Luke 16:1-13 (16:13)
Lots of people in this modern day know the rules of money in this world today. Money tells us to get all we can, no matter who gets hurt. Money tells us to measure people’s value by how much money they have or how much they make. Money always wants “more, more, more!” And of course, “those with all the money make the rules.”
Isn’t that the way things so often work, in our world today? How about in your neighborhood? How about in your group of acquaintances? What about in your workplace or with the politicians in your town? Aren’t the rules of money the most important thing in the world, for so many people?
How different are the practices of the Kingdom of God! This is another in the series of sermons we have about the Topsy Turvy Teachings of Jesus! Here again, the Rabbi Jesus tells a parable that absolutely turns the worldly teachings about money upside down. And of course, the ideas of how justice works in God’s Kingdom are very different from the way things work in this fallen world. Talk about Topsy Turvy Teachings of Jesus!
When Jesus talks about money, people often feel weird. I mean, everyone has a close relationship with money, don’t we? At some time or other, who hasn’t worried about how much money we have, or where the money is coming from, where money is going, or how much money we will need for the future? Seriously, all those questions have crossed my mind, and I am sure they have crossed the minds of many people listening to these words!
I reflected about the parables of Jesus where He refers to money. Overwhelmingly, it is the attitude people have towards money that concerns Jesus! This reminds me of a children’s Christian video series called Veggie Tales, with anthropomorphized vegetables and fruits. Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber were two of the stars of this series. One particular video showed Madame Blueberry who loved buying things. Sure, she bought lots of lovely things, and lots of clothes, and lots of furniture; everything of every kind that made a home an attractive place to be. But, her crammed-full home had a whole lot of stuff in it.
And then, one day, a brand-new super store opened just blocks from her house. The super store was called Stuff-Mart. Madame Blueberry couldn’t wait to go shopping, yet again! I suspect we all can guess what happened. Madame Blueberry bought so much more stuff at “Stuff-Mart” that her cartoon house finally blew up because she brought so many more bags and more boxes and more furniture into it.
What kind of relationship do you and I have with more money? What kind of relationship do you and I have with more stuff? You know, the stuff money can buy, whether it is smart phones, or the latest style of shoes or clothing, or the fancy cars or up-to-the-minute laptops or video screens. Or swank houses, or fancy vacations, or the prettiest, shiniest jewelry.
It’s not that any of this stuff is bad, in and of itself. Some of it is pretty, and functional, and sometimes really cool. But, as Bible commentator Carolyn Brown says, Jesus tells us is that how we use our stuff is important. We can be selfish with our stuff, [and with our money] not sharing with others. We can spend all our time thinking about and messing with our stuff [and with our money], never taking time to see what people around us may want and need from us. We can forget that who we are is more important than what we wear and what we have.
I realize that in this society we live in today, we need at least some money to survive. Money is the means by which we purchase food, clothing, housing, and transportation. We cannot exist – at least here, without some way of getting money.
Two thousand years ago, in Palestine, society was not too much different. Money can do a lot of good, and money can do a lot of harm. Our Lord Jesus spends a large percentage of His time in the Gospels talking about money, preaching parables about money, and discussing how His followers are to relate to money, finances and possessions.
Jesus closes today’s parable with some sobering words: No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Money is something we think we need, and most of our lives revolve around money. We have built systems where we rely on money (and our ability to earn it) as opposed to relying on other people and bartering for goods and services. So how can we, as Christians, have a healthy relationship with money?
Two thousand years later, this parable is still challenging us. We are still faced with important questions about the place of money – and stuff – and finances – in our lives today. Like the manager in the parable today, our relationship with wealth is complicated.
Serving two masters
Jesus’s parables explain how things work in the Kingdom of God. Carolyn Brown says “The child’s version of Jesus saying is who you are and what you do are more important than what you have. That is our Lord’s way of ending this particular parable.
We want to have our cake and eat it, too. As our Prayer of Confession today reminds us, we so often want to be a friend of the world, and still be friends of God, too.
Perhaps this parable is calling us to self-examination and repentance? We can see Jesus clearly tells us: No one can serve two masters.
We strive to seek God’s blessed, topsy-turvy kingdom! And remember: the best relationship we can possibly have is the one with God – not with money, and not of this world. Not with stuff. Jesus wants each of us to have a closer relationship with God, our heavenly Parent! And, that will set our feet toward God’s Kingdom, for sure.