“What is money?” It’s a question I used to ask my Senior Economics students. While money may be defined in several ways, one of the most important definitions is that money is a symbol of wealth – it stands for the material riches with which God has blessed us. Economics, which literally means “law of the house” or “rule of the house,” is therefore primarily a matter of stewardship of what God has given us.
This is why Jesus tells so many parables about money. Far from condemning money, money is one of His favorite subjects!
Whenever Jesus tells a parable about money, pay careful attention. Because money is a symbol of the material riches with which God has blessed us, how we use our money and possessions is a symbol of how faithful we have been as stewards. Those who are poor stewards of their money are generally poor stewards of other resources God has given them as well: time, energy, gifts, and talents.
Jesus summarizes all of this, our entire life as stewards of His good gifts, in Luke 16:10 – “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”
Often, we pay little attention to the little things in life because they are, well, little. We think, “Well, at least I’m getting the big things right.” But the little things are never just little because little things have also been created by God, and every little thing is to be treated with its proper respect. Little things, also, have a magical way of becoming big things. I remember a comment Kobe Bryant made during halftime of one of the NBA playoff games one year, quoting a coach friend of his. The quote was this: “Everything turns on a trifle.” He meant that someone like Steve Nash, who steals, and makes assists and runs after loose balls and forces charging fouls can change the course of a game and even alter its conclusion – without even scoring a point. Caring about the little things in the NBA Finals is how an NBA Final, a very big thing, is won.
And so it is in the spiritual world as well, which, we should always remember, is attached to the physical world and not separate from it. Just as showing up for work every day, getting there on time, and doing your best job is important, so it’s important to show up every day in your life with God. Though there is no one ready to fire you if you miss a day or “mail it in” that day, our daily walk with God should be marked by the same determination and excellence that generally marks the work place.
And so your management of your money, a relatively small thing, Jesus says, is a gauge of how you are doing with your life with God, which is the biggest thing of all. In Luke 16:11 Jesus teaches that “if you have not been faithful in unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” The measure of faithfulness with money, is not, however, how much you have, for we are all in different circumstances. But God gives us many good guidelines in the use of money. First, have you planned your life so that you are tithing – that is, giving God the 10% that is due to Him? Tithing doesn’t just happen: it requires faithful stewardship, and those who hold back the tithe are also holding back other parts of their life that should be given to God. Second, have you provided for your family? Third, do you forsake extra luxuries so that you have enough to give to the poor? Christians are supposed to give alms. Remember: every dollar you have belongs to God, and you are but a steward who must give an account for every dollar when you meet the Lord. Attached to every dollar is the mark of God’s ownership. Attached to every dollar is the spiritual use (remembering that physical things are also spiritual) for which God intended it. That ought to make us think twice about the words printed on every denomination bill in the U.S.: “In God We Trust.”
“Thou shalt not steal” is a commandment about the gifts (resources) God has given us. Of course, it’s wrong to steal, but every one of the negative commandments of God implies a positive action as well (just as mortification implies sanctification). It’s not enough to not steal: a man must also work, or he shall not eat. But it’s not enough simply to work to feed oneself: a man must also work to feed his family. It’s not enough to feed your family: hopefully you’re saving something for the future and for unexpected expenses. Ultimately, your financial goal is greater even than this: it’s to have enough to tithe, to share, and to give to the poor.
But money is only one measure. In fact, everything that God has given us is a gift from Him, and how we use each gift is a gauge of how faithful we are being as stewards. How do you spend the hours of the day? How much time is given to self and how much to others? Do you stay up too late so that you can’t adequately do God’s work the next day? Have you chosen to use that half-hour exercise time for something easier but less healthy? And what about the special abilities God has given to you? How are they being used each day?
These are the day to day little things with which God has entrusted us.
If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, then begin by being faithful with the small things He has already brought you each day.
Faithful stewardship of the material and little things in life is the means by which God judges whether or not to entrust you with more of His spiritual riches.
Point for Meditation:
1. How faithful have I been with my money?
2. How faithful have I been with the other gifts God has given me? What’s one thing in which God has made me rich and in which I’ve spent it too much on myself?
Resolution/ Prayer: Lord, show me one little thing that is necessary this day, the one little thing you are asking me to be more faithful with. Help me to see the things that I have as gifts from you and learn to use them accordingly. Forgive my past selfish use of your treasure, and give me the grace to use it more righteously today.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson