Bad guy, good lesson – Friday, 31st Week in ordinary time – Luke 16:1-8
The parable of the prodigal son is followed by the prodigal servant. Prodigal simply means wasteful. He is the prodigal servant because like the prodigal son (Luke 15:13) the very words are used to describe his action; he too “squandered (diaskopizo in Greek) his (the master’s) property. (Luke 16:1)
While charges were brought against the man for cooking the books (verse 1) the master who is described as a “rich man” acts on “hear say” (verse2) demanding the accounts (logos) and dismissing the man in the very same breath. By default, slaves were considered dishonest. In fact, they could not serve as witnesses in court except under torture.
Note that the manager remains silent when the owner accuses him of being guilty of mismanagement. The manager seems resigned to his faith either because he knows he has truly squandered the master’s money or simply because he is unable to fight the forces that are against him. From the narration that follows it seems to be the former; he is a full-blown crook as the manager then forms a devious plan to swindle his master while securing his own future.
Interestingly the manager is in touch with reality. He knows that age is against him and physically he is unable to work. He also seems to have developed some social standing which would cause him embarrassment should he need to borrow or beg as the word appears in the text. Ironically the man may have been ashamed to beg, but he wasn’t too ashamed to steal! Unfortunately, there are a lot of people like that today. So, before the sun sets on his last day at work he comes up with a clever plan that will continue to keep him in good societal standing. He gives his masters creditors a large discount waving off much of their debt.