September 22, 2019
To follow Jesus is not easy, and if you think it is easy, you may want to reflect to see if you are really following Christ Jesus. We are too tempted to turn our attention from the uncomfortable to that which entertains or distracts.
The gospel reading from Luke, Chapter 16: 1-13, finds Jesus telling a parable of a dishonest manager of a rich man’s money, in which, after the manager learns he will be terminated, he goes to all the master’s debtors, reduces their debt, collects the debt, and is commended by his master for acting shrewdly. Jesus says, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.” The parable ends with the familiar statement, “You cannot serve God and wealth.”
This is the heart of our greatest struggle: choosing between two masters, God or wealth. The parable Jesus tells suggests that how we handle material things now matters eternally. The manager was commended for his shrewdness—not uncommon in today’s news—and many would believe the manager’s reduction of the debt was merely a subtraction of his own commission in exchange for future hospitality when he would become unemployed. Though this explanation brings comfort, if it were the case, the manager would not have been considered dishonest. It is more likely that he falsified the amount owed his master to gain favor of the debtors’ future hospitality.
Based on research of the times, it seems that Jesus raises larger issues that address how the faithful are to care for neighbors economically within systems that are unjust and materialistic. This is very real for us today and important for us to know how easy it is to turn away from God and neighbor when money is at hand. If money is placed first in our lives, we are guilty of idolatry and placing things above God. We do great damage to God’s creation. We waste our lives in worthless pursuit to accumulate more and more stuff that becomes a burden that we then dispose of. Simplification is a trend indicative of this cycle. Mother Mary tells a story of a guru’s disciple, so devout that he is left to himself, living simply in a mud hut and wearing a loincloth. Because his loincloth keeps getting destroyed by the elements and varmints, the disciple made decisions so that his life became more and more complicated—he became a wealthy man with a palace and many servants. This shows how easy it is to fall into this cycle of accumulating more.
Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of it is. Money and our anxieties about having enough impact how we care for our relationship to God, to one another, and to all of creation. It matters to God eternally. No easy solutions exist, but three basic suggestions are offered:
1) Develop a habit of gratitude for all God has given you because it comes from God.
2) Learn a generous way of being in the world. The Old Testament commanded people to tithe; in the New Testament, Jesus tells some people to give up all possessions.
3) In your relationship to God, find a way that keeps you growing and stretching toward the love of God, neighbor, and yourself.
Amen. Thanks be to God.
Respectfully Written by Peggy Brown