Sunday, September 18, 2022



You cannot be a slave to two masters at the same time.
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 an important part of the spiritual life. I taught the importance of responsible personal financial planning to would-be-priests at St. Meinrad Seminary before I retired. 

I insisted that they develop a savings plan for retirement to be implemented immediately with their first salary check. I even gave each of them $100.00 from the stipends I received from leading priest retreats all over the country to open their own Individual Retirement Account. I asked them to take the salary and benefits they will receive as a priest and create a budget showing how to lower expenses, how much they will give to charity, how much they will need to pay off loans and how much they want to save each month. The amount, I told them, is not as important as the consistency and discipline of personal financial management. Anything else, these days, I believe is irresponsible! I started saving in 1970, by opening a Christmas Club account, even when a priest’s salary was $90 a month! At that, I was able to save $5.00 a week! When Christmas came I never spent it, but kept saving it toward long-term goal of having my own place in 45 years when I retired.  

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!

As I said, I am not against money and neither was Jesus. So, all you investment professionals 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 “an 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.

One famous Hollywood comedian once said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” Personally, 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 know for a fact that poor people can be greedy. It’s not how much money 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 his steward in to fire him. Knowing he was about to be fired, the steward does something quite clever to ingratiate himself with those who owed money to his master. 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 his devious steward 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. He puts it this way. “The worldly are much more clever than the other worldly in dealing with their own kind.”

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 this: “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.” So Jesus teaches us to be obsessed with the kingdom of God first and then we will have what we need. Be obsessed with making money and you will very likely have little else. If you are obsessed with money or you are susceptible to getting it in a crooked way or use it, not for the common good, but for your own good, you are treading on dangerous water!

Over the years, I have been exposed to several people that the world would call rich. Yes, a few tend to be flashy, wasteful and selfish, but most seem to know money’s limits, to live more modestly than they would have to, to be more willing to share their money and 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.  I had the opportunity of serving on the J. Graham Board Foundation Board for two terms. We gave away millions of dollars. I learned from that experience how hard it is to give away money wisely, where it can really life people up, not just make them more dependent. 

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 at the heart of 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 discovered personally that the more generous I am, the more I have to be generous with! Being generous has never left me poorer! 






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