A Fair Deal

“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16. 7-8)

A mother wanted to teach her daughter a lesson on money. So she gave her little daughter a quarter and a dollar for the church, “Put whichever one you want in the collection basket and keep the other for yourself,” she told the girl. When they were coming out of church, the mother asked her daughter which amount she had given. “Well,” said the little girl, “I was going to give the dollar, but just before the collection, the priest on the altar, said that we should all be cheerful givers. I knew I’d be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter, so I did.” (Bits & Pieces, February 4, 1993.)

We can all relate easily with her. It is always hard to give away our own money. Money is well inside us. We work for it. We try to make it last. We love what it can bring to us – security, comfort, esteem. And hence it costs us when we have to part from it. Jesus speaks often about money because he knows how compelling it is in our lives. One-sixth of the Gospels, including one out of every three parables, touches on money. Only two places state very plainly the futility of riches The Bible and the Income Tax form! Let’ see the Bible!!

A strange parable

Jesus today wants to reveal a secret about how to be smart with money! It speaks of a manager, who was accused of being wasteful with the property of his master. You know, shady dealings, dubious transactions… So the master faces him and tells him clearly : “Listen! I have heard that you are frittering away my property, stealing thousands of dollars from me. Your job is up. I give you ten days to fix the accounts and then you can leave. Be off!”

The manager starts immediately pondering. How am I going to live? I can’t dig, because now I’m old and I haven’t the strength. I can’t beg; it is too shameful. So he decided to pull a fast one on his master in order to feather his own nest. I can still get my hands on the boss’s money to make friends; I will make the boss debtors MY debtors! The expedient was simple really : I shall work to diminish the bills of the debtors considerably so as to find an open door with these men when my own world comes crashing in upon me!

Yes, thoroughly dishonest, agreed, but unquestionably shrewd!

So, he goes to the house of one of his master’s debtors and says to him, “How much do you owe my master?” “Thirty thousand dollars.” “OK then, cross out thirty and write ten.” “What?! You are giving me twenty thousand dollars?!” “Be quiet, don’t worry we’ll work the thing out together, my master won’t know anything about it.” Then he goes to another and says, “How much do you owe my master?” “A hundred barrels of oil” “Write fifty.” “You’re giving me fifty barrels free? “Yes, my friend, yes.” “Gosh! Thanks a lot!”

Ten days later he winds up the accounts and leaves. Then he goes to the house of the man with the $30,000 debt and says to him, “How are you? Well, you know that I don’t work with that bloke anymore; is there any work for me?” “Oh, yes! Of course, anything you want. You are my best friend, what are friends for?”

And the parable finishes saying : “The master praised the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.” He did not praise him for his dishonesty but for his craftiness.

Foresight

The question is who is this manager? Believe it or not, this manager is you and me! Imagine if God were to tell you now, “Draw up an account of your administration; I have given you life, intelligence, riches, everything, what have you done with them? Draw up an account”. You know perfectly well that if the Lord asks you for all the accounts from beginning to end, you’ve had it! Too many blunders. Too many shady transactions…

So the Word tells us, be smart! Be as crafty as the children of this age. First of all, understand that the day of reckoning will come also for you. There is a virtue called foresight. But not simply foresight for your retirement pension… but foresight for the day of reckoning! The manager in the parable thinks of the future and he prepares for it. He takes great pains to provide for it. He anticipates what is coming and he spends time and effort getting ready for it, and for this he is commended. If only we Christians would take seriously the fact that this life is but preparation for a far greater and vaster life to come. And start preparing the ground for that!

How can we prepare ourselves for that moment of reckoning. The crafty manager prepared himself by making friends who could help him when he was out of his present job. You do the same, says Jesus. Make friends now, using the money of the God! Give money to the poor so that when you are out of this world, this money will speak in your favor. The friends you have made through your giving them money, will intercede for you and will help you when you are at the pearly gates.

I learned some time ago that undertakers are sometimes called on to provide suitable clothing in which their clients may be buried. There are special suits made for such occasions, which look exactly like ordinary suits, except they have no pockets. Their customers need no pockets for there for we cannot take anything with us. But the truth is we can take something with us. We can take our friends.

The Desert Fathers have this remarkable story : A monk who was asked to go to a monastery to speak to the brothers about salvation. In great distress, he went to his spiritual father and said, ‘Father, I cannot do this. I have not even begun to live as a monk, how shall I speak to others?’ The old man said to him, ‘It is like this: at the Last Judgment, when we come to stand before Christ, we will see many sheep going joyfully into heaven on the right hand of Christ, and we will think that our place is to his left, as we know what we have deserved. But at the last moment, as we go with the goats, the sheep will look back and say, “But if they had not spoken to us, we would never have known Christ. Master, let them come with us”. And so on that day the people you saved through your life will save you. ”
Through the money we give to the poor we can be saved from hell! A good bargain, no?!

Power of money

Jesus knows that money has a claim on us. A totalitarian claim! They block the vision. In I TALK BACK TO THE DEVIL, A.W. Tozer reminds us: “Money often comes between men and God. Someone has said that you can take two small ten-cent pieces, just two dimes, and shut out the view of a panoramic landscape. Go to the mountains and just hold two coins closely in front of your eyes–the mountains are still there, but you cannot see them at all because there is a dime shutting off the vision in each eye.”

The Rabbis put it this way : One day a certain old, rich man of a miserable disposition visited a rabbi, who took the rich man by the hand and led him to a window. “Look out there,” he said. The rich man looked into the street. “What do you see?” asked the rabbi. “I see men, women, and children,” answered the rich man. Again the rabbi took him by the hand and this time led him to a mirror. “Now what do you see?” “Now I see myself,” the rich man replied. Then the rabbi said, “Behold, in the window there is glass, and in the mirror there is glass. But the glass of the mirror is covered with a little silver, and no sooner is the silver added than you cease to see others, but you see only yourself.”

And really … money cannot give us that much. The Discipleship Journal, Issue 53, 1989 mentions this quote : ” Money will buy a bed but not sleep; books but not brains; food but not appetite; finery but not beauty; a house but not a home; medicine but not health; luxuries but not culture; amusements but not happiness; religion but not salvation; a passport to everywhere but heaven.”

This is why Jesus Christ says simply but clearly. You cannot serve God and money! Use money but not let them become your tyrant. One way to prove to yourself that they are not your fascist dictator is to give them to the poor secretly, without your right hand knowing what your left is doing. And God who sees in secret, will reward you!

And not only that, but we shall have the unique opportunity to be made administrators of the true riches – administrators of the Holy Spirit! And with the Holy Spirit, comes everything…

It think it is a fair deal, no?!


 

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.