PARTNERSHIP IN THE GOSPEL
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ PHILIPPIANS 4:10-19; LUKE 16:9-15 ]
In the gospel, the Lord declares, “No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.” Is this choice really necessary? Can we not be rich and yet serve God? What about those who are blessed with riches? Are they not saved? Riches themselves are not the obstacles to finding life but it is the way we make use of them. St Paul, writing to Timothy advised him saying, “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.” (1 Tim 6:17-19)
This, precisely, is the point in today’s gospel reading. What the Lord is condemning is not those who are rich but those who become slaves of money. This was the case of the scribes and Pharisees. “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and laughed at him. He said to them, ‘You are the very ones who pass yourselves as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.'” Indeed, when money becomes our master, we will lose our priority and our focus in life. St Paul warns us, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (1 Tim 6:10)
Rather, we are called to be like the dishonest steward who knew how to make use of money for the greater good in the future. Even his master commended him for his resourcefulness. “And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” (Lk 16:8) Jesus reiterated the principle of how money should be used. “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when is fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity.” Money is for the use of developing relationships and making people feel loved and looked after. Money must be used for others and not only for ourselves. When money is used to give life to others, then money becomes a servant at our disposal rather than our master.
Most of all, money should be for the spread of the gospel. Those of us who have resources must use them for the proclamation of the gospel. This was what the Christians in Philippi did. They helped St Paul with his finance so that he could continue to proclaim the gospel. They came to the help of St Paul when he needed their help. St Paul was ever grateful to them for their generosity. “In the early days of the Good News, as you people of Philippi well know, when I left Macedonia, no other church helped me with gifts of money. You were the only ones; and twice since my stay in Thessalonika you have sent me what I needed.” Then again, the Philippians never failed to remember St Paul in his needs. “Now for the time being I have everything that I need and more: I am fully provided now that I have received from Epaphroditus the offering that you sent, a sweet fragrance – the sacrifice that God accepts and finds pleasing.” How many of us are as generous as the Philippians in extending their resources to help other Christian communities who are building up the faith of their people? Without their funding, it would have been more difficult for St Paul to give himself fully to the work of preaching and teaching the gospel.
So the money the Lord has blessed us with must be employed for partnership in the proclamation of the gospel. This also means that the money should be used also for the service of the poor. This is what the psalmist reminds us. “The good man takes pity and lends, he conducts his affairs with honour. The just man will never waver: he will be remembered for ever. With a steadfast heart he will not fear. Open-handed, he gives to the poor; his justice stands firm for ever. His head will be raised in glory.” Giving to the poor is also one way of helping to proclaim the gospel indirectly. When we love our money more than the poor, we are poorer in love. Instead of being possessed by love, we allow money to possess us.
When we use our wealth and money for the spread of the gospel, we are truly responsible stewards of God’s grace. We are called to be responsible for what has been entrusted to us by the Lord. By using them well, it shows our character, values and generosity of heart. It shows whether we are serving God or mammon. This is what the Lord said, “The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?” There are more important things in life than money.
True riches is about serving God and our fellowmen. The genuine riches that the Lord wants to give us are peace, love, joy, generosity and goodness. (cf Gal 5:22) These are the fruits of the Spirit for using money properly. Indeed, there is a saying among the Jews, “The rich help the poor in this world, but the poor help the rich in the world to come.” So if God gives us riches it is for us to help the poor and so gain a place in the heart of God in heaven. And if we are poor, God is using us to help the rich to expand their capacity to give more. Money, in the final analysis, is just a means to an end. What is the end if not that money is used in such a way that we grow in the capacity to love and give, the joy of sharing with others who are in need, and the grace to manifest the presence of God to them?
Indeed, when people are generous to us, what we must thank God for is not so much that we are the recipients but that they have the generosity to share and to give. Only one who shares in the heart and life of God can give as much as the Lord has given to us. This is what St Paul said to the Philippians. He said, “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships.” By alleviating the hardship of Paul, the Philippians showed themselves to have the capacity to love like God Himself. So when people are generous to us, we should not be grateful that we are the recipients but we should be more grateful that God has blessed them with the virtue of sharing, for by so doing they share in God’s life and love, which is greater than any earthly blessings. This is what St Paul said to them, “In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can.” Only God can fulfil our desires in the final analysis.
So let us not pursue money, that “tainted” thing, not because it is intrinsically evil, but because it leads us to sin, selfishness and worldliness. How often, because of the love of money, people will steal, kill or destroy their health? How often, beautiful relationships are broken because of greed, dishonesty and cheating. When we love money more than people, we begin to make use of people for ourselves instead of genuinely loving them. So with St Paul, our attitude towards money must be one of contentment. “I have learnt to manage on whatever I have, I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty.” We must learn detachment with regards to material things. When we have them, we should make good use of them. When we do not have, we should not crave for such things. Our sufficiency must be found in Christ alone. In Him, we have all.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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