“You cannot serve God and wealth” (Lk 16:13)

by Shiu Lan

This Sunday, Jesus teaches us by parable again. A rich man found out that his steward was dishonest and was squandering his property. He wasted his master’s goods. The steward was about to lose his position. It was a pressing and imminent situation and he had to find a way to secure his financial future. He cheated on the master more; he met with the master’s debtors at once and reduced their debts. That way, these debtors would return his favor when he was eventually fired (Ref Lk 16:1-7, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible P 137).

Despite the steward’s dishonesty, Jesus commends him for his prudence and “shrewdness”, for his fast and last minute effort using all his means to prepare for his future. Jesus points to the steward as both an example and a warning. His ardour, foresight and preparedness is worthy of our imitation while his wicked and dishonest tactics are not (ICSB P 137).

In this parable, Jesus teaches us about urgency and preparedness. He warns his audience, especially the Pharisees among them, that the steward who uses “filthy money to make friends for [himself]” characterizes that of the Pharisees “who loves money” (16:9, 14, Ref ICSB P 137). It is implied that the Pharisees are despising God in that they seek the esteem of others and the temporal comforts of this world and not eternal riches in heaven. Christians should take greater care than the dishonest steward to prepare for the world to come; Jesus challenges us to make friends with the poor through charitable works in order to be received into “eternal homes” (16:9). By divesting ourselves in riches to help others in need, we are investing in God’s kingdom (ICSB P138).

Jesus concludes the parable with this teaching “No [one] can serve two masters … You cannot serve God and wealth” (16:13).

In the second reading is St. Paul’s powerful intercessory prayer for ecclesiastical, government and secular leaders “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity” (I Tim 2:2). Pope St. Clement of Rome provides the Church's prayer for political authorities, imploring God to direct their counsel, that they would exercise in peace and gentleness the power that He has given them so that “they may find favor with God” (I Tim 2:2, Ref ICSB P 388, CCC 1900).

As we contemplate on Jesus’ teaching this week that we should serve God and not wealth, let us pray that “With the grace of God, we should hope to persevere ‘to the end’, and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for good works accomplished with the grace of Christ” (CCC 1821, Mt 10:22). Amen!