My brother-in-law died earlier this year. 58. Too young. Tim was admired by many. He had that certain … charisma… the ability to engage with just about anyone on just about any topic. In that way, he was like my father, who also died too young. Tim could talk about religion, seventies fashion, music, tea parties, finance, health, politics, and his favourite subjects of all, cricket and footy. He could read the iciest of rooms and have everyone laughing with some commonality within moments. I miss him every day.
Today’s parable is inserted neatly between arguably the most well-known – the prodigal son – and the lesson to choose between God and money. Jesus’ theme is constant – God is faithful, God is forgiving, God judges a person from what is found in the heart. Anyway, who doesn’t love a redemption story?
But how easy it is to judge the steward, who has stolen from his employer and, when discovered and fired, continues to undercut him. Much scriptural analysis has considered that the servant merely removes his own cut from the debts owed or has initially inflated the debts to line his own pocket and now thinks better of it.
The point is not the steward’s actions but the response of his master. Like the prodigal son’s father, he welcomes the change of heart and praises him. Why? Because the servant has realised the vital truth – there is something more precious than gold – relationship. He finally understands that money will never be enough, and he is prepared to throw it away to gain the trust of others to build relationships with others. Those who refuse to build relationships, like the rich man with Lazarus at the end of Luke’s chapter, who trust in their wealth until the bitter end, will never enjoy the praise of God.
Tim was the epitome of relationship – of melding philosophies of the head, heart and soul with another. In the end, that was all that mattered. It is all we ever need.
Angela Marquis works for the Hobart Passionists at St Joseph’s in Tasmania, with WATAC (Women and the Australian Church), and as a primary school chaplain.