Yet again, Jesus tackles a thorny issue by telling a story. And what a story! A story that might encourage us today, to reconsider our notions of generosity and the redistribution of wealth. If we never talk about money in the church, how can we ever establish a healthy relationship with money and how can we ever engage with all the questions that surround our wealth— or lack of it?
Communities are created by people getting together to share the resources that they have to help one another and even those they will never meet. This community we call church is no different. It relies on generosity, on good will, on the love of those involved— for the sake of others. We who are a part of the church model the love and generosity of God each time we share our resources— with those we know and with those we will never meet. And it’s not about looking good. Or about saving face. It’s about genuinely caring enough to put our wealth at the disposal of others.
This awkward gospel passage, echoing cultural conundrums of its time, speaks clearly into our culture today. How will we choose to model the love and the generosity of God? How will we put our resources at the disposal of the community we serve? How will we redeem our tarnished reputation, embrace our prosperity, and serve God with our money? God calls us as we are and asks that we honour God by offering all that we have to serve God’s people.
In light of Jesus’ call to first-century people and to us to serve God rather than our wealth, what shall we do? Most of us have money, and perhaps all readers of my musing have lots of “stuff.” Presumably, none of us will be getting rid of all of it, either. Even if we are not using “fuzzy math” in order to maintain our wealth or the appearance thereof, we all have those material things we are certain we cannot live without. And yet, we must discern what it is that is our idol.
I wonder if Jesus’ point is not that we should be more dishonest, but rather more focused and driven in our faith and in the spread of the gospel. Some people will do almost anything to get a leg up on others and pad their bank accounts. We’re to have the exact same focus and drive, just on spiritual things. There are “true riches” to attain, and those riches don’t expire when we do. We should be as shrewd and driven with our spiritual lives as the Dishonest Manager was with preserving his life in the short-term.
We must continuously be on the lookout for anything that might blind us from seeing God and therefore hinder our witness. If we find this thing, we must be willing to let go of it. This is the only way to become “lost” in a new way, in a redemptive way. It is, as we say in the church, the “way of the cross,” the way to lose yourself, and in so doing the way to finding yourself.