I promise I didn’t read this gospel just so that I could talk about stewardship on the day that I ask you for money!
This gospel today is continuing some of the harder teachings of Jesus, and it’s often called the Parable of the dishonest steward. Just as in all parables, we are meant to place ourselves in the story, and apply its lessons to our own lives. In this case, we are meant to put ourselves in the position of the steward. God plays the part of the rich master. God owns everything; we are just stewards. We are entrusted with the goods of the earth to use for our benefit and to share them with others for their benefit.
And one day, just like the steward in the parable, we will be required to give an account of how we have spent our time, talent, and treasure. What master have we been serving with the goods given to us?
The Lord says, “For the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
Here he’s saying that the pagans devote so much time and effort into their occupations, into what is most important to them, and at least they are good businessmen. But the children of light—you and I—don’t apply ourselves in the same way.
We spend years training, learning skills, and gathering knowledge in order to attain our worldly goals: getting a job, raising a family, having some fun on the side. And these are not bad things in themselves. But what about the spiritual life? Does your “spiritual age” match your actual age? If you’re 40 years old, do you have a 40-year-old’s spiritual maturity? or does your 4th grader know more about your Faith than you do? (by the way, if that’s the case, there’s an adult faith formation class available. check it out!)
This gospel gives us reason to ask ourselves, “what gifts God has given me, and what am I doing with those gifts?”
If I, your priest, were to stop you and ask, “what is the most important thing in your life?” I bet I would get the answer, “God.” or “Family” or even the stock answer, “to be a good person.” OK, those are pretty good answers, but if I asked you, how much time do you spend in prayer each day? or, How are you using your God-given talents and acquired skills? or Where does your spending money go? Then I would probably get a different answer. What we do with our time, talent, and treasure reveals what is first in our life.
“I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
Here is another tough saying. In looking at different translations, I think this one makes more sense:
“I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that, when it fails, they will welcome you in eternal dwellings.”
This sense matches more with the parable, where the steward was making friends by giving them discounts on what they owed the master. We are told to make friends using unrighteous wealth. What is this unrighteous wealth? Jesus is saying that basically all wealth is unrighteous in some way.
For example, have you ever boycotted some company because they support some awful cause? For example, I just found out that Energizer batteries support Planned Parenthood. OK. So I won’t buy Energizer batteries. But when I go to Chick-fil-A and get a sandwich, I don’t stop to check if Chick-fil-A is using Energizer batteries in any of their electronics. So there’s some tiny portion of my money that is going to Energizer, and some tiny portion of that money that is going to Planned Parenthood. So, in some way, all wealth is basically unrighteous to some degree.
Jesus is saying that if you’re going to have wealth, use it to make friends who will be waiting for you in the eternal kingdom. And who are these people? The poor. Remember, Jesus said in the Sermon on the Plain, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.” To sum up this confusing verse, we are told to give our wealth, which is inherently corrupt, to those who have less. In doing so, we’ll make friends with a person, a person with a soul that will endure eternally.
You see, the goods of the world have been given to all humankind, not just a few individuals. Yes, some people have more wealth than others, and that is OK. It just means that the wealthier have a greater obligation to share with those who have less. We have an obligation to share with others because it’s what our Lord has commanded us to do. When we give, we inspire gratitude and humility in others and we receive charity and joy in return. This is evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in us. It’s good to give out of duty, but it’s better to give out of a genuine desire for the good of others.
Pope Francis once said he wants “a poor Church for the poor.” A Church that amasses wealth is turned in on itself, and will not survive. A Church that gives of itself until it has no more to give, will find itself rich in what matters—love. charity. That’s what will endure to eternal life.
Brothers and sisters, we are made for eternal life. We are called to advance in love in this life, and it is love by which we will be judged on the last day. The funny thing about love is, the more you give it away, the more you have.