Amos 8:4-7; 1Timothy 2:1-8; Psalm113; Luke 16:1-13
In our Gospel lesson from St. Luke is this verse, “You cannot give yourself to God and money.” This has traditionally been translated “God and mammon”, which is, I think, a better word. Mammon means money, but it also means other wealth and riches, material possessions, the things of this world. In the context of this passage it means anything that takes the place of devotion to God and God’s Kingdom. According to the Fathers of the Church, we are given money and material goods for the relief of the poor and the furtherance of God’s purpose; any other use constitutes theft, since it is not ours, but God’s. As St. Luke writes, “If you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s (that is God’s) money, who will give you what is your own?”
This is a hard lesson, especially in our materialistic and consumerist culture. We think, however we have come by it, that what we have is ours, to do with as WE want. It is not; not our money, or our possessions, our children, our talents, our very lives, none are ours – they are God’s. They are given to us by God to do his work, to help his people, to build his Church. This does not mean that we are to have nothing, we are to use what we NEED to keep ourselves and our families – the problem comes in defining that word NEED. I can remember years ago, reading a story about a couple who were in trouble with the IRS because they lived on 10% of their income and donated 90% to charity and the IRS didn’t like it. This was not a wealthy couple, as I recall they were what would be considered lower middle class in income, but they were dedicated to living in voluntary poverty in the name of Christ. Few of us could emulate their example, few of us would even consider trying. But we can use their example to challenge our own lives, our needs and wants.
How much of what we have, and need to maintain and repair and make payments on, do we really need? Does it make our life better, easier or just more stressful? Do most of the things we own have lasting value or are they disposable, and add to the garbage load of the planet? Do they need to be dusted or washed or polished or vacuumed regularly? That may seem trivial, but adding up the time and energy over the years, it’s not. If we look at what we own, and ask ourselves, “Where will this be in 10 years?”, what is the answer? The things with which we surround ourselves in this life can be either a help or a hindrance in our true work in and for God’s Kingdom. When I look at what I have in my home, I see a lot of trash, much of which needs dusting and doesn’t get it. I find it difficult to keep an orderly mind in a disorderly environment, and the older I get, the harder it is to keep up with the keeping up. So I am thinking of a major purge, and the Gospel lesson this morning is urging me on. It is not really about a messy house, but about having our priorities right. We are to use the things of this world, the mammon, to serve God and God’s people, to proclaim the Gospel, build the Church and keep the light of Christ aflame in our little corner of the world. If we are drowning in things, it is that much harder. It is also harder to teach our children right priorities when we don’t live them ourselves. When they see us succumbing to the wiles of merchandizing, they will, too.
“You cannot give yourself to God and mammon.” In what ways do we give ourselves to the mammon in our lives? We give ourselves when we worry about it, stress over it, desire it, yearn for it, hoard it, are selfish with it. We have to constantly remind ourselves, “It is not mine, it is God’s.” And we cannot be with God now, nor approach God at the end of our lives if we are trying to take it all with us. The only things we can take with us are faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love. God has given us the mammon of this world as a tool to spread his love, to proclaim the Good News, to be the Church; in our homes, our families, our neighborhoods, our hometown, the world.
In about 8 weeks we will be entering the Season of Advent, during which we prepare for the Coming of Christ at his Nativity. I am challenging myself to have my home clean and swept clear of all extraneous unused and/or unusable detritus before that date, so I can enter that joyful Season with peace, order and wonder in my heart and in my home.
Let us prove ourselves trustworthy with the elusive wealth of this world so that we will be accounted trustworthy of the lasting wealth of the next.
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