September 22, 2019 at Saint Peter and Saint William Parishes in Naples, FL
Amos 8, 4-7 + Psalm 113 + 1 Timothy 2, 1-8 + Luke 16, 1-13
There is something going in here with this parable beyond lesson on the wise use of money. To stop there in our reflection is to stay in the shallow water. There is something shocking about Jesus using someone dishonest to talk about. This steward is not only dishonest, but when caught, he refuses to change. There is something more to this story than setting up a situation in which we can simply announce: “You cannot serve two masters.”
What if we switch the spotlight from money and give some thought to this servant who is so clever, so ambitious, and so anxious for his future. This faces some choices as all of us do: Work and life. Often these two become something of a scramble unless you’re retired, like me, and those of you who are retired know what I’m talking about. Suddenly work takes on a whole different perspective. Work tends to claim most of our time and effort. If we take our eyes off of it, we get fired, fall behind, or become obsolete. It can also mean we become workaholics. If we sacrifice our whole life to work, what’s the point? This is exactly the question the servant is facing and asking himself. A question we could all ask ourselves is whether we live to work or work to live?
There seems to be two conflicting demands or responsibilities here, but work and life are both good in themselves. The best we can hope for is to give priority to the most important when it comes to a choice. The gospel talks about loving one and hating the other, but most of the time it’s just not that extreme as hate and love. Even when it comes to God and money, because we have to learn how to use money without making it our god. That was the problem for this servant. Money was his god. So, Jesus uses him to teach us something about how to achieve our priority, if it’s God. That servant was industrious, clever, creative, and committed. Evil people can make sacrifices for what they want. Good people, on the other hand, often sit around doing nothing and seem unwilling to make any sacrifice for their future and for what is good.
Someone very wise once said: “Sow an act, and reap of a habit. Sow a habit, and reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.” This parable is less about money and more about character and destiny. It reminds us that evil will triumph when good people do nothing.
Today Jesus speaks to us in the Gospel showing disciples what commitment to the cause of God looks like with the example of this dishonest servant was committed to the cause of self-enrichment. When we do act like this servant, not in his dishonesty, but in his passion for his future, the power of evil in this world will be conquered. I was taught that there are three stages to moral development: doing right out of fear of punishment, doing right out of a feeling of solidarity with others, and doing right because it is right. A little good old zeal for the cause of God and Justice with as much energy and commitment as we have had for the cause of money and our own security might help us to grow into a people who do what is right all the time because God would have it so.