By the Very Rev. Sherry Crompton
September 23, 2007
Read: Luke 16:1-13
So our parable from Luke’s gospel is one of the most difficult to figure out. But, I think we all understand the initial story. If Jesus told the story today, it might go something like this: A wealthy loan shark was told that his accountant was lining his own pockets with some of the money he took in. He called the accountant and said, “What is this I hear? Bring the books in and show me where every penny has gone. And while you’re at it, find another job.”
The accountant was really worried and said to himself, “What will I do? I’m losing my job and I can’t do manual labor. I’ve had this desk job for years.” Then the accountant had an idea. “I know,” he thought, “I’ll give all our debtors a break so that when I’m out on my ear, they will feel indebted to me. He called all the debtors in and told them he would take fifty cents on the dollar for their debts and that made them really grateful to the accountant.
When he heard about it, the wealthy loan shark had a grudging respect for his crafty accountant and commended him for his clever scheme before sending him on his way. (John Jewell)
What’s puzzling to many of us is that Jesus seems to commend the accountant, or manager, for his shrewdness, saying that the children of the light should be so shrewd. Maybe the message is simply this: if we, as people of faith put as much effort and attention into building faith relationships as the dishonest manager put into digging himself out of a deep hole, the world would be a better place. Do we spend as much time with our spiritual life as we do with our financial? The last sentence is clear. “You cannot serve God and wealth”.
Here faith is presented in terms of a choice between God and Wealth. I think the parable is telling how to behave in relation to money, to property, to all that we are given. Are we indeed good managers or rather good stewards of all that God has given to us? All that God has entrusted us with?
What if God asked us for an accounting of how we have used what we have been given? Do we allow money to dictate how we live our life?
We live in a world where money does matter…there is no prospect of escape….but Jesus is pointing out that what we do with the money is what matters. Do we let values of greed: hoarding, selfishness possess us or own us?
Money is a means to an end. We use it to buy food and clothing and to guarantee a place for ourselves and family to live. A little extra enables us to buy ourselves and those we love some of the small luxuries that can make life easier and more pleasant. But money and the things it can obtain are never ends in themselves. Our pursuit of them cannot be at the expense of our commitment to the gospel and to Christian values.
Jesus seems to be suggesting that we be generous to those in need in order to prepare for ourselves a welcome into God’s kingdom. The next saying has three parts, all of which stress the importance of being faithful and responsible in small things if we are to be entrusted with greater ones. Money here is described as relatively unimportant in comparison with true wealth.
The last saying, “you cannot serve God and wealth” pushes the thought in a different direction. Here Jesus speaks to those who are tempted to make money the center and driving force of their lives. When we do so, we become money’s slave and it becomes our God.
God’s plan is the opposite. We are to love God and love people but use money. People who love money will never know true riches, the true riches of loving God and loving others. What greater wealth is there than that? Anyone who loves money and what it can buy will never know true love and true riches. That’s just the way God’s world works. Jesus said, “Give me an account of your money. Are you managing your money? Is it managing you? Do you love money too much? Could it be that you love money more than me?”
We really don’t own anything in this world, though. Not really. Everything belongs to God. This world and all that is in it is a gift from God.
Seattle, Washington is named after Chief Seattle –a native American. Chief Seattle was a wise chief, a wise human being, who understood and appreciated the intimate interplay between human beings and the earth. I quote from his profound words of over one hundred forty years ago. He said: “The earth is not the white man’s brother, but his enemy. When the white man has conquered the earth, he moves on. He leaves his father’s grave, and his children’s birthright is forgotten. The air is precious to the red man, for all things breathe the same air: the beasts, the trees, the man. But the white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth.”
Chief Seattle was right. All things are connected. We, as a people, are ultimately connected to each other. A steward is a person who takes care of precious property which is not his/her own. And we are called to be good stewards, good managers, of all that God has entrusted to us. Jesus is asking for an accounting. Have we been good managers, good stewards?
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