In this Gospel passage Christ seems to be praising an out-and-out crook, a man who was consciously dishonest, calculating, deceptive. But the point being made is a simple one. The manager knew what he wanted. He set himself a clear goal and then ordered his abilities, his resources, to the achievement of that goal. He didn’t simply sit back and let his life happen to him. Rather he made his life happen the way he decided it should.
So, of course, Christ is not praising dishonesty and deception, but he is praising the conscious, reflective calculation of the man. Christ is praising the ability to honestly look at the course of one’s life, clarifying what matters and what doesn’t, and then assuming control, assuming responsibility, realising one’s resources, one’s abilities, in accord with that clarified vision.
There is a word that sums all that up and it is stewardship. It simply means to make the best, the most successful use of whatever we have been given.
We have time – each of us exactly the same amount. It is always interesting to wonder whether or not a person who knew absolutely nothing about me would be able to watch a time lapse film of the last twenty-four hours, or the last year, and be able to tell from that what my goals are, my values are.
Would the way I use time really show as true what I say is important to me? We have, each of us, some material possessions. We each have some influence over at least some of the material wealth of the world, and our distinctive footprints are left on the world by the way we use that wealth.
We have, as individuals and as a people, a staggering range of skills, talents. We have intelligence, we have curiosity, we have the ability to see and create humour. We have the ability to appreciate and to create beauty – perhaps the surest path to be taken in drawing ourselves beyond the moment and into the dimension of the spirit. We have imagination, we have perseverance, we have courage, we have patience, all great gifts, all instruments of great power.
‘Stewardship’ is a good word. It is what we are called to do, how we are called to live in God’s world. Those who do that well, those who manage fruitfully the resources with which they have been entrusted. It is they whom the Father calls good.