In today’s Gospel (Luke 16:1-13) our Lord presents us with the image of dishonest steward as a means to learn some truths about discipleship in relation to the Kingdom of God. It seems a contradiction. Here is a man who has squandered his master’s resources, who has neglected his duties and then when he learns that things have caught up with him and he is about to be thrown out on his ear, again stiffs his master by conspiring with his master’s debtors to “cook the books”. What can such a character have to teach about the Kingdom of God?
Two things, I believe. There are two attitudes that seem to guide the steward’s life that have a direct correlation to discipleship. We may all disdain (and rightly so) the steward for his dishonesty and conniving manner but we must agree that the steward both looked to the future and did not resign himself to the past.
He looked to the future. The steward knew what was coming, he saw the writing on the wall. He knew he was about to be tossed out. But he did not get lost in that, rather he looked ahead to other possibilities and he made present-day choices in light of those possibilities. The possibilities of the future informed his life today. Here is the point for discipleship. As disciples the fullness of the Kingdom of God awaits us. This is our promise, it is our hope and our goal. But do we live our present day life as if it were? Do we let the reality of the Kingdom shape who we are and what we do today? As disciples, the answer needs to be an unequivocal “yes”; always a “yes”. The reality of the Kingdom should inform every aspect of our lives as disciples. The reality of the Kingdom should be the primary influence on how we approach and live every day. The disciple looks to the future and lives out of that reality.
The steward did not resign himself to the past. He knew that what he had done was wrong and yet (and the Gospel is not endorsing an unrepentant attitude here) he did not let that hold him back. He was not resigned. Neither must the disciple be in the light of grace. We know our past – we know the mistakes we have made, the bad choices and the out and out sins we have committed – but in Christ and the honesty of reconciliation and forgiveness those things are gone, they are past. We do not resign ourselves to the past because in Christ those debts have been cancelled.
Two fundamental attitudes to discipleship: looking to the future and not resigning ourselves to the past. In many ways these attitudes (when properly lived) influence and balance one another out. And when lived in a correct balance and tension they lead us to a proper “measure of the moment”. (This is a phrase I recently heard spoken by a friend and it has resonated with me … I do not know if it was his or he, himself, gained it from another, either way it is good.) The “measure of the moment” both develops within us and leads us to a nuanced understanding critical in determining what am I to do at this moment, in this situation as a disciple of Christ … and it can change from moment to moment. Maybe today I am meant to give assistance to one in need, maybe tomorrow I am asked to just live in gratitude for God’s blessings.
The measure of the moment is found in living in the creative balance of discipleship – both looking to the future and the full promise of the Kingdom of God and not resigning ourselves to the past.