If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? And if you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours?
Those are words more easily read than pondered; but surely, we are right to hope that, coming from the lips of our Blessed Lord, they will prove well-worth whatever care and attention we can manage to give them.
Dishonest wealth would seem to be best understood according to the words of a previous parable of Our Lord:
The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you; and these things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God. (Luke 12:16-21)
Wealth did indeed speak dishonestly to that rich man; but the parable also told us something about true wealth which, it said, makes a man rich towards God.
We find the same teaching in the book of Revelation (3:17-18):
You say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Buy from me gold that is refined by fire so that you may be rich.
The rich man’s wealth may also be considered as ‘dishonest’ in so far as one person accumulates a great amount and considers it as exclusively ‘his’, whereas, the world and all its resources were originally given, provided, by God for the good of all mankind.
And so we have gathered some light for an understanding of the first part of our original quote:
If you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?
Which means, Will God trust you with true wealth? That is, will God trust you who give such credence to the blandishments of dishonest wealth -- relax, eat, drink, and be merry – and for which He has just declared you to be a Fool, will He trust you with true wealth? Of course not.
And now Our Lord’s words go on immediately to speak of that true wealth:
If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, will God give you what is yours?
Here the words speak of spiritual blessings and heavenly rewards, rewards that God alone ‘gives’ (note the new word, no longer ‘trusts’ -- for a time and on the way -- but ‘gives’ so that it becomes eternally ‘yours’); and those words, what belongs to another, refer to blessings that lead to, bring about, win for us, God’s giving: blessings and graces that belong to Christ, being the fruit of His teaching, won by His suffering, Death and Resurrection, and bestowed upon us by His Spirit of Truth, Love, and Life.
If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with (the) dishonest wealth (of worldly riches), will (God) trust you with true wealth (that would make you rich towards Himself)? And if you are not trustworthy with what belongs to Jesus, will (God) give you what (would indeed be yours eternally, in and as a member of, Jesus)?
But, finally, how can one be trustworthy with dishonest wealth?
Because wealth -- as such -- is not intrinsically and necessarily dishonest. It is indeed, always dangerous:
I tell you, Jesus said, it is easier for a camel to pass the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:24)
Nevertheless, our Gospel passage today speaks of the possibility of such trustworthiness because the essential dishonesty of riches comes when, as we have mentioned, their possessor is possessed by such riches and allows them to most truly make a fool of him: treating them as the ultimate aim of his life, or himself as their exclusive owner. Therefore, we can perhaps finally, for today’s purposes, understand our Gospel reading in the following way:
If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with (the dangerously) dishonest wealth (of worldly riches), will (God) trust you with true wealth (that would make you rich towards Himself)? And if you are not trustworthy with (such true wealth that) belongs to Jesus, will (God) give you what (could be) yours (now and for ever, in Jesus)?
Let us now sum up what we have profitably learnt from our endeavours to understand, rightly appreciate, and profit from, Our Lord’s words to us this Sunday.
It is possible for a Christian to have riches and prove trustworthy in his use of them, but that can only be done by using such wealth for Christian purposes for the good of others (cf. St. Anthony the Great and his young sister); however, it would seem, that for one aspiring to become most close to God, as was the case with the rich young man who approached Jesus in the Gospel story, then such riches might have to be set aside all together for love of God Himself.
Next we should consider how the rich man in today’s Gospel reading delighted in his wealth:
The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, and be merry.’
So too, People of God, we should delight in the graces of God that enable us to work sincerely for the coming of His Kingdom and for the attainment of our own God-given share in it. We should, most certainly, recognize and rejoice in God’s present goodness to us on our way, and unashamedly show our gratitude, not only by steady perseverance, but also by wholehearted thanksgiving.
And now, how awe-inspiring are those final words for our consideration:
Who will give you what is yours? or better, God will give you what is yours.
Such is the wonder of God’s goodness to all who strive to walk with Christ -- according to His words, in the power and under the inspiration of His Spirit, for the ultimate love of His Father – that all those spiritual blessings and gifts we have been using throughout our years of Christian endeavour actually form us in Christ so that we – in heaven – are no longer our fragile and faulty selves as on earth but, as God originally planned, our sublime and glorious selves in Jesus, ‘other Christs’ indeed, as the Good News puts it:
God will give us what is (become) OURS in Jesus,
with the result that our whole being will thrill before, and respond to, the majestic beauty, goodness, and truth, of God with absolute and total, filial and divine, spontaneity and fulness.