Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan
“The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil,” says St. Paul in 1 Tim. 6:10; “The sinews of war are infinite money,” states Cicero. It's not new, it has been around forever, but once we've said that, with a few exceptions, we all need money to live and survive in this world. Money plays a significant role in our social behavior because it has its place everywhere. Even in our Churches, we solemnize the collect to the point of making it a liturgical act.
However, in the Gospel reading for the fourth Sunday of Lent, Jesus calls money “dishonest.” He refers to the fact that money and wealth tend to lead us to dishonesty, corruption, and compromise. This world is unjust, and thus, all its wealth has injustice and unrighteousness intrinsically attached.
Today, the gap between the rich and the poor is growing in a shameful way to such an extent that corruption reduces human beings to merely market values. The Prophet Amos described this kind of corruption in following terms: "We are buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals." (Amos 8: 6).
Jesus warns us about loving and serving money: "You can not serve two masters at once, God and money.” It does not mean that He demonized the money. Money in itself is not evil. However, everything depends on our relationship to it and especially on the use we make of it.
Then, what is our relationship to money and more generally to the wealth? Luke is the evangelist who addresses this question most often. He depicts Jesus who tells his disciples the parable of a dishonest steward.
We should keep in mind that this is a parable, like so many other parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. All the parables of Jesus are images of the Kingdom. A parable is a connection between the visible world and the invisible world, a visible reality and an invisible reality.
But why does Jesus offer us this parable of a dishonest and unjust steward as an example to imitate? How can we translate this lesson into our spiritual life?
Jesus, of course, does not praise the dishonesty. He does not approve the methods of this dishonest steward but gives as an example his cleverness, his ability and his way of using the money in order to make friends.
Jesus praises his intelligence because he used the money for what it is, a mean, not an end in itself. And this is the constant teaching of Jesus. Jesus warns us against the illusion and deceit of money.
The managing steward understood that the real wealth in this world is not money or the bank account, but friends. One can be rich and very lonely. But if you have friends, you're never alone. And the steward had the intelligence to understand it.
Therefore, "the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light."
How true this is for many of us. We know how to conduct ourselves in our business affairs but seem quite at a loss sometimes on how to handle our faith in real life.
The following verse highlights the spiritual lesson and the purpose of the parable: "And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes."
Each coin given to the poor is a way of making friends on earth and in heaven. This is best illustrated by the Lord’s eternal words, saying, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing ... Because as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” Matthew 25:35-40. Any almsgiving on earth, large or small, is an intercession in heaven before God Almighty.
And as St. Hovhan Mandakuni (400-484A.D.) says, “Whatever you give to the hungry, you put it in the hand of Christ, who will reward you on the Last Day.”
Father, a lot of life comes down to dishonest money. Whether it controls us or whether we make You our Master instead. Lord, forgive us for the fear of want that drives us, for the self-centered love of luxury that corrupts us, and for the lust for power and acceptance that motivates our lifestyles. Teach us, we pray, how to live with you as fully Lord, fully God. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth[b] so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”