In the Gospel Reading, Jesus tells two parables, one about servants and one about stewards. In the parable about the servants, he mentions a reward for the good ones. In the parable about the stewards, he adds a punishment for the bad ones. The bad steward will be assigned a place with the unfaithful.
The unfaithful are those who don’t have what faith alone will get you: union with the Lord. So when the Lord says to some people, “Go away!”— the bad steward will be in that group.
This is truly a dreadful punishment.
So what is a steward, and what does it take to be a bad one?
Well, a steward is a person who has servants under him. In the parable, these are the Lord’s servants. Since every human being is the Lord’s servant in one way or another, then every person who has any human beings in his power is a steward of the Lord’s, in virtue of having some kind of charge of the Lord’s servants. If you are the president of a company or if you are a mother of small children, you are one of the Lord’s stewards, because there are human beings who are in your power.
It doesn’t take much to meet this condition for being a steward. If you sit at the dinner table with other people who can’t easily get away from you, you are the Lord’s steward as far as those people are concerned. To some small extent, they are in your power until you leave the table and them.
Two things mark out the bad steward. First, he considers his own needs and desires solely, not the needs and desires of those who are in his power. Second, when he deals with those in his power, he treats them unjustly. A mother who watches TV instead of caring for her children or who lets the older child tyrannize the younger one is a bad steward. A president of a company who assigns raises not to reward merit but to get revenge on his political enemies in the company is a bad steward too.
So having other people in your power is a fearsome responsibility. Do it badly, and you get a place among the faithless, outside, looking in at the dinner the Lord has made for the faithful, who served him well.