Peake’s Commentary states that this is the most difficult of all parables and no interpretation is wholly satisfactory. (That’s my out!) He suggests the theme of the preceding parables is continued. If so, the leaders of Israel, who have behaved harshly to outcasts and aliens, are still in mind, this time as the stewards of God’s people. The use of the Parable by Jesus is to convey to the religious authorities that instead of alienating and isolating the poor, they ought to use the resources put into their possession as a means of making friends with the poor and oppressed, so as to find security when their present position of worldly privilege collapses with the end of the old order.
Remember the Gospels were written after the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, to the scattered early Christian communities throughout the Middle East. The old order had been destroyed and the power and privilege with it. A new way has emerged with the apostles and disciples living out a new kind of authority, which can be seen in Acts of Apostles where they called the First Council of Jerusalem.
No longer were they being ruled by an elite but with shared and collective decision making, discerning the movement of the Holy Spirit. It really is the time before and the time after. From the Old Testament to a New Testament: The Old Testament with its religious Rulers and the law: the New Testament incorporated and incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ.
The Parable of the unjust steward is a challenge to the `religious Rulers, who have been charged as stewards of God’s property. To come down from their man made pedestals and befriend the poor and oppressed.
Fat chance of that ever happening! Then as now! Rulers, people with power and privilege do not give it up. That is the story of human history. (see the quote on the pew sheet).
One of the most challenging quotes I have come across is from G.K.Chesterton who said ‘it is not so much that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, it has not been tried at all’. Do you agree? Disagree? Strongly agree? Strongly disagree?
In my lifetime I have seen one example when and where the Christian imperative of forgiveness was applied to Apartied South Africa in the process called The Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It was recognised that forgiveness and reconciliation was vital for a new South Africa.
The Northern Hemisphere has been nominally Christian for two thousand years, with all its principles and values and as of today there are estimated to be only 10 countries in a world of 196 nations that have peace. The truth of this parable is as relevant today as it ever was.
If you wish you may download a copy of this reflection here.