The Parable about the Unjust House Steward

Met. Anthony sketch

Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky)

To protect oneself from any misunderstandings caused by a superficial reading of this parable, one should first of all correctly understand the words of the Lord: "Make for yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness." Here the Lord means not only that terrestrial wealth, which is accumulated through deceit and stealing, but any material wealth, comparing it with the wealth of virtues and grace: only spiritual wealth is stable and just. This is proved by His further words: "If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" That is, if you, possessing miserable (unrighteously gained) material wealth, did not serve God with it, then how will God entrust you with the true wealth of grace? Similarly, Apostle Paul writes to Timothy: "Charge them that are rich in this world (he compares them to the spiritually rich men, i.e., holy people) that they…not trust in uncertain (unrighteous) riches,…that they do good, that they be rich in good works," i.e., in justly obtained wealth.

They will say: but if the Lord by unjust wealth means that monetary wealth which was obtained through honest labors or as a legacy, then why does He put forth as an example the unjust house steward, who secretly was handing away another’s wealth, to be fed later by the poor who became rich due to the welfare of the others? The answer is simple: the Lord does not at all want to approve of that act of the unjust steward, and if "the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had acted shrewdly," then it was not a praise of moral approving, but the ironical praise of his wittiness and cleverness. But here, in the same way as in other cases, the Savior gives as an example such a shameful physical act because something similar to this performed in the spiritual life can be genuinely approved of.

Such meanings have the parables about the unjust house steward, "who feared not God, neither regarded man," and about the woman who had found the lost drachma (the woman who was covetous and not clever). Akin to that case, here, without any approval of the deed of the unjust steward, the Lord suggests that the listeners use the main thought and apply it to spiritual matters, which the steward demonstrated in terrestrial life. Whose wealth did he distribute? That of the master. And whom does the wealth that we possess belong to? For sure, to God, and we only temporarily own it while we live on earth, and when the hour of our death and the divine judgment comes, the Lord will take this wealth away from us.

So, if we are only the temporary owners of this welfare, then why should we spare it? Let us hand it out to those who can be useful to us when the Lord will deprive us of terrestrial life, and of all wealth besides. Who are these friends gained through “unjust” (i.e., material or monetary) wealth, and who, when we areimpoverished” (that is, die), will accept us "into everlasting habitations"? These are the poor, who with the commemorative prayers for the souls of the departed will open the doors of the heavenly kingdom to us. These words of the Lord are said against the deniers of prayers for the dead, i.e., against the Protestants of all types.

Similar to these words are those of Paul, in which the apostle teaches Timothy to edify the rich "that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life" (1 Tim. 6:18-19). On the contrary, in another parable the Lord threatens the rich man having no love for the poor with sudden death, asking: "For whom shall those things be which thou hast laid up?" "So is he,—the Savior concludes His parable,—that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

The utterances given above, alike to the parable about the unjust house steward, bear the same meaning—it is in the thought that to share possessions with the poor is not only how any loving soul should act, but testify to simple prudence; our wealth is not eternal anyway, it is even not ours, but of God; let us exchange it for eternal possessions through acts of benevolence.

Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
Contact: Archbishop Gregory
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