“If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?”

There is you and there are others. Which master do you serve, asks Jesus in Luke 16:1-13.

Jesus said to his disciples,
“A rich man had a steward
who was reported to him for squandering his property.
He summoned him and said,
‘What is this I hear about you?
Prepare a full account of your stewardship,
because you can no longer be my steward.’
The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do,
now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me?
I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.
I know what I shall do so that,
when I am removed from the stewardship,
they may welcome me into their homes.’
He called in his master’s debtors one by one.
To the first he said,
‘How much do you owe my master?’
He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’
He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note.
Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’
Then to another the steward said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’
He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’
The steward said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note;
write one for eighty.’
And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.
“For the children of this world
are more prudent in dealing with their own generation
than are the children of light.
I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,
so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
The person who is trustworthy in very small matters
is also trustworthy in great ones;
and the person who is dishonest in very small matters
is also dishonest in great ones.
If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth,
who will trust you with true wealth?
If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another,
who will give you what is yours?
No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

Here is the story of a man who squanders what is his master’s. When he is caught and threatened with expulsion, he adds insult to injury by trying to endear himself to his master’s debtors by rewriting their debts, further squandering what is his master’s.

Now, you might say this is about stealing, for squandering what is not yours is like theft. You might also say this is about way more.

You can squander more than property or wealth. You can squander time. You can squander love. You can squander relationships. You can squander trust. Often, these are more valuable to a person than their property or wealth. And once you squander them, they may be lost forever. And then if you have taken what belongs to another, as Jesus says, who will give you what is yours? Who then will be your friend or your spouse or your brother or sister or parent?

Jesus’ words in this reading aren’t just about how we deal with someone’s belongings. They are also about how we deal with one another. You cannot serve two masters, says Jesus. One master is yourself and another is others: God and your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors, your children, your spouse. You cannot serve two masters; you can only serve others with love.

 

 

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