Daily Reflection
November 11th, 2006

Kristina DeNeve

Cardoner at Creighton
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours
Philippians 4:10-19
Psalm 112:1b-2, 5-6, 8a and 9
Luke 16:9-15

In yesterday’s gospel from Luke, we find Jesus praising the dishonest steward for using his material goods, wealth, and influence to deal with the crisis he faces of losing his position with his master. Indeed, the steward cheats his master for his own benefit and is praised for this! Jesus continues this odd theme today by suggesting that we be trustworthy of small matters and dishonest things (verses 9-10). So, why does Jesus say in verse 13 that “you cannot serve God and mammon” after telling a story about a man who cheats his employer and stating we should be trustworthy in dishonest matters? I think St. Ignatius offers some insight into this.

In the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises, we read, “Therefore, each of us must allow ourselves to be made indifferent to all created things…. consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life, or similarly with all other realities. Our one passionate desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.”

By “indifferent” St. Ignatius does not mean passive or aloof. Rather, he is suggesting that we do not care about or attach ourselves to any created thing over and above our desire for God. All created things come from God, even money and our economic systems. They are not inherently evil. Wealth is not inherently evil, nor is sickness, dishonor, a short life, etc…. But, so many of us become so attached to job security or to health or to maintaining a particular lifestyle or to experiencing particular life events that it effectively becomes our god. When we become so attached to any of these things, we put more time, energy, effort, thought and feeling into it than to the love of God and our neighbor. This is servitude. This is what Jesus means when he says we cannot serve God and mammon.

Money is not evil. Jesus suggests and St. Ignatius helps us understand that we are not to serve money, health, honor, etc. as an end in and of itself. Instead of focusing and serving that which has been given to you, Jesus turns this around: we are to use that which has been given us to our betterment. We are to be good stewards of what we have, no matter what how much or how little we have been given (of money, health, honor, etc.) And, we are to be indifferent to what may be given us along the way, knowing that all that is given us can be used for our good and the good of others.

One final question I puzzled over is what might be meant by “dishonest wealth.” Although I am not a Scripture scholar, the use of the word “dishonest” does not seem to me to refer to items which we have stolen, though the parable of the dishonest steward seems to suggest just that. What strikes me about Jesus reference to “dishonest wealth” is the idea of how we deal with that which we cannot rightly claim to be entitled. This runs contrary to our culture which views rights as equivalent to entitlement. However, while I (and most Americans) tend to believe I am entitled to the money I earn from my job, why is it that I work just as hard as some people and yet earn more than they? Or for that matter, why do some work less than I and yet earn more than me? Why was I born in this country and will always have enough to eat? Why am I healthy and not sick? Why do I have an honorable job? I cannot truly be entitled to all these things. Rather, they are gifts. They are “dishonest” in the sense that I am not entitled to them. As gift there is no entitlement. So, this “dishonest wealth,” is actually all that I have been given (no matter how much it seems like I deserve or earned it.) And today’s gospel and the Principle and Foundation show me how to use these gifts to the end for which I was created instead of entering into service of them. God help me do this!

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