The Pride of Dominion

Here's a great passage from St. John Chrysostom on the Parable of the Unrighteous Steward that shaped my thinking in preparing yesterday's sermon:

You are an administrator of things that are another's ... Upon you has been bestowed but the right of their brief and passing use. Cast then from your soul the pride of dominion, and put on instead the modesty and humility of a steward.

Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, vol. III, p321

Sermon for Trinity IX, 2018

This parable has a surprise. If you’ve heard the parable before, you lose the surprise. But imagine you’re hearing it for the first time.  There’s a manager who has been cooking the books. He’s been caught, and the CEO has told him to clean out his office. But instead, he quickly alters the records even more, so that the people who owe the company money get a big reduction. He’s hoping that the people he helps will in turn help him once he’s out on the street. 

Now right at that moment, when the evil person has been exposed, many of Jesus’ parables will conclude with condemnation, something like, “It would be better for that man to have a millstone hung around his neck and cast into the depths of the sea”; or, “Bind him and cast him into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth”; or, “Assuredly I say to you, that man will be cast into prison and not get out until he has repaid the last penny.”

We expect to hear a pithy ending to the story that promises justice in the end. But instead, Jesus surprises us with a radically different kind of ending: the embezzling, wasteful, dishonest manager gets praised. So what’s going on?

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