts and resources that the Lord has given to you as a servant in his service. Use the gifts and resources the Lord has given to you to help and assist his people. We are stewards of God’s resources to do his work and we must not be like the dishonest steward who used the resources of his master for his own benefit. As a steward of God’s word we are to use that stewardship to benefit his people for the glory of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. To do otherwise is to be a dishonest steward, as in this parable.
We are not in this for the gain that the world has on offer but for the blessing of God. Our hope is salvation in Jesus Christ and that is our goal.
(Picture sourced from stock.xchng www.sxc.hu/ taken by Michal Zacharzewski)