Luke 12:41-48[I extemporized some filler and largely improv’ed the last paragraph, but this is approximately my text.]
41Peter said, “Do you intend this parable just for us, Teacher, or do you mean it for everyone?”
42Jesus said, “It’s the faithful and farsighted steward that the owner leaves to supervise the staff and give them their rations at the proper time. 43Happy the steward whom the owner, upon returning, finds busy! 44The truth is, the owner will put the steward in charge of the entire estate. 45But say the steward thinks, ‘The owner is slow in returning’ and begins to abuse the other staff members, eating and drinking and getting drunk. 46When the owner returns unexpectedly, the steward will be punished severely and ranked among those undeserving of trust.
47“The staff members who knew the owner’s wishes but didn’t work to fulfill them will get a severe punishment, 48whereas the one who didn’t know them--even though deserving of a severe punishment--will get off with a milder correction. From those who have been given much, much will be required; from those who have been entrusted much, much more will be asked.”
There’s a lot going on in this parable, but the part I’m going to focus on is: But say the steward thinks, ‘The owner is slow in returning’ and begins to abuse the other staff members, eating and drinking and getting drunk.
I’m not interested in a “Jesus is coming -- look busy” Rapture theology. Rather, I want to talk about what we do when we think no one’s watching.
I work at a university, and during the summer? No one’s watching. And I’m reminded this summer -- as I am every summer, but apparently I need to keep being reminded -- that when I’m not accountable to anyone for the work I maybe should be doing, I don’t do the work. It’s easy to feel like it doesn’t matter -- because there are no consequences. Rationally, I may know that there will be consequences down the line, but when I’m not accountable to anyone in the moment, it’s really easy to ignore that.
And I think we live a lot of our lives like that. We’ve been given responsibility to be good stewards, but we start to slacken our responsibilities -- we focus on our own fleeting desires at the expense of the needs of others... We bend rules and cut corners in ways we never would if someone were watching.
I don’t endorse an imagining of God as angry judge in the sky, but I invite us to imagine that someone we love and respect is standing next to us, watching us -- because She is. And She loves us. And she has such amazing plans for us. We have been given responsibilities, but we have also been given a Promise. And so I invite you to remember both of those as you move through the next few days.
During the shared reflection time, one person commented on the fact that the first thing the "bad" steward is mentioned as having done wrong was abusing the other staff members. This is one of the things that most struck me (er, pun not intended) when I was working with the text, also, and I wish I'd been able to work it in more.
Someone else said that this [homily/text] really resonated for her because there are various implosions happening in different branches of her family because of things people do when they think no one's watching.
Someone who came in partway through my Reflection commented (1) he's learning to ask God "show me what I need" rather than "give me what [I think] I need," and (2) being in recovery for addiction, he's learned that his actions affect not just God but other people, people he might not even know -- the ripple effect.