31. THE SOCIAL ABYSS . The unjust money

Created: Saturday, 23 November 2013 Last Updated: Monday, 31 March 2014

    The unjust money

1. “You will always have poor among you” (Jn 12, 8), says Jesus. It looks a historic constant. In our times the economical crisis and, above all, the food crisis, the hunger crisis, manifests it Africa is the continent that less has contributed to the crisis, but the one that is paying most its consequences”. (Net Africa- Europe, Faith and Justice). In the parable of the poor Lazarus (Lk 16, 19 – 29), Jesus denounces the social abyss that separates rich and poor, In the parable of the unjust money (Lk 16, 1 – 15) he invites to share it. The two parables are complementary. Do we understand them? The parables reveal hidden things, “what was hidden from the world’s creation” (Mt 13, 35).

2. Some present data. According to the ONU World Food Program, the number of  hungry people reaches 1.200 million persons According to the FAO, Food World Organization, everyday about 70.000 persons (40.000 children) die of hunger. In a meeting that took place in Rome in June 2002, the FAO formally requested to the rich countries the creation of an extraordinary fund of 50.000 million dollars a year to eradicate hunger in the world. The rich country said they have no resources. Nevertheless, nine years later, on March 2003, there was four times more, 200.000 million dollars, to finance Irak´s war. In the last months, at least 800 persons fleeing Libya had drown in the Mediterranean Sea (ACNUR).

3. In Spain there are almost 5 million of unemployed. In the last three years 350.000 families have lost his home due to lack of payment, or they will lose it. According with the Law of Civil Indictment, when you miss to pay the mortgage and your home goes into an auction, if there is no buyer, the bank may tae it at a price of the 50% of  the valuation it have. The rest of the money, until the full value of the mortgage is covered, must be paid by the proprietor. The Platform of Affected by the Mortgage denounces the Spanish law as “an anomaly, since it protects the strongest allowing all responsibilities to fall upon the weakest.” They request, backed by associations and lawyers, to reform the law so that the delivery is taken as payment. It is to say, that to deliver your home to the bank be enough to settle the mortgage debt. More than 300.000 persons do not receive yet the help they have right to, according to the law of dependency. A large number of people take the streets against the social cutbacks.

4. In the parable of the rich and the poor (Lk 16, 19 – 29) Jesus denounces the social abyss that separates them: “Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat just the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores.”

5. “It happened that the poor man died and angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried”. The poor dies and he goes to meet his parents (Gn 15, 15). As Jesus says, he sits “to the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 8, 11). The rich dies and it is only said that he is buried”. It is to say, he stays down, in the death, in the grave (in hebrew, “sheol”; in greek, “hades”; in latin, “inferi”, what is in the bottom)

6. “From hell where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest. He called out: ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus with the tip of his finger dipped in water to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire. Abraham replied: ‘My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you or from your side to us.” The rich presents his condition of “son of Abraham” (Lc 3, 8), but it is no use. The abyss symbolizes the distance that separates one from the other.

7. The rich replied: “The rich man implored once more: ‘Then I beg you, Father Abraham, to send Lazarus to my father’s house where my five brothers live. Let him warn them so that they may not end up in this place of torment.’ Abraham replied: ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ But the rich man said: ‘No, Father Abraham. But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Abraham said: ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the grave.’”

8. What does Moses say? “You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not harm the widow or the orphan. If you do harm them and they cry out to me, I will hear them”, “If you lend money to any of my people who are poor, do not act like a moneylender and do not charge him interest. If ever you take a person’s cloak as a pledge, you must give it back to him by sunset, for it is all the covering he has for his body. In what else will he sleep? And when he cries to me I will hear him.” (Ex 22, 20 – 26)

8. What do the prophets say? The prophets denounce the scandalous differences between rich and poor, the oppression that the weak suffer, the rapacity of the powerful. The true fasting is “breaking the fetters of injustice”, “unfastening the thongs of the yoke”,  setting the oppressed free and breaking every yoke, sharing your food with the hungry, bring to your house the homeless, clothe the one you see naked and do not turn away from your own kin.” The confidence in the official religion does not help at all: “You hope to postpone the evil day; in fact you bring about a year of violence!” (Am 6, 1 – 3)

