Sunday, October 13, 2013

Becoming a Friend to the Mammon of Unrighteousness

The following is the parable of the unjust steward as related in Luke 16:1-8 (KJV)
  1. And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
  2. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
  3. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
  4. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
  5. So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
  6. And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
  7. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.
  8. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
I've always been puzzled by this parable and never really gave it much thought.  I memorized verse 13 ("No man can serve two masters...") in Luke 16 and always knew it had something to do with the parable, but never quite drew the connection.  I'd like to take a couple minutes to describe how insight can come by taking time to ponder on the scriptures.

I recently read through the New Testament and when I got to this parable I decided that I was going to figure out what it meant.  Why would the Lord praise an unjust steward?  So this is my interpretation of the parable:

A certain man has not been a good worker.  His boss was sick of him wasting his time and money and essentially gave him his two-weeks' notice.  The worker got really worried because he didn't have any other jobs that he could quickly pick up, and he had enough pride to not want to have to beg for subsistence from anyone else.  So he set out a plan to get on the 'A' list of some of his clients so that they would help him out when he was discharged.  He then proceeded to call up all those indebted to his boss and gave each a heavy discount.  Jesus then says that the guy's boss praises him for doing wisely.

That's basically verses 1-8.  Now this is where I really raise an eyebrow.  Is the Lord telling us it's good to be dishonest?  Of course not.  But he's praising a guy who seems like he's cheating his boss one last time, and yet his boss is happy about it?  Verses 9-13 really help clarify what just happened.
  1. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
  2. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
  3. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
  4. And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?
  5. No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one,and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
We are counseled to "make ... friends of the mammon of unrighteousness", which is essentially money, or worldly wealth, or those who hold in high regard wealth, so that when we are in need (not necessarily financially) we will have friends to help us.

A simple example came to me.  I'm frequently put in a position to put this idea into practice.  When I go out to eat, get a haircut, get a babysitter, or pay for any type of service that ultimately has a cost that's partially determined by me, I try to not give the minimal amount (unless I think the service merits the minimal), but I rarely am "generous."  Why is that?  I believe that it's because I hold money ("the mammon of unrighteousness") in high regard and am very possessive of it, not wanting to "impart it freely", essentially coveting it (D&C 19:26).  I would like to consider myself a charitable person.  I set aside money for those in need, lend my time for service, etc., but reading this scripture I realize that I'm still not where I need to be.

More fully understanding this scripture I realize that by not coveting money (clinging to it, being too frugal, etc.) I will be able to make more wicked mammon friends.  Seriously, though, back to the tip example - if I stop trying to give the minimum and just try to be generous (not taking into account how much I'm out if I give 'x' percent) and give what I think would actually make the person happy, I'm freeing myself of this worldly bond and learning better to serve the Master that will be able to reward me with eternal happiness.  Money begins to become a tool to enrich lives other than my own.