Amos 8, 4-7 + 1 Timothy 2, 1-8 + Luke 16, 1-13
Until something hits us right in the face most of us are content to live quite simple and shallow lives in the immediate moment. It is a comfortable kind of existence where we find it easier to survive in a world filled with danger and uncertainties of all kinds. “Denial” is what we call it; a life-style that marks our time in history quite clearly. It often takes the loss of a job, a health crises, or the death of a loved one to wake us up with the question of what lies ahead. Until something like that happens, we just keep our heads down plugging along day by day hoping that the future will take care of itself. No it will not take of itself. It will be the consequence of what we do today.
I think that mothers and fathers get a less frightening opportunity with the birth of a child. I can’t tell you how often I have watched and listened to new young parents reflect upon their experience of bringing a human life into this world with all the responsibility and new dreams of the future. It is the one unavoidable moment when they must look ahead, way ahead, and adjust their lives for the future.
This is what Jesus speaks of today a world not so much different from our own. The man has lost his job, and while he may have known that it could happen at any time, he’s never thought about it or worried about. The future has always been just that: the future, a time that never seems to arrive. But, then it does, and it will not take care of itself.
The Living Word of God still speaks to all of us who live in a comfortable kind of denial about a future that never quite seems to come.
This Living Word of God speaks to all of us who have jobs and possessions, opportunities, talents, and skills.
This Living Word of God raises the same question that Jesus raised to those gathered around him. It is raised again by Luke writing to a church that had grown comfortable in their present lives. Their earlier anxious readiness and anticipation of the end, of the second coming, was slipping away. They had forgotten that an accounting would be asked of them.
In a general way, this Gospel gives reason to restore that awareness. It is a wake-up call like being written up at work, or discovering that our blood pressure is high or cholesterol is climbing. It calls us believers to look up and look ahead, to remember that this is not all there is, to live not just for today, but for tomorrow. There is here no condemnation or any suggestion that there is something wrong with wealth, riches, and possessions. There is however, a question raised about how those are to be used, and a proposal that they would best be used with regard to a future that will come. For the wise, what we do with what we have no matter how much there is or how little is the issue.
Prudence is a virtue found in the wise, and it is an appropriately developed virtue in disciples of Jesus. Not a fearful caution and leaves one afraid to act, Prudence is a way of acting and behaving, of relating to things and people with regard the the future.
For people of faith, like you and me, that future leads us to a steady and constant nurturing of a spiritual life; a life that will survive on and on into the future. The lives of faithful believers, disciples of Jesus, are not split into the physical and spiritual, or for that matter into the present and the future. Their lives, the lives of the wise, are integrated into a wholeness that brings them to live in the present as though it was the future. They live today the way they hope it shall be forever. Their spiritual lives are integrated into their physical lives knowing that what is good for the soul is good for the body, and what happens to the body affects the soul. It gives them a way to judge and measure what pleasures and how much pleasure is good and what is harmful, because what feels good may not actually be good.
This is the wisdom of prudence. It suggests to us who seek that wisdom that the use of what we have today has consequences for the future, for our very soul, and for the kingdom of God both now and when the time comes for an accounting. The future will not take care of itself.