At times: Prudence of “the sons of darkness”, myopia of the “sons of light”!
(Lk. 16: 1-8)
As for the “unfaithful superintendent”, his master did not praise his lack of honesty; in fact, the iniquitous and unjust superintendent made generous gestures at the expense of his master! An opportunist, whose end had come, forgave and dispensed of debts contracted on behalf of his master. Of course he would have excused no one of his debt if he were the creditor! His master praised his expertise; the superintendent managed to get friends for himself at the expense of his master! Well advised, cunning and crafty, once dismissed, he will not suffer hunger and would have no need to go begging; the debtors of his master, delighted to have seen their debts reduced, would receive and help him!
“Make friends by means of dishonest Money”!
What? Jesus ordered us to make money dishonestly, and thereby, make friends? Not at all! At first, the exegetes, among whom Fr. Lagrange along the lines of St. Jerome, (Latin Fathers: XXII-1019), indicated that the parable ends at verse 8. In fact, Christ officially started a new sentence: “And so I say to you, make friends for yourself…”
Secondly, this “dishonest Money” does not mean “money acquired in dishonest means” (L. Marshal) but simply indicates money, the Money personified and deified by pagans. “Mammon” (a Canaanite or “Punic” word according to Saint Augustine) is by definition the bearer of iniquity if it encouraged greed, avarice or Machiavellianism, thus turning into an end and not a means, a master rather than being a servant. In other words, Money for itself, as “wealth” or “power” in this world of darkness is intrinsically or simply bad and not so proper. Jesus does not invite us to act dishonestly, for a more or less illicit gain (cf. also the first letter of St. Peter to the priests-bishops 5:1ff.), but to make friends, while taking into account the lapse and the precariousness of this money!
In the parable, Jesus bemoans that the children of darkness are advised, at least with their peers, to manage and cope and that at times – very often the sons of light, relying upon the grace of God, in a mindless quietism or simply in living “in an ivory tower”, or just naively imagining that the whole world is integrated as theirs, “do not work hard” and do not act intelligently, thus lose millions of souls for the benefit of the sons of darkness. Jesus asks us to link to purity and integrity, shrewdness and smartness, “as prudent as serpents and as simple as doves” (Mt. 10:16), never “as dull as geese”!
Unfortunately, the fast and almost irreversible growth of sects and other religions in Christian lands confirms the Lord’s bitter declaration! It is high time to evangelize, to re-evangelize and to “reclaim all that had been lost”!
Fr. Peter Madros
English version translated by Antoine D. Nesnas