Reflecting on Luke 16: 1-13
Hmm. I’m staring at the dollar bill I just took out of my wallet. Sure enough, it’s still there. In God we trust. I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t been removed by now. Before I read Robert Lupton’s Charity Detox: What Charity Would Look Like if we Cared About Results I would have joked that it’s actually the perfect slogan for our consumer world. Money is our God, and we trust in it.
But I’m seeing things differently now, and the story about the “unjust steward” doesn’t shock me as much as it used to. The truth is that the brilliant and innovative business people who “serve mammon” are exactly who this world needs. We should celebrate and support (and occasionally include in our General Intercessions) prayers for all business people, because the most effective method of poverty alleviation is economic development.
We all have our frustrations with technology, but the tech fields have created more wealth (and jobs) in the world than any charity that I can think of. Extreme poverty has been reduced by more than half in the last decade because China and India―who represent the greatest concentration of global poverty in the world―have become major economic players in technologies that have created unparalleled levels of employment for their 2.5 billion people.
Now, their business ethics, like those of the unjust steward, need a huge overhaul. And what about our own economic system? Where does IT need a huge overhaul? It’s the gross inequalities in wages in THE U.S. that keep the real profits in the hands of the few. But how astounding that Jesus knew this basic business principle: engage those who know how to make money, and put them to work building the kingdom of God.
I asked my lifelong friend Mary Frances Jaster to add her expertise in this subject. She and her husband Bill co-direct the award-winning Colorado Vincentian Volunteers. Every year, twenty-somethings from around the country live in community in downtown Denver and serve in inner-city schools, clinics, shelters, homes for those who are developmentally disabled, and for troubled youth. These are her thoughts:
So many of our volunteers have read about Toxic Charity and Charity Detox, in classes during college, for the most part. And while I believe it to be true, I’m not sure he has ALL the correct answers. Yes, we need to CHANGE things rather than just feeding the system that is already there. But change happens so slowly that the need to respond with charity will always exist, for, as Jesus knew, the poor we will always have with us (Matt. 26: 11). I think that community organizing is all about that kind of change in a neighborhood. And there is no one-size-fits-all model. We believe the best work sites where we place our volunteers are the ones that challenge us all to look at our MUTUAL relationships. How do we better foster those friendships and realize that we all have something to offer?
So, engaging Pope Francis’ culture of encounter as the best way to move the poverty line, some of our favorite organizations who promote working WITH the poor instead of FOR the poor are the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers http://www.covivo.org , the African School for Excellence http://www.ase.org.za (you may have to paste that address into your browser to get it to work), and Ben’s St. Jerome Mission in Juarez, Mexico, Ben.Lager@q.com.
Thanks for reading this LONG reflection on the unjust steward. Here’s your question for the week:
How is your business investing money and talent in creating economic justice?
Kathy McGovern ©2016
Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015