Peter the Steward

I never noticed the full meaning of this passage in Luke’s gospel:

“Then Peter said,
“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”
And the Lord replied,
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward
whom the master will put in charge of his servants
to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.
Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant
in charge of all his property.
But if that servant says to himself,
‘My master is delayed in coming,’
and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants,
to eat and drink and get drunk,
then that servant’s master will come
on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour
and will punish the servant severely
and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
That servant who knew his master’s will
but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely;
and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly.
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

It’s a stern warning to be sure, to anyone who would not be a good steward of the gifts God gives him, but I had never seen the other side of Jesus’ sayings. He is replying to Peter, and the implication is that Peter is the steward to whom the Master puts in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance.

Would the early church have read this as another clear sign that Jesus was making Peter his steward, the bearer of the keys and the chief shepherd in his absence? Probably. They would probably also have read it as a warning to the chief steward and to all pastors to be faithful stewards of the mysteries of God.

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  • I am not sure I got your suggestion. Did you mean something like this: Peter: “Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?” (Luke 12:41)Christ: … [“Well, to be perfectly clear, Peter, I was addressing neither the multitude, nor the twelve of you disciples, but you specifically . . . especially in the part about the servant who gets to rule over the master’s household.”]Peter: …! [“Well, then, Lord, why didn’t You just say so?”]Christ: … [“Because, obviously, I didn’t want the others to get envious, or slack off on their efforts, or be suddenly dismayed at the first sign of your denying Me.”] So, is that about it? What do the Fathers actually teach?

  • The Scriptures interpret themselves. In this passage Jesus does not specify Peter as the steward over all but he speaks the parable in reply to Peter’s question. Of course, on its own this passage is not a proof text for the primacy of Peter, but taken with the other gospel passages where Jesus does appoint Peter as chief steward and shepherd (Mt. 16; Jn. 21) ) and the primacy of Peter in Acts, it can be read as such.

  • Well what any interpretation must account for is that the steward is set over the master’s servants, and has direct responsibility for their spiritual (or taken literally, even physical) welfare. I can’t think of any other parable in which there is a three-tier system of authority (the ungrateful servant is the creditor, not the master, of the man he throttles). Whether or not this points to Peter specifically as vicar, it definitely suggests something in line with the papacy.For that matter, the prophecy seems almost to be perfectly fulfilled in the popes of the Renaissance.