I 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, "Those who who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand."
Sing a new song to the Lord
for he has worked wonders.
His right hand and his holy arm
have brought salvation. (R./)
The Lord has made known his salvation;
has shown his justice to the nations.
He has remembered his truth and love
for the house of Israel. (R./)
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Shout to the Lord all the earth,
ring out your joy. (R./)
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 normally act? 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.
Paul treasures the gift of grace, believing that we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit. He tells the Christians of Rome, whom he has not yet met, about his service to the gospel in many ways, but admits that whatever he has achieved among the Gentiles was not really his own doing. Rather it was "what Christ has accomplished through me." It was the Spirit who prompted him to undertake difficult tasks, to preach where Christ's name was unknown. Yet with so much to be done, Paul did not succumb to relentless activism but found time to remember the source and motive of his mission, "the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus."
The gospel today speaks in plainer, everyday language. We are invited to be enterprising and to act with initiative. Jesus notes how worldly people possess these qualities more than the other-worldly. We must plan ahead and be resourceful, for in making good use of our talents, we serve the God who created us in his image and likeness.
This is maybe the most puzzling of all the Gospel parables. The main character is a steward who was dishonest and wasteful, and was therefore dismissed from his post. After being fired, he takes decisive action to provide for his future as best he can. Calling a meeting of his master's creditors, he reduces the debts they owe, probably by cancelling the cut that he would have taken for himself. In other words, he forfeited money he would have received to gain the future goodwill and hospitality of his master's debtors. In his moment of crisis he knew that some things are more important than immediate profitand, on that basis, he took decisive action.
Jesus told this parable because the children of light, his followers, have something to learn from this tricky character. As the unjust steward used money that was due to him to win friends for the future, we are to use our resources to win friends in heaven. If we are generous here and now, we will be paid back in the future, in this life and beyond. It is another angle on the priciple that "the measure you give is the measure you will get back."