GOSPEL READING: Luke 16:9-15
9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations. 10 “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they scoffed at him. 15 But he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”
Meditation: What does “tainted money” (or “unrighteous mammon”) have to do with heavenly treasure and eternal life? Jesus exhorts his disciples to be like the shrewd steward who used money generously to make friends and win for himself a secure and happy future (see the parable of the dishonest steward in Luke 16:1-9). Generous giving is connected with alms-giving – the sharing of our financial and material resources with those in need (Luke 12:33). Those who receive alms become your friends because you are merciful to them in their time of need, just as God is merciful to you in your need for his forgiveness and help.
The rabbis had a saying, “The rich help the poor in this world, but the poor help the rich in the world to come.” Ambrose, a 4th century bishop commenting on the parable of the rich fool who tore down his barns to build bigger ones to store his goods. said: The bosoms of the poor, the houses of widows, the mouths of children are the barns which last forever. The true treasure which lasts is the treasure stored up for us in heaven. God richly rewards those who give generously from the heart to help those in need.
True generosity does not impoverish – but enriches the giver
What is the enemy of generosity? It’s greed, the excessive desire for personal gain and security. However, we do not need to be afraid for true generosity does not impoverish the giver, but enriches that person a hundredfold! Generosity expands the soul – but greed contracts it. God is generous and superabundant in lavishing his gifts upon us. We can never outmatch God in generosity. He has given us the best of gifts in sending us his only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who offered up his life for us on the cross. The Father also offers us the gift of the Holy Spirit who fills us with the fruit of peace, joy, patience, kindness, love, and self-control (Galatians 5:22) – and many other blessings as well. Everything we have is an outright gift of God. Do you know the joy and freedom of blessing others with the gifts and resources God has given to you?
What controls or rules your life?
Jesus concludes his parable with a lesson on what controls or rules our lives. Who is the master (or ruler) in charge of your life? Our “master” is that which governs our thought-life, shapes our ideals, and controls the desires of the heart and the values we choose to live by. We can be ruled by many different things – the love of money or possessions, the power of 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.”
When a number of the religious leaders heard Jesus’ parable they reacted with scorn (Luke 16:14). Jesus spoke to the condition of their hearts – they were lovers of money (Luke 16:14). Love of money and wealth crowd out love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus makes clear that our heart must either be possessed by God’s love or our heart will be possessed by the love of something else.
The Lord alone can satisfy our desires and give us generous hearts
There is one Master alone who has the power to set us free from greed and possessiveness. That Master is the Lord Jesus Christ who died to set us free and who rose to give us new abundant life. The Lord Jesus invites us to make him the Master and Lord of our lives. He alone can satisfy the desires of our heart and transform us in his love through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our money, time, and possessions are precious resources and gifts from God. We can guard them jealously for ourselves alone or allow the love of the Lord to guide us in making good use of them for the benefit of others – especially those in need – and for the work of the Lord in advancing his kingdom. Ask the Lord to fill your heart with a spirit of generosity and joy in sharing what you have with others.
Lord Jesus, may the fire of your love burn in my heart that I may be wholly devoted to you above all else. Free me from greed and attachment to material things that I may be generous in using the gifts and resources you give me for your glory and for the good of my neighbor.
1 Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!
2 His descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches are in his house; and his righteousness endures for ever.
4 Light rises in the darkness for the upright; the LORD is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
5 It is well with the man who deals generously and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice.
6 For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered for ever.
8 His heart is steady, he will not be afraid
9 He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever; his horn is exalted in honor.
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: Jesus recommends the foresight, prudence, and ingenuity of the steward, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
“Mammon is the Hebrew word for ‘riches,’ just as in Punic the word for ‘profit’ is mammon. What are we to do? What did the Lord command? ‘Make yourselves friends with the mammon of iniquity, so that they too, when you begin to fail, may receive you into eternal shelters.’ It is easy, of course, to understand that we must give alms and a helping hand to the needy, because Christ receives it in them… We can understand that we have to give alms and that we must not really pick and choose to whom we give them, because we are unable to sift through people’s hearts. When you give alms to all different types of people, then you will reach a few who deserve them. You are hospitable, and you keep your house ready for strangers. Let in the unworthy, in case the worthy might be excluded. You cannot be a judge and sifter of hearts.” (excerpt from Sermon 359A.11-12)