Sunday, September 18, 2016


  My Cathedral of the Assumption Homily
“The Handling of Money" 
Rev. Ronald Knott
September 18, 2016


If you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, 
who will trust you with true wealth?.
Luke 16

Let me be perfectly clear, right up front. I’m not against money and neither is God. In fact, the responsible use of money is part of the spiritual life. I taught responsible financial planning to the would-be-priests at St. Meinrad before I retired, insisting they immediately start a savings plan for their retirement. Anything else, these days, I believe is irresponsible! I started saving in 1970, even when a priest’s salary was $90 a month! 

Even Jesus had a designated treasurer for his band of disciples. Sadly, he is an example of what Jesus teaches us today not to do. It wasn’t the money Judas held that was bad, it was his attitude toward it. The money he was entrusted with got more of his attention than it deserved and his obsession with it finally took him down! 

So all of you “business executives” and “accounting majors” can sit back and relax because you’re not in for a verbal beating. Besides, I expect there are a few collection baskets around here somewhere, all greased up and ready to go so I am not about to bite the hands that feed this place! 

Even the old expression “Money is the root of all evil,” is a mistranslation of the original Greek in I Timothy 6:10.” The actual translation is not "money is the root of all evil,” but “the obsession with money is the root of all evil.” What God is against is the misuse of money, the obsessive accumulation of money for its own sake, the dishonest acquisition of money and the selfish use of money. 

Personally, I agree with the person who said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” I have been happy with money, and I have been happy without it. It is certainly not the passion of my life or I would certainly have gone into something besides priesthood. Even at that, I remind myself often that even poor people can be greedy, for that matter, sometimes even more greedy than the rich because it’s not how much you have, but your attitude toward it! With all this said, my job is to deal with this Scripture and see what it has to teach us today, whether we are rich or poor!

To teach us how to be clever and imaginative about discipleship, Jesus tells a strange parable about a rich man’s deviously clever steward. This steward, the one in charge of managing the rich man’s property, was “reported” for squandering his master’s money. Finding out about it, the master calls him in to fire him. Knowing he was about to be fired, the steward does something quite clever to ingratiate himself with those who owed his master money. He slashed their bills, one by 50% and another by 20%. By doing this, he made friends with them, hoping they would take him in, once he lost his job. When the parable ends, even his master commended him for his slickness.

Jesus tells his listeners, “Would that you would be as clever about living and promoting the faith as this crooked servant was in taking care of his business!” Jesus is not teaching us to imitate the dishonesty of this steward, but to imitate his dedication and cleverness in living our faith. “The worldly are much more clever than the other worldly in dealing with their own kind.” 

Using the language of the gospel, we might say that the earth with all its riches is the household. God is the householder; and we are the stewards or household servants. The question is: just how do we manage the good that we hold in trust? Are we devious or are we trustworthy? Do we manage the goods in ways that enhance the whole household and benefit all who belong to it, or do we squander them, thinking only of ourselves and guaranteeing our own comfort? 

No, God is not against money, but the obsession with accumulating money, money dishonestly acquired and the selfish use of money. What Jesus says is, “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these other things will given to you besides.” “You cannot serve two masters. You will either love one and ignore the other or be devoted to one and ignore the other.” Be obsessed with the kingdom of God first and you will have what you need. Be obsessed with making money and you will have nothing else. If you are obsessed with money, you are susceptible to getting it in a crooked way or use it, not for the common good, but for your own good. 

Several years ago, I got a clear picture of what Jesus is talking about today. I was in the locker room of  the old Louisville Athletic Club after a racquetball game. The TV was on. Nobody looked up or paid any attention while the newscaster reported mass starvation in India, the tragic spread of Aids through Africa or the drive by shootings in Los Angeles. Then the newscaster announced that the stock market had dropped 20 points and the whole locker room sighed collectively. 

Not all rich people are selfish and greedy. I know some very generous rich people and some of them have been very generous to this cathedral! In fact, poor people can sometimes be more greedy than rich people for that matter. Over the years, I have been exposed to several people that the world would call rich. A few tend to be flashy, wasteful and selfish, but most seem to know money’s limits,. Often they tend to live more modestly than they would have to, to be more willing to share their money and to be more willing to take responsibility for using their money for the good of the whole community. They seem to understand the words of Jesus when he said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” They know that with wealth comes responsibility. They are the ones who give generously of their time, talent and their treasure to the various charities around our community.

We are challenged today to heed the wisdom of Jesus. “Knowing how to live” is always more important than “making a living.” When “making money” is your life, you are on a slippery slope. We all have to “make a living,” but knowing how to “have a life” is always more important, no matter how much or how little we “make.” If your highest priority is your relationship with family, friends and the world at large, I believe the resources you need will always be there for you. In fact, I have found that the more generous I am, the more I have to be generous with!

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