Who Is Master: God Or Money? 18TH SEPTEMBER, 2016
The preaching of Amos has a clearer message for modern day social standards than that of any other Old Testament prophet. He prophesied that Israel would be punished for the crimes, that her wealth would vanish, her houses adorned with expensive ivory would be torn down, and within twenty years all this was to come true when the Northern Kingdom was overrun by the Assyrians, the most hated and feared race in the history of the Middle East.
Writing to Timothy, his disciple, St Paul quotes the proverb which says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Note it does not say that money is the root of all evil, but rather the “love of money” is. Of course money is necessary, and always was, as a means of exchanging goods in every complex organized society. But through excessive love of money a person can become its slave. Money can become a substitute for God in one’s life, to the extent that in one’s efforts to acquire more of it one can become, in Christ’s own words, “choked by the riches and pleasures of life and fail to reach spiritual maturity” (Lk 8:13). Life is something far more precious than the food we take, the clothes we wear, or the riches we acquire. Earthly possessions are things which are on loan to us. After a brief life span we have to relinquish our hold on them and leave them behind. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb,” Job said (1:21), “and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.”
Why the Parable of the Unjust Steward was included in St Luke’s gospel, you might ask. And the answer is that it was because of the Church’s concern about the proper use of wealth even in the apostolic age. The parable shows us how the steward when faced with a crisis used all his astuteness and worldly craftiness to make provision for the future. A steward’s salary took the form of a commission on the sale of his master’s goods. This was his only salary. And so in reducing the debtors” bills the steward was not defrauding his master. He was only giving up the commission due to himself. Great wealth however is rarely acquired without some sharp practice, and so Christ refers to money as being tainted. We have to keep reminding ourselves that, by and large, our society, like that of ancient Israel, is organized, not so much for the welfare of ordinary citizens, for the common good, but rather geared towards maximum production and gain for those who invest in it.
In our use of wealth therefore we must remain ever mindful of the words of Christ, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the merciful, blessed are those who strive for justice.” It is such people who will in true self-fulfillment, who, having left behind this world and all its possessions, will find the greatest reward of all, that of possessing God himself for all eternity, or should I rephrase that and say, that of being possessed by God for all eternity.
According to Luke the parable of the dishonest manager should prompt Christians to use their material possessions prudently. Among the applications of the parable Luke adds that there are two alternatives: serving God or serving mammon. Luke proceeds to make these applications concrete by reciting the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31.) The rich man chooses to isolate himself from others in a world of non-concern. Lazarus is not a person, but an object.
Whenever God speaks to us, a reminder about the poor and the needy is never far away. Amos and Jesus both voiced God’s concern by reminders of social justice and personal responsibility. The worship of God has to influence the way we behave; our dealings with each other indicate our worthiness of the kingdom. It is all tied together. If money talks, it should talk in the accent of the kingdom. For true riches are those towards God.
BY: FR. RAPHAEL HESSAH