The dishonest steward in today’s gospel is on the brink of losing everything – he will lose his job, his property and his reputation. It’s not an easy story for us to get our minds around, particularly when it is placed alongside the first reading in which the prophet Amos calls out corrupt behaviour as an insult to God. Yet, even for all his dishonesty and incompetence, the steward seems to come out on top. And he does this by cutting his own commission. He recognises the fact that he’s going to be out of a job and will need the help of others to survive. So, he foregoes the money that would have otherwise been his – he spends his “money” wisely by “investing” in his future. And in doing so, he wins their good will and the owner recognises this and commends him for it. The Master calls this “astuteness” or being “prudent”.
The word “prudence” has been diluted of much
of its original meaning. As we use it today, it implies a certain timidity or caution. But it actually means “visionary judgement,” that is, to foresee what might happen and to act boldly and decisively. Perhaps we can re-capture something of the original meaning of the word “prudence” and develop a sense of “visionary judgement” and act boldly. One day we might lose all the things that we have built our lives on – our career, our possessions, our good standing – but we will only lose everything if we have fallen into the trap of believing that these measures are all that there is. At the heart of this parable lies a fundamental question: How are we “prudently” investing in our real future? Our real future belongs to God, and as someone once said, “No one gets into heaven without a reference from the poor”. In all our earthly dealings, we need to keep this in mind. Fr. Anthony