entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?

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1 Serving Two Masters This month I am looking at the stories Jesus told. And since I like a challenge, I am either looking at stories we don t usually hear about or a different view of a familiar story. Today s story comes from Luke, chapter 16, verses When I get to the end, you will hear a familiar aphorism, or one line wisdom, that also appears in Matthew, in a string of one liners in chapter 6 after the Beatitudes. I will talk about the familiar aphorism after we talk about the story before it. Here is the story from Luke: Then Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, "What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' Then the manager said to himself, "What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, "How much do you owe my master?' He answered, "A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, "Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' Then he asked another, "And how much do you owe?' He replied, "A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, "Take your bill and make it eighty.' And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." 1

2 As I read this story, I was scratching my head in wonder. What kind of sense does this make? I got to the bottom line and thought, OK, I ve heard that before. I get that but what does that have to do with the whole rest of the story? So we have to dissect the story and do our metaphysical Bible interpretation. And we have to look a little at the context of the story and the author. It is believed that the author of Luke was educated, perhaps a physician, probably Greek. He wrote to influence a Gentile audience to accept the teachings and he wrote to promote inclusion so that the Christian movement was not limited to Jewish converts, but also to a greater audience of everyone. The rich man, the owner, the master refers to God or our own spiritual self, the Christ of our being. Servants are thoughts, beliefs or in this case, let us call the manager, Ego. Through the Christ of our being, we have access to all that we need; our 12 Powers, access to Substance and Peace and the Wisdom and Imagination to shape it all. Yet in the story, what was available from the rich man s good was being wasted. And so there was a call for an accounting. The manager moved where? To a place of fear! The manager, or ego, began imagining all the terrible things that might happen and felt he lacked the wisdom, courage and skills to go on alone. Let me stop here and ask if any of this might sound familiar? We know we all have gifts, access to infinite good, yet there are those moments in life when a challenge arises and we feel we are lacking what it takes to get through. We have to choose what we will do next. What does the manager do? He begins to bargain with others he was to deal with on behalf of the rich man. He seeks to appease the others in the belief they will support him when he loses what he fears he will lose. What he gives away, though, is not his to give. It belongs to the rich man. This brought up an interesting thought and interpretation for me: what parts of myself do I give away in an effort to appease those around me? Am I uncomfortable claiming the spiritual gifts that are mine to use? Do I try to appear less than I am in order to fit in? What would happen if I lived from the confidence of the power, love, wisdom and beauty that are mine to use and share? This is not a lesson in arrogance or I am better than you but rather a lesson in I am better than I may believe I am and you are better than you 2

3 believe you are too! And notice how the manager feels justified in what he does. It s ok if I cheat the rich man because it is what I have to do to survive. After all, he is the one taking away my job. He is the one accusing me of cheating, which, OK, I am really doing. When we are forced to look at our own stuff, how does ego react? It gets defensive and righteous. It makes excuses. It makes deals and bargains that allow us to continue to do what is comfortable in the world rather than doing what our best self knows is our potential. Then comes the part that sort of baffled me. And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. Commended?!! Then I kept reading and I got it. Have you ever heard of tongue in cheek or sarcasm? Jesus was being sarcastic in saying the master commended the dishonest manager. Who are the children of light? That is us, our thoughts, when we are serving our highest self, aligned with our Christ being. When we are being our best selves, others may NOT understand us. We may not engage in gossip, tell all the white lies, accept the acts of oppression, others may take for granted. We don t always get along with the social crowd. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. Sarcasm again. If you doubt it, you have to read down a little further in the 6 th chapter of Luke to the story of a beggar with sores who lay at the gate of the rich man until he died. The rich man never gave aid to Lazarus, the man with sores and the rich man also died. Upon death the rich man, from the fires of Hades, can see Lazarus sitting in comfort at the side of Abraham and begs Abraham to send Lazarus down to wet his tongue. Abraham refuses saying the rich man had plenty of time to engage Lazarus and he never did. In the story, Jesus is warning that how we live our lives creates an energy that pervades everything. Returning to the story we find, "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will 3

4 entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? What does it mean to be faithful or dishonest in these lines? For me it refers to how we interact with the Christ of our Being, our higher self. Are we faithful to our inner guidance? Do we listen to the still small voice or do we drown it out, listening to the voices of our sense consciousness, the voices of social acceptance and media hype? Are we being dishonest when we make ourselves small because we fear claiming the power that is ours to use? Are we being dishonest when we are boastful that outer characteristics of our physical body or accumulation of wealth are the measures of our success? Careful with that one. Is there anything wrong with material wealth or physical health? No! Is there anything wrong with confidence in who we are? No! Is there anything wrong with holding these out as measures that we are better than others? Do we use these gifts to serve others or to serve ourselves? Here is where we can fall into trouble. If all of our measures of success are externally focused, we have been dishonest with our spiritual gifts. We cannot be faithful to our inner guidance while keeping our focus outside us. What are the true riches? Would you rather die with peace of mind, surrounded by people who love you and leaving a legacy of lives you have touched; or would you rather die with a big bank account and a room full of people with dry eyes talking about you? The familiar line: No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." What do you love serving, ego and social acceptance, material accumulation or God and the infinite spiritual possibilities? Do you resent being asked to give of your time, talent and treasure or do you see that as a way to maintain the flow of all the good that you receive. Another caution here, I am not saying we despise wealth as the good in our lives. There are too many verses about living an abundant life. Rather we must come to see how attachments to the material world get in the way of a true and full relationship serving our higher self. Must we be homeless to learn to let go? NO! I don t believe so. Yet if that is the only way the Universe can teach us a lesson we need, the Universe does seem willing to give us the lesson. 4

5 This leads me to an interesting idea in this story that is not really the focus but it is also raised in the story of the rich man and Lazarus at his gate. We have opportunities in our lives to make different choices. We choose who we serve, not at some single magic point in life but in every moment. What might have happened in this story if, upon being asked for an accounting, the manager accepted his error, gave an accurate accounting and asked for forgiveness? In reviewing some of the stories Jesus told, the ones that end badly usually involve someone stubbornly clinging to the ways of error. There are also lots of stories of forgiveness, when it is asked for. In the story of the rich man in Hades, he asked Abraham to send Lazarus back to his house to warn his 5 brothers of the outcome of the way they live. Abraham responds that he and his brothers have had Moses and the prophets, warning them all along. If they will not listen to them, Abraham says, they will not listen even to one raised from the dead. Today, like every day, we have an opportunity to choose how we will serve. We have an opportunity to be faithful to the Christ of our being or to cheat ourselves and keep our focus outward. This idea of choosing is not just a New Testament concept. Joshua 24:15 says, Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Choose wisely this day! 5

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