Lectio Divina: Luke 16:9-15
1) Opening prayer
God of power and mercy,
only with your help
can we offer you fitting service and praise.
May we live the faith we profess
and trust your promise of eternal life.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Luke 16:9-15
Jesus said to His disciples: "And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into eternal dwellings.
Anyone who is trustworthy in little things is trustworthy in great; anyone who is dishonest in little things is dishonest in great.
If then you are not trustworthy with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches?
And if you are not trustworthy with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?”
"No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money."
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and jeered at him. He said to them, "You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as upright in people's sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed in human eyes is loathsome in the sight of God.”
• The Gospel today presents some words of Jesus concerning goods. They are words and loose phrases, and we do not know in which context they were said. Luke puts them here to form a small unity around the correct use of the goods of this life and to help us to better understand the sense of the parable of the dishonest steward (Lk 16, 1-8).
• Luke 16, 9: Use well the unjust money. "Use money, tainted as it is, to win friends, and then make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into eternal dwellings.” Luke seeks to show it is better to use money to win “friends” here, by using it towards the poor and God’s Kingdom, so that you will be welcomed into the Kingdom later. He generally viewed money as a corrupting influence both for the person and for the community as the communities grew beyond just the poor. In the Old Testament, the ancient word to indicate the poor (ani) means impoverished. It comes from the verb ana, to oppress, to lower. This affirmation recalls the parable of the dishonest steward whose riches were unjust. . Here we have the context of the communities at the time of Luke in the years of the 80’s after Christ. At the beginning, the Christian communities arose among the poor (cf. 1 Co 1, 26; Ga 2, 10). Little by little persons who were richer joined the communities. The entrance of the rich caused some problems which appear in the advice given in the Letter of James (Jm 2, 1-6;5, 1-6), in the Letter of Paul to the Corinthians (1Cor 11, 20-21) and in the Gospel of Luke (Lk 6, 24). These problems became worse toward the end of the first century, as it is said in the Apocalypse in its letter to the community of Laodicea (Rev 3, 17-18). The phrases of Jesus kept by Luke are a help to clarify and solve this problem.
• Luke 16, 10-12: To be faithful in small as well as in great things. “Anyone who is trustworthy in little things is trustworthy in great, and anyone who is dishonest in little things is dishonest in great. If then you are not trustworthy with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you are not trustworthy with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?” This phrase clarifies the parable of the dishonest steward. He was not faithful. That is why he was taken away from the administration. This word of Jesus also suggests how to give life and to put into practice the advice regarding makin g friends with unjust money. The advice moves from eschatological times to the present. One can “make friends” with unjust money by putting it to good use to help the poor. In this case, “unjust money” is not money gotten improperly, but riches that create an unjust “attachment” to it and corrupts. “Genuine riches” in this passage are grace and gifts from God. So this suggests that charity to the poor precedes being trusted with greater “genuine” riches. Sharing and giving to the poor is the beginning, and the opening up of self to be able to receive even greater gifts.
• Luke 16, 13: You cannot serve God and money. Jesus is very clear in His affirmation. No servant can be the slave of two masters. He will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be a slave to both God and money”. Both the Pharisees and the Saducees loved their wealth and positions, and Luke’s point is that money corrupts. Each one of us should make a choice, and ask himself/herself: “Whom do I put in the first place in my life, God or money?” In the place of the word money each one can put other words: automobile, employment, prestige, goods, house, image, etc. This choice will depend on understanding Divine Providence (Mt 6, 25-34). It is a matter of priority in life and trust. To build up these riches for their own sake, or as a form of protection, is to trust in them more than God’s providence. It can also lead to excesses, beyond what is sufficient. These are choices that show, by how one lives, where love and trust in God are placed.
• Luke 16, 14-15: Criticism of the Pharisees who like money. “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and jeered at him. He said to them, “You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as upright in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed in human eyes is loathsome in the sight of God”. On another occasion Jesus mentions the love of some Pharisees toward money: “You devour the property of widows, rob their houses and in appearance you make long prayers” (Mt 23, 14: Lk 20, 47; Mk 12, 40). They allowed themselves to be dragged by the wisdom of the world, of which Paul says: “Consider, brothers, how you were called; not many of you are wise by human standards, not many influential, not many from noble families. But God chose those who by human standards are fools to shame the wise. He chose those who by human standards are weak to shame the strong, those who by common standards are common and contemptible, indeed those who count for nothing - to reduce to nothing all those who do count for something” (1 Cor 1, 26-28). Some Pharisees liked money, just like today some priests like money. The advice of Jesus and of Paul is valid for them.
4) Personal questions
• You and money: what choice do you make?
• Faithful in small things. How do you speak of the Gospel and how do you live the Gospel?
5) Concluding prayer
How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,
who delights in His commandments!
His descendants shall be powerful on earth,
the race of the honest shall receive blessings. (Ps 112,1-2)