“Ask the Pastor”
This week's "Ask the Pastor" question concerns the Parable recorded in Luke 16:1-13. You should read it to re-familiarize yourself with the story.
Please explain the parable of the Unjust Steward.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. He's descended from the Mount of Transfiguration and as he moves toward his date with Pilate and others, he teaches and preaches and heals.
I maintain Jesus is doing these kinds of things to irritate the religious leaders in Jerusalem and that this irritation is purposeful. By breaking the Sabbath by healing and eating with sinners and consorting with tax collectors Jesus is leaving those Pharisees no choice but to arrest him and try him for blasphemy.
It's in Luke 15 where Jesus tells the Three Lost Parables; The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Lost Son. Each of them is grace-filled beyond what his listeners (and we) can imagine. Going after the one that has wandered away and searching relentlessly for a single lost coin and receiving back into the family the son who squandered his inheritance offers a new perspective on sin and the value of the one who has lost its way.
Jesus tells The Lost Son parable almost as a set up for the Parable of the Un-just Steward. The father of the Prodigal behaves offensively to all those who want the son to pay a price for his life of sin. But the father lets him off scot-free. He even welcomes him back with open arms declaring the son who was once dead is now alive and there's a feast prepared for a celebration like none other. The father could not be happier.
How does Jesus top this measure of love and grace? By telling the next parable: The Un-just Steward.
Follow me, here.
I will not change the text one bit. And that will suit my interpretation of the parable very nicely. First, who are the principle characters in the parable? The Rich Man is God. The Steward is Jesus. Charges are brought by the Pharisees.
What does the Steward do? He reduces debt. He forgives it in such a way as to irritate the ones who bring the charge that he's been squandering the Master's goods. The Steward does what the Lost Son does: he squanders. That should be a red flag worth noticing. Jesus not only reduces our debt to God, he takes the debt on himself, and The Master (God) couldn't be happier because this is what the Master (God) intended from the get go. The Steward makes friends with all those now-debt-free sinners. Isn't that who we are? Debt-free sinners who are friends with Jesus? We are his friends even as we live and breathe on this side of the Kingdom.
This parable is about grace carried beyond any limitation. Too often God's grace is seen as offensive because every beneficiary of grace gets away with sin. It's gone, taken on by the Steward and that just doesn't seem fair. And it isn't.
Grace isn't about fairness. Hasn't been in the past; isn't now; never will be. Think of it this way. Take the grace of God in Jesus, put it on a scale and it out-weighs the sins of the world. You see, grace is a gift; not a goal. I repeat: GRACE IS A GIFT; NOT A GOAL! It cannot be earned, bought, or bartered for. In the end, it can't even be abused. The grace of God is resilient and the one reliable reality Jesus offers us in his Body and Blood.
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