No Longer My Steward… (Luke 16:2)
“And he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I have heard concerning you? Return your declaration of stewardship, for you are no longer able to be my steward.’”
This is one reason why we are not to take parables and make them into allegories. Here you have this wealthy man, he has a steward that has dealt honestly with him in the past, and now when malicious accusations begin to fly, he believes the accusations and calls for his steward’s resignation. God does not behave in this way, he cannot be snookered by false educations and he does not summarily dismiss those who he has called into his service. Yet, as a parable, the analogy is accurate because the only point of this action by the rich man is to set the stage for what is to come. The parable is thus not so much about this man’s poor stewardship, but what he does when accused of squandering his employer’s money. Does this not strike a note of similarity with the parable of the Prodigal Son? Is that parable not one about forgiveness? Is not that parable less about the son’s actual squandering and more about what the son does when he comes to see his sin? I think that we will continue to see these similarities as we continue on through this parable, but for now, let us be content to put out the puzzle pieces where they can be clearly examined.
Note very closely the statement of this rich man. He never actually accuses the steward of mismanaging his wealth. He simply brings up these accusations and says that as a result of the accusations, the steward must return to him his declaration of stewardship. There is some degree of uncertainty about this declaration of stewardship. It may reflect a statement of accounts that the steward would have kept, much like a corporate accountant keeps the company books, but it also may be the document that gave this man public authority to manage the rich man’s affairs. Either way, his position has been removed.
Why would the rich man remove the steward as a result of accusations—false or true—without an investigation. One might assume that the man investigated the accusations before summoning his manager, but how would the rich man make such an investigation without having access to the accounts? Indeed, we see as we continue down the parable, that the steward still held on to the books so that he might put them in order before he stepped down. Thus, it seems that the steward was called before his employer shortly after these accusations were waged. The rich man simply says, as a result of these accusations, that the steward is no longer able—du/namai (dunamai), no longer has the power—to be his steward.
Why might this steward be unable to continue managing the rich man’s money upon the accusation of wrongdoing? Could perhaps the rich man’s honor and reputation be such that his household could not be effectively managed by one who gave even a hint of impropriety? Remember, that a steward was responsible for more than just making wise investments for the master, but he carried with him the authority of the master and represented the master in all areas of community life. The word we translate as “steward” is the word oijkono/moß (oikonomos), and is the word we get “economy” from. It is combination of the word oi™koß (oikos), meaning “house” and no/moß (nomos), which means “law or ordering.” Thus, you have the idea of a oijkono/moß (oikonomos) as being one who orders the affairs of the house—something that would be especially focused on, though not always limited to, financial dealings. Thus, this man represented his master in all things—whether the accusations were right or wrong, if this man was discredited in the community, his master would have had his reputation harmed as well.
Though we will revisit this question a bit later in the parable, I find it interesting that the first thing that the Apostle Paul lists as being a requirement for someone who is to be an elder in the church is that they must be above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6). The two words that he uses in their respective passages are ajnepi/lhmptoß (anepilamptos) and ajne/gklhtoß (anegklatos), and they both mean to be blameless, irreproachable, or without guilt. In other words, the way that preachers are to conduct themselves is in such a manner that even their enemies respect their integrity. I wonder how many preachers live up to that standard?
Amazingly, this is what the scriptures say of believers when we stand before God’s throne of judgment—that we will be found blameless in that day (Colossians 1:22)! Why is this? It won’t have anything to do with our own “righteous” works, but it has everything to do with Jesus Christ’s perfect righteousness. When we stand before God’s judgment seat, we will be judged according to Christ’s righteousness and not our own. Indeed, for the Christian, it is Jesus who is our oijkono/moß (oikonomos) of righteousness! Hallelujah for that and Amen!