Gospel: Luke 16:1-13

The Use of Wealth

What would you do if you won the Lottery? How would you change your lifestyle? How would you spend your money?

Everyone, even secretly, has mused about sudden wealth. What would we do the money? Pay bills? Quit employment? Buy new dwellings? Go on an extended vacation? What would we do?

Of course, the opposite is true. We all fear losing the little money we have. What would happen if we lost our jobs? Our banks defaulted? Our retirement suddenly "went up in smoke?" What would we do?

Money has become a driving force in middle-class America. We dream about it. We fear living without it. Accumulated wealth has become a measure of self-worth in modern culture.

How we use money can determine our futures. Jesus made the same observation. But with a different and unexpected result.

Popular Translation

1 Jesus told his followers, "Once, a rich man had a money manager. But the rich man accused the manager of wasting his money. 2 So, the rich man called the manager aside. 'What's this I hear about you?' the rich man said. 'Put your account reports together for me. You're fired!'

3 'What will I do now I've lost my job?' the manager worried. 'I'm not strong enough to dig ditches. And I'm too proud to beg on the streets. 4 I know what to do! I'll make sure those who borrowed money from the rich man will welcome me into their homes!' 5 The manager called the borrowers in, one by one. 'How much to you owe the rich man?' the manager asked the first man.

6 'One hundred barrels of olive oil,' the man replied.

'Quick! Sit down and write fifty barrels on your bill,' the manager said.

7 'How much do you owe?' the manager asked another person.

'One hundred bushels of wheat,' that man said.

'Sit down and write eighty on your bill,' the manager said.

8 "I admire the dishonest manager because he acted in a shrewd way. The people who love money are much smarter dealing with other money lovers than those who care more about God. 9 So, let me give you some advice. Use money to make friends among the poor and needy. When the money is gone, you will still have a home in heaven. 10 The person that can be trusted with small things will be trusted with great things. 11 But, the person who cheats with small things will cheat with great things. 12 If you cannot be trusted with something that belongs to others, who will give something to call your own?

13 "A person can't make two things first in his life. Either the person will love the one thing and hate the other. Or, he will cling to the one thing and detest the other. You cannot have both God and money as the most important things in your lives."

Jesus divided his followers into two camps: the "haves" and the "have-nots." The "haves" were not trusted in the time of Jesus, for the quick accumulation of wealth smacked of dishonesty. More important, Jesus' contemporaries saw the "haves" as those obsessed with money. The "have-nots" may have had nothing to support them, but they had God.

Literal Translation

1 HE also said to his disciples, "There was a rich man who had a (money) manager. This (rich man) accused him of wasting his possessions. 2 Having summoned him, (the rich man) said to (the manager), 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, for you are not able to manage.' 3 The manager said to himself, 'What will I do, since my master took the (job of) management away from me? I am not strong (enough) to dig. I am too proud to beg. 4 I know what I will so, so when I am dismissed from management, (the rich man's clients) will welcome me into their houses. 5 Having called each one of the debtors of his master (individually), he said to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' 6 He said 'One hundred bats of oil' He said to him, 'Take your bills and, having sat, quickly write fifty.' 7 Then he said to another, 'How much do you owe?' He said, 'One hundred kors of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bills and write eighty.' 8 The Lord praised the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly. For the sons of this age are shrewder among (those of) their generation than the sons of light. 9 I say to you: make yourselves friends with money (made) immorally, so, when it gives out, (your new friends) will welcome you into eternal tents. 10 The (person who) is trustworthy in the smallest (matters) is trustworthy in the greatest (matters). The (person who) is wicked in smallest (matters) is wicked in the greatest (matters). 11 If, then, you are not trustworthy with money (made) immorally, who will trust you with true (riches)? 12 And, if you are not trustworthy with (those possessions) belonging to others, who will give you your own? 13 No house servant can be a slave to two masters. For either he will hate one and love the other, or he will cling to one and treat the other (with contempt). You are not able to be a slave to God and to money."

16:1 "He also said to his disciples" Jesus was addressing the Pharisees in Luke 15. In these passages, he turns to address his followers.

16:4 "(the rich man's clients) will welcome me into their houses" Houses could refer to the clients' families or their homes. In either case, the manager will be "treated like family."

16:5 "Having called each one of the debtors of his master . . . " The debtor could either be tenant farmers who leased the land from the rich man, or farmers who borrowed money from man. The text does not clarify the exact relationship between the debtors and the rich man.

"One hundred bats of oil" About 800 gallons of oil, a large amount.

16:7 "One hundred kors of wheat." About ten bushels, a large amount in the time of Jesus.

