Sunday, November 6, 2016

Money and Faith

And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.  ‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’
 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God.  -- Luke 16:9-15

Money.  No matter where you look, you run into something related to money. It pays for not only the necessities of life, but also a lot of unnecessaries or extravagances to prove that one is better than one’s neighbors, business rivals, or anybody else.

It is said that money is the root of all evil, but in truth this saying is really that the love of money is that root. In the biblical world, they operated on a system of limited resources. The more you had, the less there was for someone else. And if someone else had more than their neighbor down the street, that was just the way it was. In our modern world, we generally recognize that people don’t necessarily live in a place of limited resources. We believe that if you work hard, you can make life better for yourself and your family. That means working hard to earn more money and using it wisely. Unfortunately, this is not a one size fits all world.

This seems to be a world run by a small minority of people with money who don’t really seem to care a lot about people unlike themselves. For years we’ve been hearing about the 1% versus the 99%. Don’t get me wrong, there are some in the 1% class who are immensely concerned about the state of the world and the problems that exist in it, and who put their money where their mouths are to help address that imbalance. But then there are those who use their money to make themselves more money, and the heck with the rest of the world.

Cheating one’s neighbor was one thing that Jesus spoke about in this reading from Luke. He was talking about those who deliberately cheated workmen of their full pay for work performed, who increased taxes and rents on the poor in order to make themselves more money. We’ve heard this story in church many times, but somehow it seems the message hasn’t gotten out.

It’s true that you can’t serve two masters, although a lot of folks try. It’s difficult to understand why people who make tens of thousands of dollars an hour begrudge paying employees a living wage that would enable them to have a better life. It’s difficult to understand companies running roughshod over sacred ancestral lands and risking the fouling water that hundreds of thousands of people depend upon, just for the sake of increased profits and more product to sell. It’s even more difficult to understand those who allegedly represent other people are paid very well and with lots of benefits while cutting benefits for those who need them the most. What’s even more galling than that is that these representatives spend time and money that is not theirs to further their own ends and positions. They do practically nothing to deserve what they are getting, and they are loath to part with any of the power that might redress some of this.

We are taught in church to look for Jesus in every person but how many of us really do that? Is the homeless man on the street so much less worthy of attention then some millionaire standing up in front of a crowd and belittling those who are not like them? Is this something Jesus would do? Or even consider? I don’t think so, at least, the Jesus I have read about, studied, and look to.

The election will soon be over one way or the other. Things will get better or things will get worse. We will choose well or we will choose badly. We will cast our ballots for those whom we feel represent the best that America can offer to the world, and those who will work to make our country and this world better for all of us.

Jesus is telling the story for us, and for us at this particular point in time. Perhaps it is our opportunity to look below the surface to the heart of the messages we are hearing and look for Jesus in those words. Then go and look for him in the world.

Originally published at Speaking to the Soul on Episcopal Café Saturday, November 5, 2016.

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