There is often in a favorite movie a quote wherein one knows the movie just by hearing that quote. “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse” or “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” The Godfather “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” The Wizard of Oz “May the Force be with you.” Star Wars “Show me the money.” Jerry McGuire “You can’t handle the truth.” A Few Good Men Christians are called upon to handle the truth as given to us in The Bible.
Movies can also be misquoted. In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader does not say, “Luke, I am your father.” He actually says, “No, I am your father.” In the movie Wall Street, Gordon Gecko does not simply say, “Greed is good.” It is actually much longer, “The point is ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.”
People have favorite passages from The Bible, but The Bible can be misquoted. For example what St. Paul says in the epistle reading this morning in 1 Timothy is one of my favorite passages, but it is often misquoted. This reading is one of the great reality checks that we can have. It starts off with the observation, “Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.” We are told to be content with food and clothing and not to fall into the temptation of pursuing wealth, for simply the sake of pursuing wealth with the love of money as a golden idol in one’s heart as this course of action will result in temptation, ruin and destruction.
Here is the misquote. People often say that “Money is the root of all evil.” And that saying comes from the Bible. But, what is actually said. St. Paul said “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” Pursuing riches can lead people to wander away from the faith. This can mean that wealth becomes a golden idol in people’s hearts. We should be acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.
On the same token was St. Paul or Jesus opposed to engaging in enterprise making money or being lazy having everything handed to us? In this Season of Creation, the message is that we need to use the resources which have been given to us more effectively. We need, as Jesus tells us in this morning’s Gospel, to strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness. St. Paul was not opposed to work and making a profit. His profession was as a tentmaker and he did support himself on his missionary journey. He would acquire material, and through his labor make the tent, and sell it for a profit so that he could live and travel to do the Lord’s work. Consider also what is written in Acts 14:14-15
A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one who worshiped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened to listen to the things which were spoken by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and stay.” So she persuaded us.
The important phrase here is that Lydia is a seller of purple dye, the color worn by higher parts of society. She had an exclusive clientele. She was a successful business person. She was wealthy. Faithful people like Paul and Lydia can be faithful to the Lord while plying their trade, but there are responsibilities, such as producing a good product, being fair to one’s workforce (that is to say respecting the dignity of every human being), charging a fair price, and now we would add, being environmentally conscious, either using less resources because resources are finite and/or getting more from the resources that we are using to maximize output while minimizing input. And, if we do that we will not follow a golden idol in our hearts loving money as opposed to loving God.
The reading from Deuteronomy tells us when we have our material possessions of food, houses, money, and producing more to exalt oneself, but remember the Lord who has given us the power to create this wealth and confirm the covenant of the Lord in your heart. Be fruitful and multiply. Own your possessions and don’t have your possessions own you. Plan but don’t worry excessively as the worrying won’t add to your life or what you are called to do.
In this Season of Creation, we are reminded that we are stewards of the earth. By respecting the environment and avoid putting golden idols in our hearts, we can live out our baptismal vows and be those faithful stewards of creation in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Alex Faseruk is Non-Stipendiary Associate Priest at St. Mark’s and Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Business at Memorial University.