Friday, November 4, 2011

Who is rich? He that rejoices in his portion

"Better to have fewer wants than greater riches to supply increasing wants." - Saint Augustine.

Gospel text (Lk 16,1-8):
Jesus said to his disciples, "A rich man had a steward
who was reported to him for squandering his property.
He summoned him and said,
"What is this I hear about you?
Prepare a full account of your stewardship,
because you can no longer be my steward."
The steward said to himself, "What shall I do,
now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me?
I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.
I know what I shall do so that,
when I am removed from the stewardship,
they may welcome me into their homes."
He called in his master's debtors one by one.
To the first he said, "How much do you owe my master?"
He replied, "One hundred measures of olive oil."
He said to him, "Here is your promissory note.
Sit down and quickly write one for fifty."
Then to another he said, "And you, how much do you owe?"
He replied, "One hundred measures of wheat."
He said to him, "Here is your promissory note;
write one for eighty."
And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.
For the children of this world
are more prudent in dealing with their own generation
than the children of light."

The Parable of the Dishonest Steward intrigues me. As I reflected on it today, I wondered what it has to say to us in our times. We are frustrated by story after story of dishonest money managers in the banking and investment systems of our economy. What does Jesus have to say about this? Is he saying that a shrewd money manager is a good example for us to follow even it means being dishonest and putting our self interests before those of others? No, according to the bible commentaries I read, Jesus used an example of a dishonest person to make a point about our stewardship of God’s gifts to us. While the dishonest steward sought to ingratiate himself to the debtors to serve his own interests, he cheated the master. In this story, God is the master and it’s not money that is the problem here, it is the way we use money to gain influence and power that God doesn’t like. We can use money righteously or unjustly and God wants us to know the difference.

When I read this passage, I am reminded of the important distinction I must make in my own life: am I child of this world, or am I child of the light? The children of this world watch out for their gains here on earth, while the children of the light keep their gaze fixed on their heavenly reward. The dishonest steward, as a child of the world, knew that he was going to lose his current job because of his mistreatment of his master’s property. He was “not strong enough to dig and…ashamed to beg” (Lk. 16:3) and so he took the necessary steps to ensure that he would be able to live the life he wanted.

The dishonest steward took steps to secure a good place in the world. However, as we know, the world and all its riches will pass away. God, on the other hand, calls us to secure a good place for ourselves not in this world, but in eternity. Each day is a new opportunity to share Christ’s love with others. In sharing our gifts, we help ensure that we, along with our family, friends, and coworkers can all make heavenly gains, and truly be the children of the light we are called to be.

This whole system of stewardship to God is very different from the shrewdness of this world. There are those who place all of their confidence in the system of this world. They trust it because they can make it work for them. Christians need to put their trust in God and gain wisdom and confidence from doing God’s will through generosity. And we need to trust that this does work for us through God’s grace. I am the first to say that it is difficult. But unfortunately, when we give into fear and hold back from helping others because the economy threatens us, we are being dishonest to God.

So I am praying that I will gain the kind of wisdom that will give me the confidence to be more generous.

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