Imagine all that can be done with money. I am guessing here but I imagine that wealth can become something you tend to trust in; to rely upon for meeting all of life’s needs. The truth seems to be, again I’m guessing here, money makes life easier; less worrisome. Actually, I am not guessing, really. I am not wealthy by this country’s standards, but I am wealthy in comparison to a vast sea of humanity. I may bemoan my rising co-pays, but I have brothers and sisters who live in places where if you don’t have the money up front you don’t see a doctor or go to the hospital. Period. And maybe that is why this country has slipped into a post-Christian culture. We don’t need God. We have money; money for food; money for medical care; money for education; money for transportation; money for housing; money for, well, just about everything. Does money bow to your wishes, or do you do the bowing?
Luke 16:9-13 is all about faithful serving. In Luke’s account, Jesus uttered these words right after the parable of the scoundrel servant; or the parable of the merciful master if you prefer. And what is Jesus’ advice on the heels of that strange and difficult story? Make friends by the means of mammon of unrighteousness. And he doesn’t tell us who to make friends with or if the wealth is unrighteous because it was gained through nefarious means. So, an educated guess? The friends may be the poor; those who have a really good grasp on their need. And mammon. Some have traced the etymology of the word to a concept of that which one puts their trust in. So, maybe, the problem of wealth is that it so easily steals trust. If this be the case, Jesus is saying that what others put their trust in to save themselves, you use as a tool for doing good; helping the poor. And when that mammon fails to keep you alive as it must, you will be welcomed by the poor into the eternal tent, which seems to be a contradiction in terms. I think Jesus used “tent” because the prophets idealized the time in the wilderness as a time of complete trust in God. And when you are welcomed into complete trust in God, that is eternal. Money will fail you; you will die no matter how wealthy you are.
But the reality is that all of us find money to be a necessity. Jesus considers it to be a very little thing, or even the least of things. Okay, so if you are dependable with this least of things you will be faithful with great things. Conversely, if you are unjust with the least of things, you will be unjust with the great things. Its interesting that Jesus doesn’t use the opposite of faithful. There is a reason, I think. Wealth is easily used as a tool of injustice. Unfaithful use is often unjust. So, instead of being a source of help, mammon becomes a source of oppression. And if that is how you abuse wealth, why would you expect to be trusted with what is genuine or true? And then Jesus utters another important truth, mammon is not ever really yours. It belongs to another. The Jews believed that God owned all things and that his people were called upon to be stewards of what belongs to Yahweh. Okay, that makes good sense. Be a good steward of what belongs to God, which is pretty much everything. But what is it then that is your own? Maybe this is the same thing as saying “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the land.” It is only when you hold onto your possessions lightly that they truly belong to you. Otherwise, you end up belonging to your possessions.
I think verse 13 sums it all up. Is your money serving you or are you serving it? This is not about having wealth. That is not the issue. It is about what you are slaving for. You cannot slave for God and slave for money at the same time. If you put all of your trust in the power of money, why would you slave for God? God doesn’t always pay your medical bills. God doesn’t always provide a house. Ah but money, lots of money, can provide these things and much more. Devoted to money means neglecting and despising God. This takes us back to the first of the Ten Words: You shall have no other God before me. That is the problem Jesus is addressing here. To be sure, the poor can also slave for money, dreaming of all that money could do for them. But it is often the poor who have discovered money is untrustworthy.
Wealth should be viewed as more of a responsibility than a blessing. You don’t have more than others because God loves you more. No sir. No madam. If you have more it is because God expects more from you. Slave for God and use mammon. Don’t trust riches because it will fail you. God never will. Trust God then. Who are you slaving for? That, my friend, is the question. Grace, Walter.