I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ. Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, "Thoe who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand."
Jesus said to his disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?' He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?' He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.' And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light."
From what motives and attitudes do we act from day to day? All too many are workaholics, distracted from any serious reflection on our basic motives or even about the end-result of our excessive activism. A hurricane sweeps through our lives and drives other people as well. To correct this frenetic motion Scriptures declares that "by waiting and by calm you shall be saved" (Isa 30:15). Yet the Scriptures do not canonize inactivity. We have the example of Paul, apostle of the gentiles, world traveller in the second part of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 13-28), prolific writer of letters, many of them preserved in the New Testament. In today's text he even boasts of the work he has done for God. We can study his writings for signs of how to modulate our own activity.
The spirit by which Paul wanted to be motivated was the Holy Spirit, the spirit of adoption through which we become "heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:15, 17). Paul was at the service of Christ Jesus, and achieved only what the Spirit prompted him to do. Courage spurred him on to undertake difficult tasks, to preach where Christ's name was unknown. Yet amid draining demands Paul did not succumb to relentless activism nor to a blind drive to get it done, but found time to keep a corner of his heart for long stretches of contemplation, "eagerly awaiting the coming of our saviour." His ideal was to inspire and minister to the new life within the heart of the believer. "as gently as any nursing mother with her little ones" (I Thess 2:7) and warmly appreciating what God was accomplishing in and through others also. Paul furthered the charisms and talents of each person in the community, and this he saw as a "priestly duty, " fostering the heart of the believer to become a pleasing sacrifice to God.
Turning to the gospel, we move from Paul's elevated spirituality to plainer, common-sense language. We are invited to be enterprising and to act with initiative. Jesus notes how worldly people possess these qualities more abundantly than the other-worldly. But in making good use of our bodies and human talents, we are serving the God who created us in the divine image and likeness (Gen 1:26) and to offer spiritual sacrifice to God who dwells within us as the temple of divine glory (2 Cor 6:16).
This parable is one of the most puzzling of all the parables of Jesus. The main character is a steward who is dishonest and wasteful, as a result of which he is dismissed from his post. After his dismissal he takes decisive action to safeguard his future as best he can. Calling together his master's creditors, he reduces what they owe, probably by cancelling the cut that he would have got for himself. In other words, he forfeited money he would have received to ensure that he received something more valuable, the goodwill and the hospitality of his master's creditors. In a moment of crisis he realized that some things are more important than money and, on that basis, he took decisive action.
And yet, Jesus spoke this parable because the children of light, his followers, have something to learn from this somewhat shady character. As he used money that was due to him to gain himself friends on earth, the parable calls on us to use our resources to gain ourselves friends in heaven. We are to be generous with our resources here and now, and then we will experience God's generosity in the future, in this life and beyond. As Jesus says elsewhere in the gospels, the measure you give is the measure you will get back.