Today's Gospel sounds puzzling to contemporary readers, but it can be made less so by considering the economic system which stands behind the parable. A steward is dismissed because he is squandering his master's property. He is called dishonest because he is not serving the interests of the rich man, his employer. In response the steward, in an attempt to ensure favor for himself among the rich man's debtors, brokers repayment of the rich man's loans by foregoing the interest and fees that had been levied to line the steward's pockets. It is this action, in which the steward puts aside his greed and takes the longer perspective in order to enhance his security, which is commended by the rich man. The passage concludes with three morals for the listeners. The first exhorts the listener to be prudent about the use of wealth. Like the steward in the parable, those who would follow Jesus must put transitory affairs in proper perspective. Christians should handle the affairs of temporal life with an eye toward eternal life.
The second concerns trustworthiness. Those who can be trusted in small things can also be trusted in great things. If Christians handle money and other passing things responsibly, then they can also be trusted with the affairs of the Kingdom of God.
Finally, Jesus tells his listeners that no one can serve two masters simultaneously. One cannot be devoted to both heavenly and worldly wealth. God must be put ahead of money.
No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and mammon. - Luke 16:13
It is not that the wealth is bad in itself – because all of our material blessings and wealth come from God. But they can never take the place of God! We must use all these things as God’s servants. We must share them with others –because that is the reason God gave them to us in the first place. Amen.