By José Santana
While there are many things that struck me about the Gospel reading for today, the Parable of the Dishonest Steward reminded me of the importance of accepting our fears and flaws in order to be other-centered.
As the irresponsible steward is discovered for the mismanagement of his master’s money, he questions himself, “What shall I do, now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me? I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.”
The steward decides to deceive his master once more so as to maintain his superficial social status.
In the midst of crisis—the brink of homelessness in a society without systems of welfare—the steward is forced to be honest with himself about his fears and flaws.
Earlier this summer I was in Guatemala with my wife who was leading students from our university on an immersion trip. As we quickly found, panhandling is a common and socially acceptable practice. In all locations, children, adults, and elderly approach seeking money or to sell some kind of service or handcraft. It is a practice that quickly gets annoying, and after two weeks in the country I had given nothing more than what would amount to maybe a few U.S. cents. Then, one day as I was sitting in a restaurant with my wife watching a soccer game and eating a meal, several young boys entered offering shoeshines.
We kindly refused, several times, and so did everyone else.
We both felt bad, but if we were to give to everyone we encountered we wouldn’t have enough money left over for ourselves.
After my wife had left to go back to the hotel room, one of the boys returned and asked to shine my shoe. Feeling my heartstrings tug,
I asked if he was hungry. He was.
I told him to sit down and join me. I asked the waitress to bring him some food and while we waited we chatted. I learned that his first language is a Mayan dialect, his mom panhandles too, and that he hopes to become a lawyer. When the food arrived, I stayed for a little, but finally I told him I had to go and got up to leave. I left because something wasn’t feeling right; I was doing something nice for him, but I couldn’t stand to stay there and I couldn’t explain why I felt that way.
I realized that I had spent two weeks in Guatemala ignoring everyone I even thought was trying to beg or sell something.
I forgot to look at them as humans first.
The struggle to decide to give of myself for the boy was difficult. He was hungry, and the look on his face (and others’) when I asked him to sit and join me I will never forget.
I was confronted with my own selfishness.
As I left he stopped me, stared at me and paused, probably wanting to say something more, but all he could let out was, “gracias.”
There is a power in giving of yourself for others, and I think this is part of what Jesus is trying to relate in the Gospel.
The self-reflective honesty with which the dishonest steward relates about his own shortcomings is striking. I am struck because
rarely are we honest with ourselves about where we fall short.
In a world that values timeliness, productivity, results, and maintaining a good image, the temptation to play down our character flaws and lift up our accomplishments in order to increase our personal worth in the eyes of others is immense. And it often gains us immediate, but temporary glory.
Through this story, however, I see Jesus telling me that through acceptance of our fears and flaws, we are able to maintain focus on truly life giving wealth. Though honest about his fears and flaws, the steward did not accept them and chose instead to use his shrewdness for dishonest wealth. Jesus says:
we have rightfully earned nothing until we’ve rightfully earned His kingdom.
Why don't I give? Is it because I don’t have the resources? or maybe because I am afraid to lose? Do my actions show who I am serving? Because the scripture says that “No slave can serve two masters.”
Some days I'm not sure about these questions but in that moment with the boy, God wanted me to be selfless, to be honest with what I have been given, and unite myself to the global community through His calling.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
José Santana is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, currently pursuing a Master's in Theological Studies at the University of Dayton. After working for several years in marketing and sports, his passion for theology and ministry brought him back to school to study and work as a Graduate Assistant in Campus Ministry. He most enjoys watching sports, playing basketball, traveling, and enjoying good food in the company of friends.