Read­ing Time: 11 minutes

Recalling Luke 12:42–47

In Luke 12:41 Peter asked “Lord, are you telling this par­able to us or to every­one?” in his reply, or rather, con­tinu­ing his teach­ings about the king­dom of God and the cri­terion for inher­it­ing it, Jesus made a dis­tinc­tion between a faith­ful and prudent stew­ard and an unfaith­ful and imprudent stew­ard. A faith­ful stew­ard is the one who executes faith­fully the com­mands of his mas­ter. In his ana­lys­is, Jesus uses oikonomos as in Luke 16:1–13. In oth­er words, a faith­ful and prudent stew­ard is a faith­ful and prudent oikonomos.

Unwise decision?

A super­fi­cial read­ing of this par­able might sug­gest the mas­ter acted on hearsay. In verse 1, we read that “a rich man had a stew­ard who was repor­ted to him for squan­der­ing his prop­erty.” Then, in verse 2, he called his man­ager and said to him, “what is this I hear about you? Give an account of your admin­is­tra­tion for you can no longer be my admin­is­trat­or.” The mas­ter did well by sum­mon­ing his manger. But he dis­missed him without hear­ing from him. This prob­lem still lingers in our soci­ety. Lead­ers espe­cially many of the so-called reli­gious and Chris­ti­an lead­ers who prefer lies because they are afraid of the truth, are fond of con­demning those they con­ceive as enemies or threats without hear­ing from them. They think by judging a per­son without hear­ing from him or her, they will suf­foc­ate the truth. That is being myop­ic. The truth can nev­er be suf­foc­ated and the fight against injustice can­not be quenched by judging people on mere hearsay. By sum­mon­ing his admin­is­trat­or, the rich man proves more intel­li­gent than many civil and reli­gious lead­ers. His decision to dis­miss his man­ager is not unwise because by sum­mon­ing his master’s debt­ors and tam­per­ing with the accounts, the man­ager con­firmed the report against him. He knew he was wrong, hence, there was no need defend­ing him­self. A good admin­is­trat­or does not judge or con­demn someone without hear­ing from the per­son. On the oth­er hand, if you are guilty, there is no need try­ing to claim inno­cence. Hon­esty is a dis­tin­guish­ing mark of a faith­ful steward.

What shall I do?

On hear­ing these words from his mas­ter “what is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stew­ard­ship, for you can no longer be stew­ard”, the man­ager said to him­self “What shall I do, since my mas­ter is tak­ing the stew­ard­ship away from me?” To this uncer­tainty, the same man­ager respon­ded “I know what I shall do.” Since he was lazy (cf. I can­not dig) and feels dis­hon­oured to plead for assist­ance (cf. I am ashamed to beg), he decided to do what he knew how to do best – falsification/cheating. Pri­or to the sub­mis­sion of the account of his man­age­ment, he furthered his waste­ful­ness and demon­strated his shrewd­ness by alter­ing the receipts in his favour.

On hear­ing the teach­ings of John con­cern­ing repent­ance for the for­give­ness of sin, both the mul­ti­tudes, tax-col­lect­ors and sol­diers inter­rog­ated him say­ing “what shall we do?” To the first group, John said “let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do like­wise” (Luke 3:11). To the second group he replied “col­lect no more than what you have been ordered” (Luke 3:13). Finally, to the sol­diers he answered “do not take money from any­one by force, or accuse any­one falsely, and be con­ten­ted with your wages” (Luke 3:14). Sim­il­arly, after listen­ing to Peter’s strong and con­trary argu­ment con­cern­ing the sup­posedly drunk­en­ness of the Twelve apostles; the con­sequence of Jesus’ cru­ci­fix­ion; and the theo­lo­gic­al sig­ni­fic­ance of his resur­rec­tion, Luke says the Jews were “pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Imme­di­ately, Peter said to them “repent, and let each of you be bap­tized in the name of Jesus Christ for the for­give­ness of your sins…” (Acts 2:38).

The nat­ur­al reac­tion to my error should be repent­ance. But the man­ager of this Sunday Gos­pel does not agree to this con­clu­sion. To his already griev­ous offence, he added falsi­fic­a­tion of account. This shows he was not con­scious of his offence, and since he has not come to his senses (cf. Luke 15:17), he can­not turn back. Maybe he thought the mas­ter would not have for­giv­en him. When we err, we should not pre­sume and per­severe in error. Rather, we must make a U‑turn. Metanoia is the only rem­edy to sin/mistake/error.

The virtue of accountability

In our con­text, account­ab­il­ity means giv­ing account of a person’s activ­it­ies. In the Gos­pel accord­ing to Mark (6:7–13), the author records that Jesus sent his Twelve dis­ciples two by two on a mis­sion. More inter­est­ing is what Mark reports in verse 30 of the same sixth chapter of the Gos­pel. Mark observes with keen interest that the “apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.” In oth­er words, they gave Jesus account of their mis­sion. In the same way, lead­ers (reli­gious and civil) must always give object­ive account of their oper­a­tions to the people for whom and to whom they are work­ing. The prob­lem of non-account­ab­il­ity is a ser­i­ous prob­lem both among civil lead­ers and espe­cially among reli­gious lead­ers. While the apostles of Jesus are pure examples of account­ab­il­ity and respons­ib­il­ity, the man­ager of the par­able in Luke 16:1–13, is a typ­ic­al example of non-account­ab­il­ity and irre­spons­ib­il­ity. While the syn­onym of account­ab­il­ity is answer­ab­il­ity or answer­able­ness, the hyper­nym is respons­ib­il­ity or respons­ive­ness. That means to be account­able is to be answer­able and respons­ible. The inab­il­ity to give account is a sign of gross irre­spons­ib­il­ity. Every right­eous admin­is­trat­or must avoid this.

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