“I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” That’s a strange instruction from Jesus, make friends with dishonest wealth. And it doesn’t help that some of this parable seems to be lost in translation. “Mammon” is not a very common word – it is actually only in the entire bible twice. The best we can say is that it essentially means property, money, possessions… the treasures of this world which Luke already warned us a few weeks ago will be worthless when this world passes away. And the steward reduce what is owed by the debtors… obviously he was trying to gain favor with them, but we don’t know if he was cheating his first master by doing it or if he was just canceling his cut of the deal as the middleman. So for this gospel we need to stay out of the details that are impossible to know and stay focused on the big picture of what it is saying… gotta look at the forest this week and not the trees.
There can only be one master of your heart, one ultimate value that you live for: the things of the world to come or the things of this world now… God or mammon. The dishonest steward tried to serve two masters: the rich man as well as himself. He was squandering the rich man’s property, either using it for his own benefit or letting it waste away by his laziness. When the rich man becomes aware and tells him to prepare the accounts, the dishonest steward learns the hard lesson that you can only serve one master and that he’s about to be kicked to the curb. And then things get really tough because he’s not strong enough to dig and too ashamed to beg. He learns not only that he can only serve one master, but also that it can’t be himself. He needs a new master if he is going to survive, and so his plan to get in the good graces of whoever he can.
Now that difficult line. Jesus said, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” I think what Jesus is trying to say, is that it would be good for us to learn the lesson of the dishonest steward. We should have that experience of trying to be our own masters so that when we fail we learn to make God our master. Imagine, I guess, that Jesus was saying the first part of that line sarcastically. “Go ahead, pursue riches! Good luck with that! And when that fails and you are too weak to be your own god, then you will understand that you cannot serve both God and mammon. Even if you become the king of this world and on your deathbed when you hear the Lord say ‘prepare a full account of your stewardship of the life I gave you’, then you see that you have nothing of value and you will understand that you cannot serve both God and mammon.” This is the message that I found in this gospel…a either learn the hard way that the riches of the world will fail you, or listen to the Gospel in trust and learn from this steward who was dishonest.
So the question I leave you to pray with this week is which master you serve in your life. If you serve mammon then wealth will something you always seek more of; if you serve God wealth will be a tool to provide for others and change the world by using it. If you serve mammon, the future will mean to you the next five, ten, twenty years of your life; if you serve God the future will mean the life of heaven. If you serve mammon, you will care about what other people have in material possessions; if you serve God, you will care about what other people have in their hearts. You cannot serve both God and mammon. Don’t learn the lesson the hard way.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.