It begins with the Parable of the Dishonest Steward, who conspires to reduce the value of his employer’s accounts receivable and is commended for it by that same employer.
Some scholars say that the steward was simply forgoing his legal (albeit exorbitant) commission from his employer’s transactions in order to ingratiate himself with his employer’s business partners. Thus, in these rewritten promissory notes, he was taking nothing that was ultimately owed to his employer, but was only sacrificing his own short-term income to obtain long-term good will from prospective employers. These scholars would connect this to an interpretation of a later verse in which we are exhorted to “make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations” – in other words, to use money to help other people, not just in a way to win future employment but in a way that will enable us to be welcomed into heaven.
And that’s just one interpretation.
Amidst all of these interpretations, each often emphasizing one verse over another, there are a number of important points to make.
For some, all money and all commercial enterprises are irreparably tainted: “dishonest wealth” in the lectionary translation, the “mammon of iniquity” in more traditional, literal translations. Few, if any of us, however, can live up to our responsibilities in this world without interacting with money in some way.
For many, money is the most important thing in life. In this case, however, our Lord’s words are clear: you cannot serve God and mammon.
We need to be ethical, prudent, and conscientious in our obtaining and our using of money – keeping always in mind as we do so that our goal and our rewards lie in eternity and that everything we do should be directed toward that.
Be good to others. Serve God. Thereby we shall obtain the ultimate no-hassle rewards.