In yesterday’s post, I got on my friend, Evan, for wanting to stay at the surface of Sunday’s Gospel text. Later in the afternoon, I was on the phone with another friend and colleague, Bill, who shocked me by saying, “Everybody stresses about this parable, but I think it is really easy to preach.”
Easy to preach!?!
Bill graduated from The University of Memphis with a dual degree in English Literature and Economics. So for him, this lesson from Jesus, like every other mention on money in Luke’s Gospel is about how God’s economy is different than the worlds economy. The underlying fundamental truth is that every economy is a faith based system. Certainly, in America post-1933 and the end of the Gold Standard, any value we place in a dollar is based on our faith that it is worth something. Even before that, dating back all the way Jesus and beyond, things like gold and silver have value because someone says so. They are “precious metals” only because they are rare and hard to unearth, not because they really have any inherent value.
So, according to Bill’s line of reasoning, when Jesus says, “you can’t serve God and wealth,” he is saying that a choice must be made between Almighty God and the Almighty Dollar. If the pursuit of wealth deprives you of a relationship with God and with your fellow human beings and even all of creation, then you have made the wrong choice. But if your wealth building up the Kingdom, supports the Church, aids the poor, oppressed, and afflicted, then your priorities are in the right order.
I’ll buy that. I think one can interpret the teaching that follows the parable in that way.
But, I’m not convinced that the parable itself argues that point. More specifically, I think there is real trouble when Jesus says, “make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.” It is on this line that I’ll spend my time the next few days. I really want it to be that simple, but I’m just not sure it is.