September 16, 2022

Christ the Cornerstone

Stewardship requires that we give back everything to God

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones” (Lk 16:10).

The Gospel reading (Lk 16:1-13) for this weekend, the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, speaks about stewardship. It also provides us with an insight into the way God deals with those of us who squander the many gifts he has given to us.

Too often, when we hear the word “stewardship,” we think of giving our time, talent and treasure to our parish, to the archdiocese or to other charitable organizations and, of course, this is an important part of our responsibility as stewards of God’s gifts.

But authentic Christian stewardship means more than almsgiving or sharing our time and talents. As the parable Jesus tells in this Sunday’s Gospel indicates, good stewardship also requires trustworthiness (or accountability), generosity and the willingness to forgive those who have failed in their responsibility to care for God’s gifts.

The first reading from the Book of the Prophet Amos (Am 8:4-7) also concerns trustworthiness, or the lack of it, among those who are responsible for the economic well-being of the people of God. Giving voice to the Lord’s anger and disappointment, the prophet says:

“Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! ‘When will the new moon be over,’ you ask, ‘that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!’ ” (Am 8:4-6)

The Lord will remember our irresponsibility, the prophet warns. He will hold us accountable for the way we manage our affairs and treat others, especially the poor and vulnerable.

This Sunday’s selection from St. Luke’s Gospel concludes with sayings that are familiar but not always well-understood:

“If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon” (Lk 16:12-13)

If we are not good stewards of the things that belong to others, who will entrust us with gifts that are our own? And we cannot devote ourselves to two ways of living at the same time or we will end up hopelessly conflicted.

“Mammon” is a Hebrew word for money or wealth. In the Middle Ages, mammon was often portrayed either as a false god or as a personification of evil. Jesus does not despise money or consider it to be something evil in and of itself. It is the love of money, not money itself, that, is the root of all evil. As St. Paul teaches, “For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Tm 6:10).

When we substitute wealth or material things for the love we are called to have for God alone, we are worshiping the false god of mammon. And when we pursue blindly the things that money can obtain for us, including power, fame or sexual gratification, we truly become blinded by money’s seductive power and “pierce ourselves with many pains.” As Jesus clearly says, we cannot serve both God and mammon.

To be trustworthy stewards of the gifts we have received from God, we must recognize that we will be held accountable for the way we manage our gifts and share them generously with others. This is the way of life that Jesus calls us to live, and it is incompatible with lifestyles that place wealth and privilege above all else. In fact, it is simply not possible to serve God as responsible stewards and, at the same time, live as self-centered people whose primary concern is what money will buy for us.

Stewardship teaches us to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Mt 6:33) confident that everything we need to love God, and love our neighbor, will be provided to us as gifts proceeding from divine providence. We are invited, and challenged, to be trustworthy stewards of God’s abundant generosity. We can only succeed in carrying out this awesome stewardship responsibility if we let go of any inappropriate preoccupations with money and material things.

Let’s pray for the grace to be good stewards of everything God has given us. †

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