“A rich man had a steward” (Lk 16:1). So begins Jesus telling his parable of the dishonest steward. Very simply a steward is someone placed in charge of overseeing something. In this parable, the steward was placed in charge of overseeing the rich man’s affairs. The point of Jesus in this parable is that we are to be stewards given the task to oversee God’s affairs.
To be successful stewards we must remember who we are. The steward in the parable squandered the property of his master. He was not adequately fulfilling the charge he was given. Most likely because he was serving himself and his own needs instead of those of his master and as Jesus would later state, “No servant can serve two masters” (Lk 16:13).
For us to be good stewards, we must agree with the foundational principle that God is God and we are not. Maybe a pithy statement but if we don’t get this point right from the start we are going to be in trouble. That is exactly the misstep with Adam and Eve. They were tempted and fell when they grasped at what God freely had given. Instead of excepting the gift of their humanity, their role as stewards, they sought to define their own path, they put themselves in the place of the master, instead of the steward, and there can only be one master and that is God.
When we place ourselves in the role of the master in the sense of being our own God or forcing God, from our perspective to fit into our image, then we have problems. We can see the effects of this fallen reality on full display in our world today. The reason why Jesus never sinned was that he never forgot who he was. Jesus is the steward we are called to be. His mind and heart are open to following the will of God. “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7).
Jesus, though he was divine, did not grasp at his divinity, but embraced the gift of being human and that meant he was willing to be the steward and not the master, most profoundly so in the Garden of Gethsemane when he asked that the cup of his death be taken away from him, yet he was willing to submit to the will of his Father.
Being the steward and not the master is not an easy place for us to be because so many of us are not willing to relinquish control. When we give up control though and turn it over to God we can feel safe in the assurance that God has our best interest in mind. St. Mother Teresa put it best when she sought just to be a pencil in God’s hand.
What helped JoAnn and me through the journey of the cross that she carried with the cancer was that we let go of the outcome. We were open to a miracle, we sought the aid of doctors and specialists, but we were also open to the reality that this was her time. This did not make the path any easier, nothing about this cancer was easy, but through the midst of it, we felt the peace of God a greater majority of the time.
This is a helpful reminder to me that there is a place for sorrow in JoAnn’s death, but there is a greater place for joy in her victory over death claimed for her by Jesus. As I was charged with JoAnn’s care, so to do I need to continue to be a pencil in God’s hand each day. We need to continue forward, as JoAnn is doing now in a more profound way, as his stewards because there is only one master, who is God, and there is much work still to be done and the laborers are few.