It is interesting how often money is used to deepen the layers (complexity) of Jesus’ parables. Among them we have the woman searching for her lost coin, parables about rich landowners and a banker canceling debts. It is as if the writers of the Gospel and/or Jesus himself knew (and experienced) the value we place on money.
Some say money is the root of all evil and perhaps so. We all have seen or experienced how money competes for our attention; often taking priority over people. Money has power doesn’t it? At least we have arranged our world for it to, haven’t we?
When money enters situations it can divide friends and family. It can ruin relationships and destroy as well as build and restore. It can consume some, causing them to lose sight of what really matters and help others, remedying and creating new opportunities or communities.
It can cause us to think in terms of: what am I owed? how much am I invested? how can I get more?
Money can hypnotize and lure good people into bad situations, causing them to lose sight of the bigger picture — love, people and, life. In our own recent history we have real examples of money producing bad. As Franklin D Roosevelt once said:
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
Given these thoughts and as we read this parable in Luke look for money’s power, relate its power to the brevity of the situation and capture that: To God, it is authenticity, humility; those in most need that are the most grateful to hear and receive the good news of God.
36-39 One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him.”
40 Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Oh? Tell me.”
41-42 “Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?”
Whenever I read this, I am drawn to consider what value I place on concerns by humans over concerns of God? I am also drawn to consider who among us, within our communities are more indebted? Who have more at stake; perhaps, ‘the least of these’? Who among us are the outsiders?
That is, after all, I think, the point Jesus is making, right? It is not literally (or only) money that Jesus is talking about but the priorities and their potential to pollute that he is pointing to, right? Jesus is talking about those we would see as the least “in,” or the least forgive-able, right?
And, aren’t they who would be most grateful?
As a person who has received the fullness of God’s grace; I am forever indebted to the One who has entered the mess of my life, redeeming me and writing a new story … So how do I honor that with love for neighbors, including those I see as owing more than I?