Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.
My friend, a cycling enthusiast and advocate, imagines a renewed inner city where an enforced speed limit of 30km per hour (car speeds in and around the city average 22km per hour) would encourage traffic flow (for cars and bikes) and promote safety for all road users. 30km per hour. Safer, friendlier, cleaner. I suspect he is right – and yet it’s difficult to imagine while ever we hold to our car-
Under a capitalist system we are likely to feel aggrieved for an owner let down by his steward’s inept or corrupt service. Under capitalism it’s primarily money that generates money, mainly when borrowed from elsewhere. Borrowing gives one the opportunity to make money, but likewise the one from whom the money has been serviced must also have opportunity to make money, so interest is charged. This taking of interest is what differentiates capitalism from the economic precepts of the Scriptures. Thus the people of the Book prohibited the charging/taking of interest (Catholicism forbade interest as recently as a century ago; Muslims maintain the prohibition).
The Torah is quite specific about not charging interest on loans (Exodus 25:16, Leviticus 25:16, Deuteronomy 23:19-
The poor, we may well imagine, were alert to such trickery. Where we might feel aggrieved for the owner they would have understood clearly his evading the demands of the Law established to help them, and wasted no sympathy on him.
Our parable begins with the owner hearing accusations against the steward. Interestingly, the term used for accusation is diaballein, a term related to the devil, the diabolical one. The devil figure is the false accuser, so perhaps there is intimation here that the accusations are false.
Called to account, the steward knows he is in great danger. He will lose everything. This person of comfortable living will have two choices: to dig ditches (to work in the mines), or to beg. Either will involve a loss of face. This aspect of shame is central to the story. To this day the avoidance of shame is a central aspect in Middle Eastern cultures. To save face and in order to secure his future the steward hits upon a plan. He will take each amount owed by debtors and secure their favour, and perhaps his own future, by cutting the amount they owe to the owner.
In due course this action comes to the attention of the owner, but what is he to do? He has been acting contrary to the Law of Moses by charging interest. If he complains now about the steward’s actions he will bring shame upon himself. He thus commends his steward for quick-
What, then, are we taught in this parable? The parable takes place in a section of the Gospel where Luke has gathered stories of Jesus highly critical of the Pharisees. Their legalism, serving as a means of avoiding the demand of the Law, is laid bare. The owner and steward, in their dealings with debtors, represent the Pharisees. Paradoxically, the just ending where the debtors pay the correct amount of their debt, rather than an inflated amount with interest, comes about by means of unethical self-
The people listening to this story would have chuckled. These two rogues only acted rightly out of self-
I should have mentioned that my cyclist friend is someone who feels very uncomfortable in a religious setting – and someone who regards himself a socialist.
We can avoid leaping to conclusions. Jesus refers today to the “true riches” of the kindom, and delivers the oft-
Draws on reflection by John Queripel.