Jesus had a reputation for keeping bad company—inevitable in a ministry as oriented to the conversion of sinners, as to announcing the Kingdom of God. He probably knew characters like today’s dishonest steward. Is Jesus trying to expose the naiveté of his well-intentioned followers with this outrageous parable? Or is he just taping into the experience of the converts around him? Whichever, he is very comfortable being playful with us, so freely admitting the unsavory aspects of human business.
Playfulness is risky; but being playful can train us to take the consequences of our risks. Such playfulness can also teach us to distinguish what really matters from what is passing. When Jesus was arrested and brought to trial, as unfair as it all was, he took the consequences of his actions. He knew what is really important and what really doesn’t matter.
If today’s parable is no example to follow, doesn’t it demonstrate that a rich man, who knows how to turn a profit, is consistently impressed by a clever operator? They work on the same principles. They both understand what the needy may never understand: that wealth has no lasting value. It may be a useful tool, but can it ever deliver contentment, or permanent security? They’ve learned to play with wealth.
Instead of being so earnestly conscientious in my piety, could I benefit from learning a little playfulness in my relationship with God? Can’t we North American Catholics exhibit a dreary determination as we check off the boxes on our moralistic to-do list? Can I ever be caught up in the joy of the Gospel if I never learn some of the reckless playfulness of Jesus?