Sometimes there are phrases we hear in the gospel that may cause us to wonder what they mean. Perhaps the phrase we heard today, “dishonest wealth”, is such a phrase. What is it?
Remember that this gospel follows immediately upon hearing about the man who took a dishonest solution and wound up being praised. He demonstrated a type of cleverness that caused him to receive a reward.
Mammon is an interesting word. It is not simply money, although we often interpret that way. In the Semetic sense it could be seen as the treasure upon which people trust. It also came to describe a sense of wealth. Today mammon might suggest a lifestyle, or a way of life.
In sections of the Gospel when we hear about mammon, it is usually seen as a term of greed or wealth. We are told that it is not possible to serve God and mammon. In other words, our life has to be oriented by serving God, and if it is, it is not possible to at the same time have our lives oriented by the wealth and and a certain lifestyle, which takes over our lives.
It becomes more interesting when we consider the descriptor that we should make friends with “dishonest” wealth. I might suggest here that Jesus is trying to convince the disciples that they should use the type of cleverness that the steward used in the gospel we heard yesterday. But it is using this cleverness in a way that bears fruit in the spiritual life. We cannot serve both God and mammon because we cannot make both primary.
But it is possible to be clever in helping people to come to view their relationship with God as primary, and to interpret every decision through the eyes of faith. So, making friends with dishonest wealth does not mean acquiring such wealth in dishonest ways, but rather to use them to invite others into a relationship with God.
When our world is dominitated by mammon, there are moments when we do not even realize it. In that sense, we cannot even be trusted with this type of wealth. And if we are so blind as to be unable to see the ways in which we are controlled by mammon, we are not able to treat as a treasure the eternal things that God gives to us.
Today’s readings remind us that we have a need to be self-relfective, always seeking to find the indwelling presence of Jesus that helps us to know what is truly valuable and worthwhile.