Pastors as Unjust Stewards

Our Scripture reading last Sunday included the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-15), which is probably one of the toughest parables to make sense of.  A household manager gets sacked because of his corruption, so before he cleans out his desk he discounts the debts of everyone in debt to his master as a way to get in good with them for when he’s out of a job.  And even though the Unjust Steward is cheating him out of what is his due (telling people who owe 100 measures of oil they only need to pay 50), the Master commends him.

Though my take on it is not exactly how our Pastor Douthwaite took it (for that, see St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Pentecost 18 Sermon), something he said made the parable click for me.  When someone sins, the primary person being sinned against is God.  So when we forgive someone for sinning against us, we are setting aside what is owed to God.  And God wants us to do that!

In the gospel translations of the Lord’s Prayer, we ask that God forgive us our “debts” as “we forgive our debtors.”  Sin is a debt that is owed to God.  And when pastors–who are God’s stewards–absolve a sinner, they are acting like the Unjust Steward.  And their Master commends them for that.

OK, maybe I’m wrong.  But since a lot of our congregations follow a common lectionary, a bunch of you probably heard or gave sermons about that parable also.  What do you understand it to mean?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

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