Track 2: Amos 8:4-7, Psalm 113, 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Luke 16:1-13
Today’s gospel is difficult to follow. Is the rich man really commending his property manager for being dishonest and is Jesus also approving? No, the manager still lost his job. The property owner is acknowledging that the manager has been very shrewd in placing those who owed the property owner money in his debt. The manager has reduced their debt by the amount that was likely his commission. In so doing they are in his debt and are culturally bound to assist him when he comes to them for help after he is fired. This was a smart thing to do and the property owner says so. The manager still lost his job for being dishonest even if he was prudent. Too bad he was not more prudent in managing his boss’ affairs.
Jesus is not commending the manager for his dishonesty, but Jesus is commending the manager for his resourcefulness in preparing for his future. Jesus is wishing that the people of God would be as resourceful and prudent in preparing for their future. I like the New Living Translation of Luke 16:8-9, “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the citizens of this world are more shrewd than the godly are. I tell you, use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven.”
We know what to do to prepare for our future retirement. We save to our 401K’s. We prepare a will and advance directives. We pre-plan our funerals, perhaps even purchasing a plot and a headstone. As new parents we save for our children’s education, perhaps even for their wedding. We buy health insurance, life insurance, accident insurance and perhaps even long term care insurance. We want to know that our family will be taken care of in the event of our untimely death. We want to know that we will be taken care of when we grow old and in the event that we become ill or unable to care for our self.
As good American citizens, we get an education, we get a good job, we pay our taxes, and we join the armed forces to protect our country and way of life. We run for office, we obey the laws of the land and we recycle. These are wise and prudent things to do in our North American society, as American citizens.
The point Jesus is making is, are we as wise and prudent as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven? As we save and plan for our families and our futures here on earth, do we also save and plan as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven?
It is important to note that money in itself is not evil. The First Letter to Timothy chapter six verse 10 actually says, “For love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Money is the means by which we make transactions in our society. This is not wrong. It is when we are greedy, desiring more and more for ourselves without thought for others that we sin. Incarnation is an important belief to Episcopalians and members of the wider Anglican Communion. We believe that God through Jesus Christ came and lived on earth as one of us. We believe that God’s creation is intrinsically good, simply because it is. In the creation story God repeatedly says that what he created is good. It is an important belief in Anglicanism that a strong connection exists between the Incarnation—the fact that God became a human being in Jesus—and social action. We ask ourselves ‘How does a strong belief that the church is, in the words of theologian James E. Griffiss, “called to witness to the Incarnate Christ in all the conditions of human existence” inform our social witness?’ (Harold T. Lewis, Christian Social Witness, p. 160)
What is social witness? Answer.com answers with, “It means letting God’s love shine through your lifestyle. You don’t have to preach. When someone asks you why you are different, then you can share your faith and how God changed you.” For a Quaker this might mean encouraging a wider and deeper understanding of peace, promoting positive social change and helping groups to increase their effectiveness using active non-violence and advising and supporting schools and teachers in conflict resolution and peer mediation programs, supporting the justice system through restorative justice.
In April 2015, the Presbyterian social witness policy group advocated for tax and economic reform. The study looks at the U.S. tax system through the lens of five principles built on General Assembly policies: progressivity in allocating the tax burden across households at different wealth levels, transparency that fully informs democratic decisions, social solidarity supports our life together as a community, ecological and fiscal sustainability that take a longer term view of systems that fuel the economy, and adequacy in raising revenue to fund appropriate and necessary government activity. (accessed from pcusa.org, 09/17/2016)
Christian Social Witness is faith in action. It is what we do as a consequence of what we believe. The church, sometimes corporately and officially, sometimes through the actions of its individual members, makes choices, takes stands, [advocates] and speaks out on issues affecting both its own life and the life of the society of which it is a constituent part. It does so because it is guided by its theology, by its understanding of scripture, and by its life of prayer. A church that makes no social witness is unimaginable because such witness is part and parcel of our job description as church. (Lewis, p. 1)
In today’s gospel the message is that we are bestowed with many different gifts and resources, intelligence, good health, a cheerful spirit, skill at making money and spending money, healing, teaching, communication, gardening, tool making, driving, spatial perception, mechanics, and the list goes on. The choice is what we do with these gifts and resources. Do we use them for self-gratification or do we use them for the benefit of our neighbors and to the glory of God; do we use them as good citizens of the United States of America and do we use our gifts and resources as good citizens of the Kingdom of God.
Almighty God, whose prophets taught us righteousness in the care of your poor: By the guidance of your Holy Spirit, grant that we may do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in your sight; through Jesus Christ, our Judge and Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.