10. In the parable both the rich an Lazarus appear alive, resurrected. The situation in which both are is definitive: “Abraham’s bosom” (the kingdom of heavens) in the case of the poor, “the hell” (the kingdom of death) in the case of the rich. That of this one is “ a resurrection of judgement” (Jn 5, 29).Obviously, the resignation preached to the poor is not a good application of the parable. Nor it is the fear to the hell, applied to poor and rich.

11. The parable of the unjust money (Lk 16, 1 – 15) invites to share it “so that you are received in the eternal home” (16, 9). There are perhaps things that are not understandable: Why is praised the cleverness of the administrator who makes favours with a money that is not his?, what does it mean to make friends with the unjust money?, perhaps we have some money that is unjust? The parable presents two key figures: the master and the administrator. To the master reaches the denounce of a bad management. The administrator wasted his goods.

12. The master tells him: What is this I hear about you? I want you to render an account of your service for it is about to be terminated. The administrator makes his calculus: What am I going to do as my master fires me? And he began to make discounts to his master´s debtors. Do you owe one hundred oil barrels? Write fifty. Do you owe one hundred measures of wheat? Write eighty. The master commended the dishonest steward for his astuteness.

13. World judgement and gospel judgement are here confronted. If, with my money I place myself like the master, then, when I give something, I give what is mine. If I place myself like administrator, then, when I give something, I give from what is not mine. So 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 an invitation to share the goods. We must give, in a good management, what exceeds our own needs (1 Tm 6, 8).

14. The parable ends 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 most important for us.

15. At the end, an option is brought up: “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.” It is necessary to make an option. The money (in aramean, “mammon”) is a false and unjust god that hampers the rich to go into the kingdom of God. “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, 25 – 27)

16. Peter claims: “We have given up everything to follow you.” Jesus answered, “Truly, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters, or father or mother, or children, or lands for my sake and for the Gospel,  who will not receive his reward. I say to you: even in the midst of persecution he will receive a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and lands in the present time and in the world to come eternal life.” He also says: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, and make safe investments with God, where no thief comes and no moth destroys.” (Lk 12, 33). The Gospel invites us to give clear signals that the money is not our god (see Mt 6, 24). A living community overcomes social abyss, shares the goods (Acts 4, 32)

17. Council inspiration comes back to the sources: “Since there are so many people prostrate with hunger in the world, this sacred council urges all, both individuals and governments, to remember the aphorism of the Fathers, "Feed the man dying of hunger, because if you have not fed him, you have killed him,"(12) and really to share and employ their earthly goods, according to the ability of each, especially by supporting individuals or peoples with the aid by which they may be able to help and develop themselves.” (GS 69). “As St. Ambrose put it: "You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich." (Paul VI, Populorum progressio, 23)

18. It is necessary to overcome the large social inequalities: “While an immense number of people still lack the absolute necessities of life, some, even in less advanced areas, live in luxury or squander wealth.” (GS 63). “To satisfy the demands of justice and equity, strenuous efforts must be made, without disregarding the rights of persons or the natural qualities of each country, to remove as quickly as possible the immense economic inequalities, which now exist and in many cases are growing and which are connected with individual and social discrimination.” (GS 66)

19. Universal use of the goods: “God intended the earth with everything contained in it for the use of all human beings and peoples”, “Whatever the forms of property may be, as adapted to the legitimate institutions of peoples, according to diverse and changeable circumstances, attention must always be paid to this universal destination of earthly goods. In using them, therefore, man should regard the external things that he legitimately possesses not only as his own but also as common in the sense that they should be able to benefit not only him but also others.” (GS 69)
* Dialogue: Do we understand the parables? Is it possible to overcome the social abysses? Do we make friends with the unjust money? Do we share?