THE UNJUST MONEY

Created: Tuesday, 04 November 2014 Last Updated: Tuesday, 04 November 2014

THE UNJUST MONEY


1. It looks evident: what belongs to oneself belongs to oneself. Nevertheless, according to the Gospel, private property is not an unconditional and absolute right. That this is so, we can see it in Saint Lukas´ parable about the evil steward or, also, about the unjust money (Lk 16, 1-15). Probably, when listening the parable, there are some things that cannot be understood and questions arise: Shouldn’t it be an improper dismissal? Is it just the astuteness of the administrator when doing favours with a money that is not his? What does that of making friends with unjust money mean? Perhaps we have some money that is unjust?
2. At the beginning of the parable two key figures are already presented: the owner and the steward. A complaint about bad management reaches the owner: The steward wasted his property. In regard to the practice, some questions come up: May anyone be dismissed (out of the communion, out of the community) due to money issues? How do I place myself in relation to the money, like owner or like administrator? Id est, what is mine, is mine?
3. In the parable, the complaint has a base and the dismissal is unavoidable. The steward put himself to make his calculations: What am I going to do now that my master dismisses me? And he started to do discounts to his master´s debtors. You owe one thousand oil barrels? Write fifty. You owe one hundred measures of wheat.’ Then he said: ‘Take your bill and write eighty.’. And the master congratulated the unjust steward, by the astuteness he had exhibited. It is clear, the master is generous and, besides, he praises the steward, who, even, made a successful business (see 1 Tm 6,6 and 1 Co, 3, 19). Many times, this world’s children are more astute for their generation that the children of the light.
4.World´s judgement and Gospel’s judgement are here confronted. If, facing what –according to the world’s logic – is mine, I place myself like owner, then when I give something, I give what is mine. If I place myself like steward, then, when I give something, I give what is not mine. That is why the Lord says: Use filthy money to make friends for yourselves, so that when it fails, these people may welcome you into the eternal homes. It is similar to that other passage that says: Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, and make safe investments with God (Lk 12, 33). It is an invitation to share the properties. There is no reason to hide the central facet of the parable. We must give, in good management, what exceeds the own need (see 1 Tm 6, 8).
5. “It is known with which determination the Fathers of the Church have stated which must be the attitude of those who posses with respect to those who find themselves in need. It is not a part of your property – says Saint Ambrosio -  what you give to the poor; what you give belongs to him. Because what has been given for the use of everybody, you take it over. “The earth has been given for everybody and not only for the rich” (Paul VI, Populorum progressio, 23). Vatican Council II too invites us to share the properties according to our possibilities and recalls us that sentence of the Fathers: “Feed that who dies of hunger, because, if you don’t feed him, you kill him” (GS 69)
6. The parable concludes with this reflection: Whoever can be trusted in little things can also be trusted in great ones; whoever is dishonest in slight matters will also be dishonest in greater ones. So if you have not been trust worthy in handling filthy money, who could entrust you with true wealth? And if you have not been trustworthy with things that are not really yours, who will give you the wealth which is your own? We may ask ourselves what is important for us: The filthy money of what is really valid? We also may revise if we can be trust in what belongs to anyone else, id est, in that what is not ours, so that what is ours (that others have) is given to us.
7. At the end, a basic option is laid out: No servant can serve two masters. Either he does not like the one and is fond of the other, or he regards one highly and the other with contempt. You cannot give yourself both to God and to Money. The money is a false and unjust god. The Gospel invites us to give clear signals that our god ( our owner, our master) is not the money (see Mt 6, 24). An opposite attitude takes place (also today), that of the Pharisees, friends of the money: listening these things, they ridiculed Jesus.
8. When the rich youngster disregards God´s call because he had many properties, Jesus comments his disciples: How difficult is to going into the Kingdom of God to those who have properties! The disciples became surprised. But Jesus, speaking again, told them: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. They were more astonished than ever and wondered: “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked steadily at them and said, “For humans it is impossible, but not for God; all things are possible with God.” (Mk 10, 23-27).
9. Let us see which was Jesus´ practice and that of the first Christian communities. Jesus does not demand, like in the monastery of Qumran, the delivery of the properties to the community. He imposes to everybody neither the renounce to the properties nor their collectivization. There is those who give everything to the poor (Mk 10, 21), other half (Lk 19, 8), a third who helps them with loans (Lk 6, 34-35), others follow Jesus serving and attending him with their properties (Mk 15, 41), a third one makes with him an apparently absurd waste (Mk 14, 3-9). Nothing is legally regulated. That is why it needs neither exceptions, justifications, privileges nor exemptions of the law.  
10. The Christian community does not either practiced in a general way the resignation to their own properties. Now well, no one claimed private ownership of any possessions (Acts 4, 32). The first Christians become “crazy”: all the believers lived together and shared all their belongings. They would sell their property and all they had and distribute the proceeds to others according to their needs (Acts 2, 44-45). Human relationship, falsified and reduced to master to slave relations due to the property, are transformed into fraternity relationship through the sharing. The money loses its oppressor meaning and becomes a communion means, instrument and signal. The hearts communion is manifested by an effective properties communication.
11. Paul communities do not present signals as spectacular as those of the first Christian community, the community of Jerusalem.  Nevertheless, the same spirit is beating: let nobody be in need (2 Co 8, 14; Acts 4, 34). With this spirit is organized in Corinth a collection in favour of the “saints” of Jerusalem, who are in need. The collection must be done according to these principles: that everyone give according the conscience and that he give with joy (2 Co 9,7; see 1 Tm 6, 18). Paul gives an advice about some abuses that take place in the Thessalonica community: If anyone is not willing to work, neither should that one eat. (2 Ts 3, 10)  
12. The Didajé, Cathequetical teaching perhaps previous to the year 70, is a rich testimony of the primitive Christian experience: “To anyone who requests you, give to him and don’t claim it back, since the Father wants that we are to give to everybody of our own properties. Happy that who, according to the commandment, gives, since he is innocent. But, woe that who receives! Because if he receives because he is in need, he will be innocent; but that who receives suffering no need, will be obliged to give account about why he received and for what. He will be placed in jail, he will be examined about what he made and he will not go out until he has paid the last quadrant (roman coin)” (I, 5). The communities must share, but they must discern too: “Let your alms sweat in your hands until you know to whom you give” (I, 6). The communities must be alert before the guile: “Anyone reaching you in the name of the Lord, let him be received; then, examining him you will meet him, since you have intelligence, on his right and on his left. If the one who reaches you is a pedestrian, help him as much as you can; nevertheless, he shall not stay among you more than two days, or three, if it is needed. But if he wants to settle among you, having a profession, let him work and so he will have food. But if he has no profession, let you decide according to your prudence, so that no idle Christian live among you. In the case that he wants to do it so, he is a trafficker of Christ. Be alert against such persons” (XII, 1-5)