By FR. ROLANDO DELA ROSA
The owner of a financing firm decides to fire one of his account officers for the latter’s incompetence and inefficiency. When the account officer learns about it, he gets devastated. Without his job, how will he live? Having spent very little time with friends and family because of his work, he realizes that he has no one to turn to in time of need.
So he devises a plan to make sure he will not end up in the streets or live in misery and want. Before leaving his post, he calls the firm’s debtors and tells them that he is fixing their accounts so they will have to pay only half of their debts. By making sure that he becomes these debtors’ friend overnight, he feels he would always be welcome in their homes. He remembers the saying: “Be so good to people that no one will ignore you.”
This is the tenor of today’s parable of Jesus. A dishonest steward is dismissed from his job by his master, but he cunningly ingratiates himself with the master’s debtors by “doctoring” their debts. Surprisingly, Jesus praises the steward instead of condemning his dishonesty. Jesus says: “For the sons of this world are wiser in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:8-9).
There are at least two lessons we can learn from this parable. First, Jesus is not commending the steward for his dishonesty, but for his shrewdness or worldly wisdom. Jesus wants to tell us that evil triumphs in our world because good people are not as shrewd and wise as bad people are in using every means to fulfill their evil schemes.
Christians are often lukewarm in their fight for what is right and good, whereas corrupt businessmen and criminals rise early and sleep late just to make sure that their plans are foolproof. They are single-minded in enjoying worldly delights, fame, wealth, and power. If only Christians were as diligent in prayer and in doing good, as the wicked are in pursuing and counting their gains, how different would our world be!
Second, Jesus uses the example of the dishonest steward to remind us of the need to make sound investments for the future. Having been divested of everything he possessed, the steward learns to invest not in things, not in success or achievements, but in people.
We often think that the moments we invest in people should only be leftovers from the hours we lavishly pour on other responsibilities. Ironically, when we don’t spend time nurturing good personal relationships, our life suffers in the process. Mutually enriching relationships are like diamonds; they are not found, they are created.
So, prudently, the stewardcreates a relationship with the very people with whom he works every day. Normally, he treats them as clients; he would give them advice or business strategies to improve their financial standing. But this time, he shows them that he cares. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Through this parable, Jesus presents the steward as an example of one who learns empathy the hard way. In losing his work, money, and even his future, the steward learns to look at others who are similarly situated. He realizes that he has the ability to feel someone else’s hurt and to help them bear their burden as if it were his own.
Investing in people through empathy can be the smartest move you can make to overcome the crises and disappointments that life throws your way.