A Spirit of Responsible Generosity

Photography © by Andy Coan

Our society tolerates religion, as long as it keeps to itself.  After all, America is about the separation of Church and state, right?  Education, entertainment, employment, politics are supposed to be “religion-free.”  The removal of the Ten Commandments from an Alabama courthouse several years ago was just one sign of this misguided divorce between faith and life.

Like it or not, we are subtly influenced by this attitude and often exile God from entire areas of our everyday life.  A few years ago, a Gallup poll called “Religion in America” demonstrated that 89% of regular churchgoers live their lives exactly in the same way as non-churchgoers–same rate of marital infidelity, cheating on income taxes, etc.

One area we keep God-free is politics.  We’ve heard prominent Catholic politicians say they are personally opposed to abortion, but cannot bring their faith into their political decision-making.  Another “God-free zone” is the financial arena.  It is interesting that Jesus speaks much more in the gospels about money than about sex.  And yet should politics or money be mentioned from the pulpit, many become indignant.

If we do hear about money in Church, it is often in the context of stewardship, of the obligation to give of our “time, talent, and treasure.”

In Luke 16, Jesus provides a provocative lesson on stewardship.  He presumes we know that a steward is someone entrusted with the administration of his master’s property.  What is expected of the steward, anyway?  To conserve his masters property and maintain it, of course.  In this story, the master owns an agricultural business.  The nature of a business is to turn a profit. The steward’s job, then, was not just to maintain the property, but to grow the business.  If you entrust hard-earned money to the stewardship of a stock broker, don’t you expect him to grow that portfolio?  Remember the parable of the talents in Mat 25– the master was very stern with the steward who preserved what he’d been given but failed to make it grow.

The steward in Luke 16 did not increase his master’s property.  He squandered it.  It is not clear if he did so through dishonest greed or by foolish business decisions.  But in any case, he failed.  When he was given a termination notice, he suddenly kicked into gear. To ingratiate himself with those who could provide for him after he lost his job, he wrote off part of their debt.  Scripture scholars disagree about the meaning of this.  Some say he did this dishonestly at the expense of his master.  Others say that he was simply giving away his own commission.  I think the latter makes more sense, since rather than rebuking him, his master praised him for his prudence.

Prudence means taking initiative to get something done, coming up with a plan, and being willing to sacrifice some present pleasures (his commission on a few deals) to generate long-term benefits.

The moral?  How ironic it is that non-spiritual people often take more initiative, exercise more creativity, and expend more effort than spiritual people when it comes to getting what they want.

Stewardship means more than just throwing five bucks in the basket and signing up to help with the Lenten fish fry.  It means realizing that all we have is entrusted to us by God and that we have an obligation to grow it, making it as fruitful as possible for his glory.  The steward asks these questions: How can I free up the most time for the most important things – God, the Church, and family?  How can I develop my talents so as to be most effective for God’s glory?

When it comes to money, good stewards ask: how can I make better use of the money I already have to further God’s work?  But another question often needs also to be asked: how can I generate more income so as to give more?  Churches need to do this.  We call that fund-raising.  Christian individuals and families need to do this too.  We call this employment, business opportunity, and investment.  Making smart and profitable decisions in this regard is a spiritual and holy thing to do.

But what about Jesus’ warning that you can’t serve both God and mammon?  If financial decisions result in self-indulgence at the expense of honesty and justice (see Amos 8:4ff), then you are serving mammon.  If your increased profits finance your family, you parish, Christian education, evangelization, the crisis pregnancy center, or local homeless shelter, chances are you are serving God.

Editors Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) — Wisdom 9:13-18; Psalms 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17; Philemon 1:9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33. This series of reflections on the coming Sunday Readings usually appears each Wednesday.

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

If you liked this reflection on the upcoming Sunday’s Mass readings, please share it with your friends and family using the Share and Recommend buttons below and via email. We value your comments and encourage you to leave your thoughts below. Thank you! – The Editors

Print this entry

About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

Author Archive Page

1 Comment

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *