What faith can look like.
The 18th Sunday after Pentecost
This parable stumps rather a lot of people. Jesus seems to be praising a manager who plays fast and loose with his employer's money. I believe it makes the most sense when the character of the Dishonest Steward is set alongside the characters introduced in last Sunday's lectionary reading: a shepherd who has lost a sheep and must search for it. A homemaker of modest means loses a valuable coin and must spend her day looking for it because she is a poor. A king, who has committed himself to waging war, is outnumbered and outgunned by an opposing army and must sit down with his foreign minister and figure out what peace negotiations might look like. I can put this character of the Dishonest Steward shoulder to shoulder with these three individuals and make the greatest sense of this difficult story while squinting only a little bit.
Jesus seems to be plumbing the depths of human behavior in individuals facing threats. In a world where a thing of value risks being forever lost, the human organism works with great energy to face the threat. The shepherd combs the valleys, the woman sweeps out her house, the king sits down to settle his dispute and the Dishonest Steward fiddles the books. Faith's analogue, then, would be this rising up of the organism in the face of disaster - girded for action, thinking quickly on his or her feet and unwilling to take no for an answer. Jesus poses questions to his followers: Are you willing to follow me? Will you forsake family for me? Will you drink the cup which I drink? Will you leave the confines of your religious subset? Will you endure the scorn of your friends for doing so? If you are serious you will not allow the opportunity of following to pass.
What does the faith of followers look like? Well, he says, you find it in a plethora of ordinary human dynamics. Take this woman, for example - this shepherd, this King or this steward. See how ordinary people clutch this valuable thing like it was their last and only hope. Such a valuable thing is God's Kingdom. Such a clutching is the faith of the Church.