I did some research on this Gospel reading to find out what Jesus was talking about here in terms of the dishonest money. In this practice of usury, the lender is imposing his own interest and his agent is imposing an extra interest. Money lending was a practice which was condemned but still occurred. The servant who is making friends with dishonest money is eliminating his extra interest so the debtor will be his friend. He is making friends using the dishonest money. Then when he needs a favor, he will have some friends to help him.
This is a start. He does a little thing to help someone else – eliminate his commission to someone who is having trouble paying a debt. Then that little thing could grow – when he needs a favor he now has a new friend to help him. And once he’s shown his compassion with a small act, he shows he can be trusted with more. He uses this dishonest money to a good advantage, showing he might be good with something bigger and better. He is showing that he can do something decent even with someone else’s dishonest money. Maybe he can do even better with honest money of his own. It’s a little like giving a kid a goldfish to see how that goes before buying a dog. Or a couple getting a dog and seeing how they handle that responsibility before having kids. Personally, I think a dog would be more responsibility than I want to handle, so that sort of eliminates kids for me! If you are not trustworthy in smaller matters, you shouldn’t be given larger responsibilities.
But we can’t lose sight of the fact that our usury agent in eliminating his commission is not really looking out for his boss’ best interests. And if his boss doesn’t think he’s a real go-getter in terms of money collection his own job might be at risk, which may be why he’s making these deals in the first place – he will need some friends if he gets fired. But now we lead into the next section. You can’t serve two masters. He can serve his own boss and make sure the money is all paid back with all the appropriate interest no matter what. Or he can be a compassionate fellow and do a more morally right thing (which would not involved usury). What does he do? Obey his boss or obey God? If he puts the money above everything else, including God, how can he be trusted in any other contexts? Anything anyone puts ahead of God is sin. If the money or his boss or his job comes before his duty to God and what is right, he’s committing sin. If you serve God, everything else has to be secondary. Something has to come first. That can be God, or that can be money, but something has to give.
The Pharisees loved money so they didn’t like this story, but they have to make the decision like anyone else. What comes first? Lip service doesn’t work since God knows our hearts. We have to make the choice, and live it out in small ways, and then in large ways.
By Tamora Whitney