Grace only works on those it finds dead enough to raise. — Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Paradox, Outrage and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus
We’ve heard maybe the toughest parable in the whole of the scriptures today. A shifty steward has been ripping off his boss; his boss finds out, and sacks him. Before it’s too late, the shifty steward fraudulently reduces the amount his boss’s clients owe him. Not only do the clients think he’s a great bloke but his boss praises him too. And Jesus says to us, Be like him! What on Earth?
I’ve heard that the great St Augustine once wrote about this parable, saying Jesus really oughtn’t to have said that. Or words to that effect. (Actually, what he said was in Latin, so it was much more profound.)
So let’s see what we can make of this parable.
First thing, and it’s really important to understand this: it comes straight after the parables in Luke 15 about lost things, the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost sons. Why did Luke put it here?
Here’s one reason: one word. That word is ‘squander’.
Now, I can go for weeks without saying ‘squander’. I’ve got nothing against the word, it just doesn’t come up that often. It was like that for Luke too. He only uses it twice: firstly in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, who squanders his inheritance; and in the very next parable, the Parable of the Shifty Steward, who fraudulently squanders his master’s money. Coincidence? I think not.
Let’s try and draw some more connections between these two parables.