Question II: “The parable of the Shrewd Steward in the Bible. I don't quite get it when Jesus says the wicked people of the world are getting richer through their crookery, that they are wiser than us. Was He encouraging cheating?” (James)
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Does Jesus Encourage Dishonesty?
James, this is one of those passages that I found really difficult to understand myself. I am traveling and wanted to keep your question until my return but due to your insistence I felt I should sacrifice some time to answer the question. I will make an attempt. The passage you are citing comes from Lk 16:1-13. However the portion that concerns us is Lk 16:8, “And the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”
James what a relief, when I had read the verse and reread it was not giving me anything, so I decided to interpret the verse morphologically. The easiest way to attain a reliable interpretation of the verse is through looking at the etymology of the words in verse 8.
The key to the verse lies in the words /wiser/ English for Greek /phrŏnimŏs/ which means "prudent" but the prudence has to do with minding one’s interests. In other words; the Lord is saying that the non-Christians mind about their interest much more than the Christians do. For example, a cousin of mine had an interview at the British Embassy for a visa at 7:30 a.m. He visited another cousin who prayed till 8:00 a.m. When he went to the embassy for the interview, they told him he was late and should come the next day. If it was a non-Christian, he was not only going to be there at 4:30 a.m, but he will sacrifice someone if asked to. Also think about the complaints we give when we have to witness to someone.
Do you see how some women sell their bodies for money just because they want to ride in flashy cars, live in sumptuous houses and wear the most ostentatious clothes money could buy? The non-Christians find a thousand catharses to achieve their desires and interests. That is what the Lord was comparing; that inner drive that motivates us to do the impossible.
More so, look at the non-Christians when it concerns making money. Some will kill their wives just for insurance money. Others will embezzle the nation’s wealth just to look wealthy, no matter how the people suffer. Look at the government minister who wanted to kill his wife just to get back as a minister. They mind their business to the extreme. Nevertheless, the Lord is not saying it was right for him to cheat; he was commending his fighting spirit for one’s interest was commendable.
To know that you have rightly interpreted the verse is to realize that as you go further the whole passage turns to condemnation of riches. If the Lord was praising the servant for his dishonesty, then he would not have turned to condemn riches and those who hoard them because it would be contradictory. Jesus condemns the love of money, for it is the root of all evil. No man can serve two masters at a time; you cannot love money and God. Jesus is not saying his act was good but that the idea of making ends and avoiding trouble was a smart gesture. We as Christians were in darkness and have become children of light; therefore, we should walk in the light. Consequently, what the Lord is commending here is the act of prudence not the act of treachery or dishonesty.
Until then, I hope this explanation meets your inquisitiveness.
Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk
at May 28, 2008
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