Last week we heard Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal (or squandering) Son. Today He tells us about a debt-canceling steward. These stories offer similar lessons: the first lesson is about how to use our wealth profitably.
The prodigal son wastes his wealth on himself, on a life of self-indulgence, and he finds himself poor and alone. But hisgood father uses his wealth to generously cloth and feed him, and he thereby restores their relationship. Today’s steward gets reported for squandering the master’s property and is soon to be sent away destitute. But the prudent steward finds a way to always have a place to stay. He forgives others’ their debts and thereby wins their friendship. The first lesson is that we will lose whatever we hoard for ourselves, but whatever we invest in love will have an everlasting return.
The reason we exist, the reason we were created, is for personal relationships with God and each other. And when we die, we will take nothing with us, except these relationships. Our computers, cars and credit cards will be left behind, but personal love remains with us. A $100 bottle of wine can be enjoyed for an evening, but then it is lost forever. A donation to Catholic Relief Services can save a life, and a donation to Relevant Radio can save a soul, and someday, when all of our investments in love for family, neighbors and strangers are revealed, they will give us everlasting joy forever. So “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
The second lesson of these parables is the importance of forgiveness. The good father wins back his dead and lost son, because he is willing to forgive him. The older son, however, is unwilling to forgive. He refuses to enter the house of his father and will not join the feast until his heart is changed. The good father symbolizes God, and the house is Heaven, and unless we forgive everyone one from the heart, we will refuse to join the feast. The second parable is also symbolic. God is the rich man and we are the squandering steward. Consider how much He has given you and how fruitlessly you have used it. At the end of our lives we will be called to give an account of our stewardship, and who can stand that judgment? This is what we must do: we must forgive our debtors their debts by forgiving their sins against us.
A sin forms a debt because it takes away from others what is owed to them by right. Every sin makes a debt, first and foremost to God, but also to the people trespassed against. It is speculated that the steward in the parable was forgiving his master’s debtors the part which was his own commission. If we are prudent like him, we will quickly take the opportunity to forgive our debtors the debt owed to us by forgiving the sins they have sinned against us. For we have it on Jesus’ word, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
Now a lot of people refuse to forgive, or think that they can’t, because they think forgiveness means something its not. To forgive another’s sin is not to say that what they did wasn’t wrong—that would be a lie. And forgiveness doesn’t mean convincing yourself that the wrong doesn’t hurt—Jesus forgave his enemies amid excruciating pain. To forgive, all you need to do is to will the good of your trespasser. If you can pray for them, you are forgiving them. On the other hand, if there is anyone that you find that you are unable to pray for, then you have not forgiven them. That is the person whom you must pray for, for your own sake as well as theirs. So let your “supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone… This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.”
Jesus’ parables teach us this: to use our wealth for lasting profit, and to forgive our debtors their debts. Let us be prudent to obtain true riches on earth and a everlasting home in Heaven.