What does it mean to be a wise steward? Do we measure wisdom based on the standards of secular society? Does a wise steward do whatever is needed to make money for his or her clients and employers? Does a wise steward disregard the needs of the poor and impoverished to increase profits? The scriptures for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time ask us to reflect on these questions and more. 

The Prophet Amos confronts the people of his age who disregarded the poor and needy. “Hear this you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!” (Amos 8:4-7) The people of Amos’ age professed belief in God but turned around and placed their trust in the things of this world. Amos illustrates what the Gospel of Luke 16:13 said, “you can not serve both God and mammon.” We can’t go to church on Sunday and cheat others on Monday, for Psalm 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8 tells us to “Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.” Who are the poor?

The parable of the dishonest steward is meant to be ironic in how it answers that question. This steward does not exercise the wisdom of God, but rather he has the wisdom that is of this world. This type of wisdom does not have morals or values. It is a wisdom that says do whatever is needed to get ahead. Even if it is dishonest. “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” (Luke 16:1-13) Jesus speaks these words to his disciples as a commentary on the parable of the dishonest steward. Jesus commends the dishonest steward for being shrewd in his dealings. Jesus tells us this dishonest steward is poor because he does not know God or his need for God. Jesus’ commentary is not encouraging us to exemplify the behavior of the dishonest steward; rather he is teaching his disciples that they must learn to be as shrewd as the dishonest steward in their dealings. 

What is the difference between being dishonest and shrewd? Don’t they go hand and hand? No, they do not. To be shrewd does not mean one must be dishonest; to be shrewd means to see the world in the light of day. Often the disciples of Jesus were naïve and uninformed in the ways of the world. As a matter of fact, even today, disciples of Jesus can be naïve and are seen by the world as ridiculous. Jesus calls us to be trustworthy. We often equate trustworthiness with the material things of this world. Jesus is speaking about trustworthiness in terms of the kingdom. “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.” As stewards of God’s kingdom, we are to be shrewd in bringing about the fullness of God’s kingdom. This means we must understand the difficulties that stand in the way as obstacles.

We are all called to be shrewd and wise stewards who are willing to look ridiculous in the eyes of others even as we are acting in what we see as a right and proper manner. Can we stay the course? Can we hold up against the resistance and even being told we are wrong when we know we are right? The shrewd steward stays close to Christ as St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading from First Timothy 2:1-8, “Beloved: First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior who wills everyone to be saved.” 

The steward not only needs to pray, but those whom the steward is called to care for should pray for the steward’s well-being and good judgment. A good steward sees things as they are, not as they want them to be. If we can see things as they are, we have a chance to make them into what God wants them to be. That is because others trust a shrewd and honest steward and will trust the steward with lesser matters as well as with greater matters. “If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?” (First Timothy 16:1-13) 

We are stewards of God’s kingdom here on earth. Are we acting shrewdly with what has been entrusted to us?