Good stewardship is difficult, but worth the effort

In the Gospel passage from Luke this Sunday, the Lord gives us the Parable of the Dishonest Steward, ending with: “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

That’s a word we do not hear every day. “Mammon” means material wealth or pleasure or anything in which we indulge at the expense of a healthy and holy relationship with God. The Lord instructs us about this point several times in the Gospels because he knows how the things of this world can distract us from loving him first and best.

Catholics are not puritans. We enjoy the wonders of the world and the delights of this life. They are God’s gifts to us, and we should appreciate them thoroughly. Hillaire Belloc once famously said, “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there’s always laughter and good red wine, at least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!” All that being true, still we must put all things into proper order with God and a holy life permanently at the top of the list.

Money and possessions and pleasure are not evil in themselves, but they can tempt us into an unholy self-centeredness. Instead of serving only ourselves with what we have, the best way to “sanctify” our mammon is to generously give it away, especially to those in need. The Lord tells us in this Gospel passage that being generous is how we make friends for ourselves so that when the time comes and our earthly resources fail us as they are bound to do, we will be welcomed into eternity.

It is not easy to strike a proper balance between rightly enjoying the world and sinfully over-indulging in it at the expense of our relationship with God. Sometimes there’s a real tug-of-war in our hearts about how best to use the material gifts we have and still serve God best. It takes consideration, prayer, consistent good habits, and experience to become good stewards for our Master, but it’s eternally worth the effort.

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