“You cannot serve both God and mammon.” Lk. 16:13
Today’s gospel account from Luke is considered one of the most difficult of all scriptural texts to understand. Even the great biblical authority St. Augustine remarked: “I can’t believe this story came from the lips of our Lord.” What all the fuss is about is hinted at in the title given this story:
The Parable of the Dishonest Steward.
It’s the tale of an estate manager skilled in crooked business dealings. He was so duplicitous that when fired for blatant criminal activity, he shrewdly found a way of protecting his future. His former employer surely shook his head in disbelief at how cunning he was.
The Dishonest Steward even gets praise from Jesus!
At first reading, it’s baffling. Why would Jesus commend the strategies of a crooked schemer? The answer Jesus gives is this:
Despite all his dishonesty, the man represents someone who is smart enough to ensure that his interests – however unscrupulous – will be protected in the future.
That’s why Jesus tells this story. He’s urging us to do the same. He’s telling us to act as astutely and with similar determination to ensure our future. He’s insisting we should be as intensely concerned about what makes for our ultimate fulfillment as this con man was about his.
The whole point of the parable is to remind us about what really matters, what truly counts in the long run:
Experiencing the divine love that will transform us.
This is our true future. To achieve that goal, we are challenged by this unique Gospel story to order our lives accordingly.
We are being called to prepare for the future, to place all our energy and all our talents into assuring that our life direction is one fully committed to the reality of God and God’s reign.
One of the most important of all future realities is that of our climate. Our planet, our “home” in this world that God created, is under heavy assault by our own failure to protect and cultivate it.
A recent “double issue” of Time magazine was dedicated entirely to this urgent concern. In one of its many compelling articles, an author wrote:
“Climate change is a public health issue. It has been linked to chronic conditions, such as kidney disease, depression, asthma attacks and a host of other life-threatening diseases. Scientists are reporting that climate change is poised to increase extreme heat significantly in frequency and severity, leading to more public health risks across the U.S. and the world at large. We are now experiencing the most profound and dangerous physical changes in human history.”
Rising sea levels and worsening hurricane seasons are predictors of greater tragedies to come.
More and more carbon dioxide is being released into the air creating a vicious climate feedback loop.
Longer and worsening droughts threaten food production and increase wildfire risk.
A combination of hotter summers and more frequent, intense storms is threatening the livelihood of farmers.
Today’s Gospel reading encourages us to be as shrewd, smart, dedicated, and as fully committed as the Dishonest Steward in addressing issues that immediately reflect our attitude towards the reality of God in our lives – such as the gift of the planet we are honored to call our “home.”
Our future, and that of our children, depends on it.
Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.