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Sunday 18 September 2022: Trinity 14, Twenty-fifth in Ordinary time, Proper 20

A use of money and wealth

Amos 8:4-7; Luke 16:1-13

By Keith M Phipps

Supernumerary Methodist Minister, Ripon and Lower Dales Circuit

Context: regular preaching service in a well-established congregation

Aim: an exposition of the lectionary

The world in which we live feels a very different place from where we were twelve months ago. Thankfully, vaccines have improved the situation with COVID so we can return to some sense of normality. Some people, who are clinically vulnerable, still remain anxious. In addition, the cost of fuel, food, clothing, heating and everyday items has spiralled out of all recognition, leaving many people unable to make ends meet. Then, as we look further afield, the situation in Ukraine has made the world a very volatile place. We have all been affected by the suffering we have witnessed via the media.

Against this backdrop, we are invited to read today’s Gospel.

In the Gospel, we find Jesus and the disciples on the road. Jesus teaches them in a parable about an unjust steward who is about to be dismissed by his employer. Instead of becoming unemployed, he secures a deal with his customers and does just enough to satisfy his employer and so retains his job. Later in the Gospel, we hear that we cannot serve God and money.

So, what can we learn from this parable?

As Christians, we live in today’s world, seeking to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s inevitable that we get caught up in the messiness of life as we go about our daily business and in our relationships. We might be tested as we discern the right course of action. Sometimes there is a tension between meeting our temporal needs and those eternal Kingdom values.

As the Gospel says, we cannot serve both God and money. So, the challenge for us all is to use our money and wealth for the good. This is not only a personal responsibility but is also for the church as a collective body. Some issues can be readily addressed by ourselves in our daily dealings with one another, while some matters need to be tackled as we work together as a church and through involvement with other voluntary organisations.

So, we are faced with the question of how we serve God, using all we have and are. I present you with these few suggestions for your thoughts and prayers:

  • We need to feed and clothe ourselves and keep a roof over our heads, as well as caring for our immediate family and dependents.
  • We also are called to care for our neighbours. Perhaps this is as simple as giving them a call or popping round to have a chat.
  • We also might wish to support local charities, seeking to improve the bigger picture for so many. This can include giving money, if we are able, or volunteering to use our God-given gifts and graces to further the work. A specific project might be to support the local food bank, by giving money, gifts of produce or our time.
  • We may also feel called to support national and international groups and organisations that offer hospitality and help to refugees from various parts of the world, including Ukraine. Some may be able to offer housing, clothing and financial help. Whatever else, we can all offer a warm welcome.
  • Such activity creates well-being both for those on the receiving end and for those providing help and support. In these little things we do, we are shown to be trustworthy. As Christians, we also know we are following the teaching of Jesus Christ, especially as portrayed in Luke’s Gospel with his constant concern for the poor and lowly.

Thus, as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, we have a God-given opportunity to reflect on how we use and spend our wealth, time and money for the good of all. In the meantime, let us acknowledge that all human beings are made in the image of God and that we all have different gifts and graces to share with one another. Whether we are rich or poor, let us respect the dignity of one another and act with integrity, enabling each other to share a common life so that we affirm one another whatever the circumstances we face together.

Let us conclude by returning to Jesus and the disciples, heading on the road to Jerusalem for Passover. The Passover remembers the release from captivity of the slaves in Egypt. We, of course, know what awaited Jesus in Jerusalem. Let us set our face towards a life of self-sacrifice and service, enabling us all to celebrate a New Exodus, so all can be free!

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