>My eye happened to fall, recently, on the exclusively
>Lukan Story of the Canny Steward. It seems that
>commentators have labored, from one end of the 20c
>to the other, to make appropriate sense of this
>segment, and on the whole have failed...
Let me echo Stephen with a word of thanks for this.
Most interpreters fail because (as you note) they
can't make sense of a master who *commends* dishonesty
(v. 8a) instead of just forgiving or overlooking it.
But there are two notable exceptions. David Landry &
Ben May's essay (as noted by Stephen) and the final
chapter from William Herzog's _Parables as Subversive
Speech_ (Westminster/John Knox, 1994) both offer
The key to understanding the master's commendation is
that in honor-shame cultures, the perception of a
subordinate reflects directly on a superior. The
question isn't what the steward hoped to gain by
cheating the master, but what he hoped to gain by
being generous to the debtors; and the answer is that
he was just saving his own hide. Yes, the master lost
profit. But if he insisted on banishing the steward at
that point, it would have ruined his reputation among
the people who now favor the steward (*and thus him*)
for lowering the bills. It's definitely in the
master's best interest to keep him, since because of
him he will be now hailed as a charitable benefactor.
The steward, in other words, didn't really cheat the
master. He simply put new cards in the master's hands.
The master took a short-term loss but will realize a
long-term gain, on account of his new reputation as a
benefactor. So yes, "forgiving debts can be a good
commercial move" -- as the Chinese tale shows in its
Loren Rosson III
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