Parable, from the Hebrew mashal, an allegory, comparison, or saying. An ancient form of rabbinic teaching. The Tanakh mentions it at Ps 78:2; Sir 39:2; 47:15; Hos 12:10. The Jewish Virtual Library’s Parable article offers more depth about its uses in Scripture, and in the Talmud and Midrash.

Rabbi Yeshua told us some 30 different parables. For example:

The Parable of the Dishonest Steward

There was a rich man who had a steward, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ And the steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence; for the sons of this world are wiser in their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations.

He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” Lk 16:113.

An Initial Response

The good listener notices that the master commended the steward’s foresight without approving what he actually did Lk 16:8. Apply that same energy and ingenuity to preparation for heaven.

St. Augustine

Why did the Lord Jesus Christ present this parable to us?

He surely did not approve of that cheat of a servant who cheated his master, stole from him and did not make it up from his own pocket. On top of that, he also did some extra pilfering. He caused his master further loss, in order to prepare a little nest of quiet and security for himself after he lost his job.

Why did the Lord set this before us? It is not because that servant cheated but because he exercised foresight for the future.

When even a cheat is praised for his ingenuity, Christians who make no such provision blush. I mean, this is what he added, “Behold, the children of this age are more prudent than the children of light.” They perpetrate frauds in order to secure their future.

In what life, after all, did that steward insure himself like that? What one was he going to quit when he bowed to his master’s decision? He was insuring himself for a life that was going to end. Would you not insure yourself for eternal life?

St. Augustine (354-430), from Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 255.

St. Gaudentius

The unrighteous steward signifies the devil, whose dominion over this world is nearing its end. Having wasted the Lord’s goods by stripping us of divine grace and friendship, he now works anxiously to make friends by deception and empty promises of forgiveness. While his ardor and foresight are worthy of imitation, his wicked and dishonest tactics are not.

St. Gaudentius (350-410), from Curtis Mitch and Scott Hahn, The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 137.

St. Josemaria Escrivá

What zeal people put into their earthly affairs: dreaming of honours, striving for riches, bent on sensuality! Men and women, rich and poor, old and middle-aged and young and even children: all of them alike.

When you and I put the same zeal into the affairs of our souls, we will have a living and working faith. And there will be no obstacle that we cannot overcome in our apostolic works!

St. Josemaria Escrivá (1902-1975), The Way, 317.