with dishonest wealth’
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
December 2, 2018
VERY intriguing words of
Christ, indeed! (cfr Lk 16,9) We need to go slow, keeping a good
grip on our reflex reaction, to know what Christ really meant by
them. Otherwise, we can easily misinterpret these divine words.
To be sure, Christ did not
say that we should generate our wealth in a dishonest way. “No
servant can serve two masters,” he said. “You cannot serve God and
mammon.” We should avoid dishonesty.
What Christ really wanted
to say was that since we cannot avoid dishonest wealth given our
wounded and sinful condition that often leads us to be dishonest, we
just have to make sure that we use that dishonest wealth properly
while trying to eliminate dishonesty wherever it is found.
In another part of the
gospel, he already warned his apostles, and us, about the naked
reality of our life in this world. “I am sending you out like sheep
among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as
doves.” (Mt 10,16) In short, we have to learn to deal with this
condition. We are not yet in Paradise.
Christ wants us to know
how to cope with this ugly condition of our life here on earth, and
even convert it into something that is good, purifying and
redeeming. What usually happens is that the so-called “good people,”
or those who want to follow Christ or who want to be holy, get so
idealistic that they would be at a loss as to how to deal with the
ugly reality of our earthly sojourn.
Thus, he made this
reproach: “The sons of this age are more shrewd in dealing with
their own kind than are the sons of light.” (Lk 16,8) These words
were spoken after Christ in a parable commended the shrewd manager
who made some arrangements after he was given notice of being fired.
Of course, using dishonest
wealth properly can be done in many ways. One could be that it has
to be returned to where that wealth rightfully comes from. If that
is not possible anymore for one reason or another, then it can be
used to atone or to make up for whatever damage the dishonest way of
acquiring may have caused.
Thus, in that episode of
Christ meeting the rich chief tax collector Zaccheus, Christ again
commended the rich man for what the tax collector did with those
whom he may have cheated. (cfr Lk 19,1-10)
“Lord, I give half of my
possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of
anything, I will pay back four times the amount,” said Zaccheus. And
Christ answered: “Today salvation has come to this house, because
this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek
and to save the lost.” (Lk 19,8-10)
Or that dishonest wealth
can be used to do some good or to promote the common good of
society. In all of this, we should try our best to undo any
practice, system, structure, culture or lifestyle that generates
this dishonest wealth.
We have to be realistic in
dealing with the actual realities of our life. This does not mean
that we have to make compromises in our morality. In fact, given the
unavoidable unpleasant things in life, we have to be most clear and
sharp in distinguishing between what is good and evil, what is moral
Only in this way would we
know how to deal with dishonest and sinful practices in this life.
It would be good to review the principles to guide us regarding the
distinction between formal, that is, intentional cooperation in
evil, on one hand, and material cooperation, on the other hand. We
need to be experts in the latter, given the facts of life.