Most people are familiar with the quotes from the bible that deal with money. Most of us have heard the loose translation of the I Timothy passage which points out that it’s not actually money that is evil but rather the “love” of money. This is not the only passage in the bible that talks about money. Luke 16 records a discourse by Jesus about money in which he points out that, when it comes to life choices, no one can serve both God and money at the same time. This teaching was aimed at the Pharisees who really had a love of money, appearances and all things that go with the “material” way of thinking. The passage is drawn from the story about a dishonest steward (business manager), who upon knowing he will be fired, re-negotiates the loans he is in charge of in order to create a welcoming place for himself in the business community. He does this so that he will have a place to go after being dismissed. In a twist to the story the steward is praised for his dealings rather than chastised for being dishonest.
In this teaching Jesus points out that the steward was clever in the ways of the world. But then he adds a “factoid”: “And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity”. (Lk 16:10) Jesus clearly tells us that money is dirty, tainted. Money is tainted because it is so easily abused “in the world”. It is a commodity that regularly flows into the realms of law breaking and immorality while turning our own personal thinking into a philosophy that is only concerned with the things we have as well as our own personal pleasure. Money is the tool that enables and promotes those things. Because of that, no matter how it comes to us, money is still a tainted commodity that will let us down in the end. Oddly enough, in his discourse, Jesus makes no further comment on money itself. He does not condemn money as an evil thing, because it’s not. Money is a fact of life which exists in our modern world and we cannot do without it. Even at the holiest monasteries, convents and churches the electric bill must be paid and heating the space in the winter is not free. Money exists as a necessary function of society!
So, this tainted commodity passes through our hands as a matter of fact and our choice is to be wooed by the taint or not. We are warned that money itself has no reliability and that it will fail us sooner or later. As Christians we are required to deal with the world on a daily basis. We are expected to have the skills to run the gamut and not get waylaid by the detours. We are the ones who have the full map and information to manage that. As we go through life it is important to realize that just because we are “believers” it does not immunize us from being surrounded with things that are tainted, evil or difficult. The point of being a person who follows Jesus is not to be set apart or isolated from the world and all the stuff that is out there. This is not how Jesus ministered. He placed himself right smack in the middle of controversy, sin, commerce, poverty, and all the places where people lived. These things, tainted or not, are the consequence of human behavior. Because of that, they are the places that most need ministry and the presence of people who clearly believe in and practice the teachings of Jesus. Remember he did not chastise or condemn the crafty steward but commended that he was clever in his dealings. The sin of the money changers in the temple was not that they were exchanging money for travelers from all over the know world. It was that the commerce had become more vocal and of more importance than the worship and sacrifice that the money was being changed for.
Luke 16 is a passage that deals with reality. Jesus was good at that. He understood that people live in a real world not set apart from all of society. He instructs that what needs to be “set apart” is how we think while present in this material world. In the end of this passage Jesus shows that as tainted as it is, money can be used to put us in good stead in the spiritual world. In an elegant contradiction, He suggests that the way we deal with money, when we have it, will be of paramount importance when it is finally useless to us at the time of our death. The taint that exists on money is really of no consequence as far as Jesus is concerned. Rather, what we do with money as a tool of the world is much more important! So the commentary is not really meant to identify money as a good or bad thing. How do you spend it? Where does it go? How does it influence your thinking? Does it stir emotions in you, like covetousness, that you have no business trading in if you are a Christian? Is it the most important thing in your thinking? Money is an ever present mega force in the world we live in. Jesus challenges us to stand in the face of its influence and turn it on its head. Use your Christian wisdom to make the money in your life a force for good that has influences and repercussions that far exceed the time and energy that you will spend in this material world. All of Jesus’ examples and teachings are meant to illuminate. Once again he shows us that the mundane can be a perfect tool to help us steer a clear path to the Kingdom as our ultimate destination!
Copyright© 2009, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved
Learn more about Kathryn’s views at: www.atravelersview.org
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