Using Unrighteous Mammon

Yesterday in the morning I was in the Back Bay of Boston looking for internet access. So, I went off to the library where I usually go to connect. I got up to the door: locked. No life inside. I thought, the hours say it opens at 9am… oh yeah, Columbus Day.

So, I went to the local hotel lobby. They have wireless access there, and they’ve let me use it in the past. “Could I use the wireless internet access.” Sorry, guests only. Has something changed? We’ve just started enforcing the policy. I would have to pay $200 and become a guest to use their internet access.

So, I went off to Starbucks. I bought a coffee and asked, “Is there wireless internet access here?” The young woman checked with another employee, another young woman Eva.

Eva came back to me.

If you have a Starbucks card, you can use the internet for a fee. “Yeah, it’s not a good system,” she said. “It’s totally not free, whatsoever.”

Then another employee chimed in, “But you can get the first two hours for free.” “But, you have to register with the Starbucks card, and that costs money,” she said. Then she looked right at me and said, “Totally not free, whatsoever.”

Then she leaned in a little closer and said, “But you know, there’s a Starbucks in the Borders across the way in the Prudential Mall. Borders just started free wifi throughout their entire store.” The whole store? Yup. “Thank you very much!”

Starbucks lost out on some money, but I did find out about a free internet spot.

That young woman saved the day for me. How did she do it? She freely told the truth. She didn’t pipe the company line, she didn’t keep things harmonious and comfortable, she told the truth. The truth – and me – was more important to her than Starbucks. I appreciate that, and I am very grateful to her.

Remember the parable of the unrighteous mammon? It’s a parable that the Lord told about a rich man who had an employee who was “wasting his goods.” Well, you know what, I bet that the rich man was not very generous with his goods. I bet he was a tightwad with his money. We know he had people in debt to him, and this was against the Hebrew Law. I think that he had “not a good system”, a system that was totally not free, whatsoever, for anyone. I bet it was unrighteous mammon.

How did the employee waste his goods? I bet he gave customers the heads up. I bet he freely told the truth. I bet he didn’t pipe the company line and make things harmonious and comfortable. I bet the truth – and the customer – was more important to him than the rich man’s property.

Pope John Paul II has called our modern global culture a “culture of death.” Pope Benedict has explained that the economic system we have now is essentially unrighteous, unrighteous mammon. And it’s dying.

We’ve all been given a gift of being stewards of unrighteous mammon. So, here’s the question: Is the Lord more important than it all?

Do we join ourselves to the dying culture and go along with it? Do we try to stand outside of it and resist it? In other words, do we serve it? Or, instead, do we enter it and use it to love and make friends with its debtees, “so that when [the unrighteous mammon] fails they may receive you into eternal habitations” (Lk 16:9)? Do we serve the Lord with it?

It’s then that we enter into the Lord’s work of saving people’s days and producing love. And storing up our own inheritance.

He who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then, you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Lk 16:10-13)

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