- Faith and Worship
- How Do I...
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: September 18, 2016
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the annual Mass on the Grass at St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish in Fayetteville on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016.
I think we’ve all met people who use their money to buy the favor of others. The rich kid who showers gifts on those whose friendship he wants. Parents who spoil their kids for fear of losing their affection. When misused, money corrupts.
The Bible speaks a great deal about the power of money to corrupt. In the oldest parts of the Old Testament, wealth was viewed positively as a sign of God’s favor — think of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
But soon we begin to see other people whom the prophets condemn for becoming rich through the mistreatment of others, and by the time of Jesus, people believed: (1.) that most people got rich through fraud or through exploiting others — they were in an occupied country after all. Meaning that if you were rich, they figured you must be an evil person; and (2.) their corruption would eventually corrupt their employees because now they too had something to lose, a vested interest in maintaining what was for them a profitable job, a profitable — though evil — status quo.
Generosity to the poor is what distinguishes a good rich person from an evil one. Jesus says, “Make friends for yourself with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Then as now, the rich often used their money to preserve their power and privilege, and over time, those connected with them were corrupted as well.
That presumption — that if you are rich you must be corrupt — is obviously not correct in every instance, then or now, but it is the key to understanding Jesus’ parable of the Unjust Steward in today’s Gospel.
The rich man in the story was presumably corrupt and his steward (his administrative assistant) may have become corrupt over time due to his bad influence and the evil work environment. That would have served the rich man’s purposes just fine until it no longer benefited his bottom line, at which point it was time to change administrators.
And what does this about-to-be-fired employee do? He defrauds the boss. He uses his access to the company’s books to buy the favor of others, calling in his master’s creditors and doctoring their accounts — maybe undoing some previous fraud in the original entries — perhaps really only 50 measures of olive oil had originally been received (not 100) and only 80 kors of wheat.
There is evidence in ancient literature to suggest that the balance could have been a hidden kick-back that the boss — or the administrator — was getting from the deal.
In any event, what does the rich man say when he finds out? He compliments the fraudulent resourcefulness of his former employee, even though it was at his own expense — acknowledging that he had been outsmarted, kind of like one thief admiring another.
And what is Jesus’ point here? Simply that if that’s how it is among thieves, among those who worship at the altar of the almighty dollar, how much more should we who are not thieves use our money to win the favor of others.
Except in our case, it means giving our money to those who can’t do us any favors in return — buying the favor of those who can’t do us any favors, meaning the poor and powerless in this life who will be powerful in the next, not the rich and powerful of today.
In fact, that generosity to the poor is what distinguishes a good rich person from an evil one. Jesus says, “Make friends for yourself with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
The bottom line here is: Who do you serve with your money? You cannot serve both God and mammon.