And he said also unto his disciples, 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; 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: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, 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. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
This Parable is generally considered problematic because it seems like Jesus is praising a selfish person. This is one of my favourite parables but I have never seen or heard the way that I interpret it. Here it is, please let me know if you have seen this interpretation elsewhere:
In the parable the steward acts in a good way for a selfish reason. However, most of the good things that get done are done for selfish or partly selfish reasons. Consider someone who gives to the poor in order to get into heaven, that is selfish, they are no different from the steward. Even when a good deed is motivated by true compassion it is extremely rare that it does not contain an element of selfishness as well. The fact is, more good gets done through selfishness than pure compassion. In relation to this the Dalai Lama has referred to the quest for enlightenment as enlightened self interest. It is vanity to believe that you can do anything without an element of selfishness. However, we have many religious, institutional, and cultural mechanisms to encourage us to do good works for selfish reasons. Ultimately, these structures are motivated by true compassion, but in an indirect way. What this parable is saying is that a good act is good in and of itself, independent of the motivations of the actor. We are all like the steward, we are all selfish, but when we do good things it is to be commended. We tend to make a distinction between people who have internalized systems to make them do good, and people who do good because an externalized system has caused them to do it. Really there is no difference. The saints knew this and this is why, despite their many internally motivated good deeds, they did not see themselves as any better than your average sinner