BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa



Scriptural References: Amos 8:4-7; Luke 16:1-13

The prophet Amos is well known as the prophet of social justice because he expressed his anger against cruel business people whose business was not guided by any form of morality. In the quest for profit, the prices of products continued to rise and the poorer people’s purchasing power was steadily diminishing. The business people at that time boasted about their cheating habits when they tampered with scales of measurement, which they use to cheat customers. These business people forgot that ill-gotten wealth has no lasting value (Proverbs 10:2).

Amos confronted these business people who were brutal in the manipulation, exploitation, and deception of the poor in making super-profits. If Amos was to come back to our modern world today, he would be amazed at how some business people have developed smooth and sophisticated means of expanding their profits. It is glaringly evident that the drive for profits has made the world such a restless and noisy place; a world that has little or no time and space for God. There are business people today who wait for Christmas and other religious festivities, not for the spiritual gains of these seasons, but just as a special time to hike the price of their products and services.

My little town Malumfashi is highly populated by farmers and there I have seen how harvested farm products are bought by middlemen at peanut prices and then sold to big corporations and multi-national companies. Among these products are maize, beans, pepper, and other food and cash crops. In the end, these exploited farmers have no decent houses, schools, or even food or clothes. In other parts of the country where cocoa farming is common, these products are exported for chocolates and beverages and yet the average child in the village who farms the cocoa does not even know how the chocolate tastes. More still, there was only one Commercial Bank in Malumfashi for nearly three decades. In the last 15 years, there are about six other banks emerged and are competing fiercely for customers and cashing in on their poverty and wooing them with big loans that have strings of super interests attached. Undoubtedly, the aggressive competition in the business world is similar to that which takes place in the ocean where the big fish consumes the little ones.

The big corporations and the multinationals are so strong today that they have become the kingmakers who have the power to depose and impose governments, especially in developing countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. They make their mega-profits and smile at the banks and the governments can do little to control their greed and insatiable quest for profits. Some of these corporations have sparked chaos and wars in countries and destroyed communities in their aggressive business exploits. They have put profit ahead of people.

Jesus narrates a story of a manager who was accused of wasting resources. He was given time to put his books in order before he was fired. He knew he would be fired shortly and so he devised a strategy of survival afterward. He thought no one would trust him enough to give him a similar appointment, he would be too weak for another strenuous work and he would be too ashamed to beg. To win some friends who would sympathise with him, he decided to be kind to some of the major debtors by cancelling some percentage of what they owed. Jesus praised this manager for his shrewdness. This parable of the astute manager in the Gospel of Luke may be confusing because it would appear as if Jesus was encouraging dishonesty. That is beside the point. Jesus praised him for his prudence and foresight. The astute steward intelligently used his position as manager to secure a place for himself in the future. The manager used the money to gain acceptance from the debtors. In the modern world, he would be called a ‘smart guy.’ Will Rogers, a witty actor, and comedian once said, “Education never helped morals. The smarter the guy, the bigger the rascal.” Jesus knew the amount of energy, intelligence, and time people invest in profit-making strategies and survival. He calls the children of light to also be creative and smart in working for their salvation and in securing a place for the future that comes in the life hereafter. In giving this parable, Jesus wishes to tell his listeners that they must think beyond this life and make provision for a future that lasts forever and not just for the temporal future for which the astute servant planned. He wishes to make his listeners realise that they need to invest their time and energy not just in working for perishable profits but for spiritual values. This steward is called an unjust steward, but Jesus expects his followers to be just stewards who make the best use of earthly resources to gain heavenly rewards.

In our world today, it is very easy to spend money on so many things around us. Debit cards and credit cards make it easy to spend our resources and buy too many things. As wise stewards, we should try to live within our resources and exercise some self-control in extravagant spending. One of the finest footballers in history, George Best, lived an extravagant life and he once said: “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds, and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.” The gospel is a challenge for us to re-examine how we use the resources given to us by God. Jesus concludes that we cannot serve both God and money. This is to say that we should not be too materialistic to undermine the spiritual or too concerned about life here on earth to the extent of neglecting the life hereafter. The book of Ecclesiastes says, ‘whoever loves money will never have enough money (Ecclesiastes 5:10).

Generally, we know that every business thrives with good profits and so business should not only be run for profits only but should be guided by good principles.

A business, which is run on good and honest principles, does not have any match and it advertises itself because it acknowledges that honesty is the best policy. St. Peter advises, ‘as each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold gifts of God (1 Peter 4:10). Finally, St. Paul advises us to pray fervently for our leaders and those in authorities (1 Tim. 6:1) and he says so because leaders who make policies for government and businesses. Once we have leaders who are guided by Christian principles, we can be sure that they would guide us towards making our community a better place.

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