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This parable has perplexed many people. They have said, "What a dishonest man this steward was! Did his lord commend him for his wickedness?" No, not for his wickedness, but for his wisdom¬ófor his worldly wisdom. His plan to secure himself from want was very cunning and ingenious. It is supposed that the oil and the wheat that the creditors owed were their rent. It was the office of the steward to make agreements with the tenants concerning the amount of produce that ought to be paid to their lord. This steward, before he was dismissed from his post, made new agreements with the tenants, and ingratiated himself by lowering the rents. When he was gone, the lord became acquainted with these proceedings, and expressed his wonder at the wicked policy of his unfaithful steward.
But some may still inquire, "Why did our Lord select a dishonest action as an instance of worldly wisdom? Does not the selection seem to countenance dishonesty?" But, if we consider, we shall perceive that the badness of the action renders it a suitable instance of the wisdom displayed by bad men. This was the point that the Lord wished to prove¬óbad men take more pains to accomplish their bad ends, than good men to accomplish their good ends.
Perhaps a blush arose in the face of many a Pharisee, as this instance of knavery was related. That very steward may have been present. Many of the hypocritical Pharisees had committed actions equally dishonest. Their own consciences must have convicted them. But it was chiefly for the instruction of the disciples that the parable was related. It was addressed to them, and this was the lesson taught¬ó"The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light." By this sentence the Lord turns into a volume of rich instruction the actions of this wicked world among whom we live.
Wicked men are intent on accomplishing different wicked ends. One is bent upon accumulating immense riches. How does he set about his design? With the lukewarmness that Christians so often betray in pursuing their designs? Does he not rise early, and sit up late? Are not his thoughts always intent upon devising new schemes for amassing wealth? Is not the crowded city the place where he delights to be, whatever pleasures may allure, or weariness oppress? Were Christians to be as diligent in prayer, as this man in counting his gains, how rich would they grow in faith, and love, and every grace!
Another is bent upon destroying the reputation of his neighbors, in order that he alone may be praised and admired! How dexterously he performs his work! How cleverly he insinuates that some evil is practiced by his companion! Perhaps he says nothing directly against him, (as this might awaken suspicion,) but he contrives to place him in a disagreeable light. Do we thus watch opportunities to say a word in behalf of our Lord and Master, insinuating something in his praise, when we cannot speak more openly? When we reflect on the greatness of the end that Christians have in view, we feel that they ought to be most earnestly intent on gaining it. Could heaven be purchased, the world would be a bauble to offer for it¬óit has been bought with more precious blood. Shall we grieve our dying Lord by our indifference to a gift so dearly bought, and so infinitely glorious?