Integrity vs. Ingenuity

Luke 16:9-15
Phil 4:10-19 / Psa 112

The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.
(Luke 16: 10)

We may forfeit talent or wisdom,
Or lose possessions, power or health;
But if it makes us lose God’s kingdom,
The worst tragedy of all is wealth.

Jesus said, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So, if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” When the Pharisees, who loved money sneered at this, Jesus said: “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:9-15).

Reflection

Jesus said, “I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Wow! Now what did our Lord mean by this? Was he condoning the desperate but wily schemes of the steward who cheated on his master for the benefit of his master’s debtors, so that when he got fired from his job he could be “welcomed in their homes?” How can we enter “eternal dwellings” by making friends with “dishonest wealth”? But more explicitly, in total contrast to the preceding, our Lord continued: “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Notwithstanding the association of “dishonest wealth” with “eternal dwellings” the Gospel for today is certainly about stewardship and trust. Those who follow God’s commands may not be as crafty as those who serve mammon in this world, but their gain is definitely far more precious and permanent than “that tainted thing” money.

Could it be that what our Lord meant when he said “make friends with dishonest wealth” was for His followers to go and evangelize the marketplace? And that “when it is gone” we will have better chances of going to heaven than when our worldly pursuits prosper? At the wake of a former classmate in high school, who was suddenly snatched by death with heart attack, a batch mate who had grown very wealthy pointed out that at this stage in our life, relationships are the most important. Then he started to regale me with his various businesses, his expensive hobbies, and even his many young girlfriends. “You are right,” I told him, “Relationships are more important than our wealth and pleasures of this world. Especially at this time in our life when we should be preparing to meet our Maker. So how is your relationship with HIM getting along?” Our Lord is telling us in today’s Gospel that ultimately, we must make a choice between God and mammon – we can never serve both.

Lord Jesus, in today’s Gospel You teach us how to discern the more important values like trust and genuine stewardship, rather than craftiness and business acumen. You also remind us that we must not only be honest in large matters but in small ones as well. For as always happens, great sins develop from little indiscretions. Help us, dear Savior, in these times of economic difficulties to be more honest in our work, to be models of true service and integrity. For it is only by such good examples that we can counter all the dishonesty and corruption in our society, and be models of true Christian stewardship, according to Your values. Amen.

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