ABSTRACT: The Parable of the Unjust Steward should be interpreted allegorically, its literal interpretation shown to be impossible. Certain facts make this parable unique: a lord as the Lord; divine possessions; the symbolism of the house interpreted as a human being; the material principles of the world understood as the governor of a human being; the Lord’s debtors as spiritual teachers of various kinds; theological doctrines with their own theogonic and cosmogonic views, all claiming to know the truth in its wholeness. Their debts consist of their misunderstandings and errors which have caused the difference between them and truth. Examples of the part of the material principles of the ...view middle of the document...
It will not be out of place here to recall the words of Maimonides: "a story which is repugnant to both reason and common sense ... contains a profound allegory ... and the greater absurdity of the letter, the deeper the wisdom of the spirit." We have just such a case. Yet, even without finding any literal sense in this parable, purely on the grounds of the complete absurdity of attempts to interpret it literally we could assume that its allegorical, figurative sense was uniquely precious. And so, the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Lk 16):
- There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
- And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship [more exactly house-management]; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
- Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship [or house-management]: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
- I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship [or house-management], they may receive me into their houses.
- So he called every one of his lord's debtors [unto him], and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
- And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
- Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore eighty.
- And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world [more exactly age] are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
- And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon [better riches] of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail [more exactly become indigent], they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
- He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
- If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon [better riches], who will commit to your trust the true [riches]?
- And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
(1) As we begin our interpretation of this remarkable text, here, as with other parables, we recognize the figure of a lord or "a certain rich man" as the One God. This lord has goods, or to be more precise, possesses some wealth. What kind of wealth? What is the content of this symbol? The first obvious inclination is to interpret God's possessions as our transient world. But if we are attentive in reading our Scripture we should not accept so simple a conclusion. The world has quite a different governor, quite different from the steward the parable tells about. The world is ruled by another, who has a clear name: "the prince of this world" (Jn 12:31). If we should...