Am 8:4-7; I Tm 2:1-8; Lk 16:1-13
One-time Mark Twain was involved in an argument about marriage with a Mormon. The Mormon said to Twain, “show me one place in the bible where having more than one wife is forbidden.” Twain said, ‘that’s easy. The bible said: ‘no man can serve two masters.” Amos the prophet is not shy about telling god’s people how God despises dishonesty and injustice. We just got a sampling of his preaching in today’s first reading.
Dan was a single guy living at home with his father and working in the family business. When he found out he was going to inherit a fortune when his sickly father died, he decided he needed a wife with whom to share his fortune. One evening at an investment meeting he spotted the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her natural beauty took his breath away. “I may look like just an ordinary man,” he said to her, “but in just a few years, my father will die, and I’ll inherit 20 million dollars.” Impressed, the woman obtained his business card and three days later she became his stepmother.
In our gospel, we may be left a bit confused. It sounds as if our Lord is speaking in a somewhat approving way of the dishonest steward. The steward may have squandered his master’s property, enriched himself at this master’s expense, or he may simply have been incompetent. Our Lord doesn’t’ give us the details as to why he lost his job. Even if he was incompetent, he was bright enough to provide for his future.
Before he left his position, he called in all the people who owed his master money and reduced the size of their debt. Then they would be indebted to him. Commentators suggest perhaps he was eliminating any commission that would have been due to him. Whatever was behind all of this, his dishonesty was not grand larceny or he would have been worried about jail rather than being worried about digging or begging.
If we try to figure out the details, we’ll miss the main point of the parable, and that’s all a parable is – a simple story with one point. The point is people work very hard at providing for their wellbeing in this life. How hard or dedicated are we in providing for our spiritual wellbeing?
We are stewards of the time, the talents and the material resources that we’ve been given. We can waste them, we can use them to serve only our own selfish interests, we can even use them to take advantage of others or to help others. We have to remember that we have One higher than ourselves to whom we will have to make an accounting of how well we’ve used the gifts we’ve been given.
Jesus concludes his parable with a lesson on what controls or rules our lives. Who is the master (or ruler) in charge of our life? Our master is that which governs our though-life, shapes our ideals and controls the desire of the heart and the values we chose to live by. Many different things can rule us – the love of money or possessions, the power or position, the glamour of wealth and prestige, the driving force of unruly passions and addictions. Ultimately the choice boils down to two: God and “mammon.” What is mammon? Mammon stands for material wealth or possessions or whatever tends to “control our appetites and desires”. There is one Master alone who has the power to set us free from the slavery of sin and addiction. The Master is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some of the questions that comes to mind now are: Why are worldly people more willing to sacrifice for worldly rewards than Christians are for heavenly ones? Why are we ourselves more willing to sacrifice for worldly rewards than we are for heavenly ones? Why are we more willing to treat strangers kindly for financial gains than we are our own family for heavenly gains?
And so the message of today’s gospel prompts us to ask ourselves: Am I like the Christians whom Jesus talks about? Am I less willing to sacrifice for a heavenly reward than I am for a worldly reward? Am I less willing to sacrifice for the spread of the Gospel than I am for my own worldly advancement?
Of course, we can’t answer that question in a general way. There is no general answer to it. There is only a personal answer. We each must answer for ourselves.