Only ONE do I Serve!

Scripture     Luke 16: 1-13


                        Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful 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 or love the other,

                        or be devoted to the one and despise the other.

                     You cannot serve God and wealth.




“You cannot serve God and wealth." Once again, Jesus and Luke are cutting right through the cultural norms of the day and are doing everything they can to turn ‘the system’ upside down. Jesus presents an either/or worldview here. It’s a style used when a teacher is calling you to make a choice, to get off the fence, or to recognize a false choice you have already made. This parable of the ‘crafty steward’ reveals the duplicity and trickery that servants of money can play in the affairs of the world. But this is not how the ‘kingdom of God’ works. The true disciple must choose.   


To those who thought that their money brought them power, prestige, self-importance, and even God’s blessing, Jesus says, “No, you have understood it all wrongly.” It is God who is the source of all life. God is the Giver of all good gifts. For the pure of heart, you will come to see that the whole earth is yours and yet nothing is yours. When you sink into this contemplative consciousness, you can enjoy the radical dependence upon God for everything.  ‘We own nothing, not even our own lives, which always, at every moment come to us a gift.’ (Elaine Prevallet, SL) This new awakening opens us to see the larger mystery of God’s plan unfolding in “the matter” of our created world. Now there is interplay between dependence, detachment, community of goods, sharing, generosity, receptivity, simplicity, frugality, and everything is happening in a relationship.


“You cannot serve God and wealth.”  Somewhere along our journey we all must face the decision about whether the pursuit of God or the pursuit of more money will be our life focus. The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and laughed at Jesus. He responded, “You are the very ones who pass yourself off as righteous in people’s sight, but God knows your heart. For what is thought of highly by men is loathsome in God’s eyes.” Jesus is hereby ushering in the restoration of a beatitude way of living. He uses this parable to sharpen their awareness. 



This “serving wealth” is your distraction from the real business of living life fully! The challenge is rather to live together here on planet earth in a way of “mutual sustainability” – meaning, live in the understanding of how God has created the whole earth and it is ours and yet nothing is ours. Everything in the universe belongs to us all. No one owns it. We are all responsible for cooperating with the global efforts to be contributive and accountable for our share of giving and receiving what is needed for the good of the kingdom. Jesus would seem to be urging as many disciples who get this message, to wake up and start living in fidelity and gratitude for this wonderful gift.  Be “serving this God”, not your wealth!


This new way of being centered in God, not wealth, is very much going to lead us to the rediscovery of soul in all aspects of our daily life, especially in our relationship with the goods of the earth. It will be this relationship of non-possessive attachment that will enable us to experience the blessings attributed to the “poor in spirit” whose radical availability to God, automatically means a richly endowed participation in the unfolding reign of God characterized by love, justice, peace and liberation. Being poor in spirit, detached, utterly dependent upon God is already a participation in the unfolding and growth of God’s New Reign. This is the ‘Good News’ Jesus is proclaiming.


‘You cannot serve God and wealth.”  However, we do need to reflect on a spirituality of money and come to embrace a right attitude towards the goods of the earth that we are to care for and manage responsibly. Wealth can be a blessing or a curse, depending on whether it is used as a means to exercise power, a tool of self-indulgence or a resource to serve others. Wealth's danger is that it can turn our focus toward our own enjoyment, as the rich fool showed in 12:13-21 and as the rich man of 16:19-31 will show. Money is a tool. It is an excellent resource when put to the right use. It can help to build many good things of use for ourselves and for others. But to possess money is also to hold a sacred stewardship. Our resources are not to be privately held and consumed but are to be used as a means of generosity, as a way of showing care for our neighbor, as the good Samaritan showed, and as a restored Zacchaeus hosted a party!


In recent years, Fr. Diarmuid O’Murchu and other spiritual authors have been teaching an understanding of right relationship with the goods of the earth in the language of ‘mutual sustainability’ and following ‘the law of reciprocity’. They teach that LOVE is the Law of God’s life in the Trinity. And that Law is continuously expressing itself in and through all creation like a continual round dance. For, the truth is that everything that is, is in continual exchange. There is a continual giving and receiving  going on.  When we deepen our understanding of this awesome truth we too start living in the flow of life in God. We too start to intentionally exchange our goods and monies and time and services. At the same time as we are giving - we are receiving from others, their time and services, monies and goods.


Think about this when you walk into the grocery store this week – see all the ‘reciprocity’ happening – from how many different countries do these many fruits and vegetables and meats you are receiving come? And yes, you are contributing back with your payment for these products. Imagine how many famers and gardeners and manufacturers are caring for your family’s dietary needs this week. The point is clear enough – we are to be generous and prudently responsible with our resources. The parable centers on a steward who is accused of wasting the master's goods. The description of the steward's activity is like that of the prodigal son in last week’s Gospel. He has been scattering (diaskorpizo) his master's resources. Such mismanagement requires a response. The prodigal son squandered all his possessions; the older brother saved his, but both were preoccupied with possessions. All of this is simply to remind ourselves that thus far in Luke’s gospel Jesus has had a great deal to say about material possessions and how they can hinder us in our restoration of coming back into right relationship with God, ourselves and others.  


We can summarize Jesus’ teaching up to this point with the following principles: True repentance and deeper faith will dramatically change the way a follower of Christ thinks and acts with regard to material possessions – from a preoccupation about getting it and keeping it (e.g. “bigger barns”, larger investment portfolios etc.), to giving it away in service of the Reign of God. Jesus calls disciples to a total dedication to this living with gratitude in the consciousness of “I have enough.”  The reason for this radical change in one’s thinking about money is that the true disciple has now come to realize that money cannot get one the things that are really important - but that Christ can! The Christian ceases to trust in money and trusts in God. The mature Christian ceases to serve money, and resolutely sets the course upon serving God by entering into this mutuality and reciprocity and inter-dependence with all creation. Miraculously, ‘like the multiplication of the loaves’  the disciple discovers an abundant life, a rich spiritual and moral inheritance, a bold new freedom… and yes, enough money and goods to be comfortable and still share ‘the more’ with others.


Carrying Grace:    I have enough. I am enough. God is provident.



#1 arletteh 2010-09-21 15:06
To sit silently and still with this thought is what I must do at this time.Thank you to you,the poor in spirit, who walk the way with us!

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