16:8 "The Lord praised the dishonest manager" The word "Lord" ("Kyrios" in Greek) can refer to the "master" of the money manager or the "master" of the disciples (i.e., Jesus himself). The children's translation uses the later. Jesus seemed to admire the crafty ability of those like the manager to survive among his own.

"the sons of this age are shrewder among (those of) their generation than the sons of light." The term "sons" is generic; it can also be translated as, "children." Luke opposes two types of "sons," the "sons of this age" and the "sons of light." "This age" referred to the present generation which many of Jesus contemporaries saw as the last generation before the advent of the Kingdom. Like the generation before the Flood, the "sons of this age" would also be condemned. The "sons of light" referred to the saved, the citizens of the kingdom. Unlike the "sons of this age" who lived in moral darkness, the "sons of light" lived morally upright lives.

16:9 "with money (made) immorally" Jesus did not ask his followers to make money legally. He referred to monies donated to the missionaries from tax collectors and other outcasts. The use of "dirty money" has always been problematic for the Church. Jesus did not define money dirty from its source. He did instruct his followers to use any moneys received for the good of others.

"Money" is literally "mammon' which can refer to money or possessions, anything that can purchase or barter for goods.

"(your new friends) will welcome you into eternal tents." "Tents" recalled the Exodus when God lead his people directly. Hence they were a symbol of the Kingdom. Jesus seemed to say that these "new friends" would precede the person into the Kingdom and would welcome the person into their "eternal tents" (which were gifts from God).

16:10 The comparison between the trustworthy and the wicked paralleled the comparisons of "sons" in 16:8. Even though the manager was shrewd, he was untrustworthy. So, too, were the "sons of this age."

In the gospel, Jesus told an unusual parable on money, its use, and its importance in life.

In the parable, a steward is fired by a rich man for incompetence. The steward was actually a negotiator between the rich man and his customers. For the right to represent the rich man, the steward charged the customer a fee as high as 100% of the bill!

To ingratiate himself with the rich man's customers, the steward reduced what these customers owe by 40 to 50%. Did the steward forego his fee, or did he steal from the rich man? We do not know. But, in the end, the rich man (or Jesus) commended the steward for acting wisely. [16:1-8] The steward strengthened the relationship between the rich and his customers while strengthening his position with the rich man. After all, who else would want the customers to represent the rich man but the steward?

Jesus made an observation about business relations and the use of money. Business people are savvy; religious people have a tendency to be naive, for they stay away from sinners. [16:8] But, as we learned a few weeks ago, Jesus ministered to the dishonest sinner. He had no qualms about dining with them. Neither should the Christian. Hence, the Christian should use money, no matter the source, to invite the sinner to repentance and, so, build up the kingdom. [16:9] Like the savvy steward in the parable, this is the wise way to use money.

The use of "dirty"money, however, should not give the Christian license to spend recklessly. The Christian should always act to promote faith; this means being totally trustworthy. The source of the money may be questionable, but the use of the money must be honorable. [16:10-12]

In the end, the use of money, especially the money of others, must be done for the good others. If money is spent for the self, how can it benefit others? One cannot spend money to glorify God and glorify self at the same time. Such hypocrisy is self-evident. [16:13]

Catechism Theme: The Social Implications of the Seventh Commandment (CCC 2451-2462)

"You shall not steal."

In Luke's gospel, Jesus addressed some practical aspects of the seventh commandment, for it entails the use of wealth. This commandment teaches us to treat others' property and abilities with respect, since a person's goods and talents are meant for everyone's benefit. The seventh commandment not only tells us not to take others' property or enslave them, it teaches us that when we deny of our own property and talents for others' good, we are sinning. (2451, 2452)

The seventh commandment implies an "economic" justice. Economic justice is the view that everyone should share in the goods of the earth in a just and loving manner. Economic justice also demands that everyone work together for these goods, according to their abilities. Work is the primary value of economic justice, because the human person who works has the greatest value. (2459, 2460)

How can we honor the seventh commandment? We can honor the seventh commandment by sharing our time, our talents, and our goods with others, especially the poor. Sharing with the poor shows love of neighbor and is an act of justice. (2462)

What have you done to keep the seventh commandment? How have you placed God over money in your life?

How do we use our wealth? What we do with our money and possessions does show the world our priorities. Are we self indulgent? Or do we focus on others? While these two questions might form a continuum between selfishness and altruism, our place on that line can be clearly seen. Others will see whether we glorify God or glorify self.

Reflect on your use of money and possessions this week. Resolve to spend a small portion on others this week.