A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Dishonest wealth

This expression that we hear in today’s Gospel (Luke 16:9-15) resonates strongly with the news of the past year or so, as the world in the recent recession has suffered from the aftereffects of the financial overreaching of many: from executives who are paid more than the value they provide, to financial wizards hawking diabolical concoctions, to simple people seduced by the siren song of unethical mortgage companies.

But what our Lord says about “dishonest wealth” in today’s Gospel may sound different from what many might expect.

Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,
so that when it fails,

you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

And then later…

If, therefore,
you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth,
who will trust you with true wealth?

These exhortations, as translated in the U.S. Lectionary, might raise some questions in the minds of some: Why should we have anything at all to do with “dishonest wealth”? Why would our Lord tell us to use it and to be trustworthy with it? Isn’t it a bit of an oxymoron to be “trustworthy” with “dishonest wealth”?

The term translated here as “dishonest wealth” has traditionally been translated as “unrighteous mammon”.

The bottom line (so to speak) is that this term refers to riches tied to this world ("mammon"): riches that are not even truly real (hence, "dishonest"), for true riches are eternal and come from God.

If we are focused on money for its own sake or for the pleasures it can obtain for us, then we have turned away from God as our source and goal. As our Lord says later in this passage:

You cannot serve God and mammon.

If, however, we are truly conscientious in using the things of this world in ethical ways and for ethical purposes, keeping our focus on God and opening ourselves to be filled with His grace, then we can be welcomed into eternal dwellings by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

(adapted from a previous post)