1-8. The unfaithful steward manages to avoid falling on hard times. Of course, our Lord presumes that we realize the immorality of the man’s behavior. What he emphasizes and praises, however, is his shrewdness and effort: he tries to derive maximum material advantages from his former position as steward. In saving our soul and spreading the Kingdom of God, our Lord wants us to apply at least the same ingenuity and effort as people put into their worldly affairs or their attempts to attain some human ideal. The fact that we can count on God’s grace does not in any way exempt us from the need to employ all available legitimate human resources even if that means strenuous effort and heroic sacrifice.
“What zeal people put into their earthly affairs: dreaming of honors, striving for riches, bent on sensuality. Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them the same. When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls, we will have a living and operative faith: and there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic undertakings” ([St] J. Escriva, “The Way”, 317).
9-11. “Unrighteous mammon” means temporal good which have been obtained in some unjust, unrighteous way. However, God is very merciful: even this unjust wealth can enable a person to practice virtue by making restitution, by paying for the damage done and then by striving to help his neighbor by giving alms, by creating work opportunities, etc. This was the case with Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, who undertook to restore fourfold anything he had unjustly taken, and also to give half his wealth to the poor. On hearing that, our Lord specifically declared that salvation had that day come to that house (cf. Luke 19:1-10).
Our Lord speaks out about faithfulness in very little things, referring to riches–which really are insignificant compared with spiritual wealth. If a person is faithful and generous and is detached in the use he makes of these temporal riches, he will, at the end of his life, receive the rewards of eternal life, which is the greatest treasure of all, and a permanent one. Besides, by its very nature human life is a fabric of little things: anyone who fails to give them their importance will never be able to achieve great things. "Everything in which we poor men have a part–even holiness–is a fabric of small trifles which, depending upon one’s intention, can form a magnificent tapestry of heroism or of degradation, of virtues or of sins.
“The epic legends always relate extraordinary adventures, but never fail to mix them with homely details about the hero. May you always attach great importance to the little things. This is the way!” ([St] J. Escriva, “The Way”, 826).
The parable of the unjust steward is a symbol of man’s life. Everything we have is a gift from God, and we are His stewards or managers, who sooner or later will have to render an account to Him.
- “That which is another’s” refers to temporal things, which are essentially impermanent. “That which is your own” refers to goods of the spirit, values which endure, which are things we really do possess because they will go with us into eternal life. In other words: how can we be given Heaven if we have proved unfaithful, irresponsible, during our life on earth?
13-14. In the culture of that time “service” involved such commitment to one’s master that a servant could not take on any other work or serve any other master.
Our service to God, our sanctification, requires us to direct all our actions towards Him. A Christian does not divide up his time, allocating some of it to God and some of it to worldly affairs: everything he does should become a type of service to God and neighbor–by doing things with upright motivation, and being just and charitable.
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase
The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.