Faithfulness in giving
Am 8: 4-7; I Tm 2: 1-8; Lk 16: 1-13
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
September 22, 2013
At a local casino in San Pablo, a robber wearing a mask jumped into the path of a well-dressed man, stuck a gun in his side and demanded “Give me your money.” Feeling angered, the well dressed looking man said, “You can’t do this. I’m a United States Congressman!” To which the robber replied, “Well then, give me my money.”
I was reading the news on Huff Post this morning and came across a news in JINAN, China where a Chinese court has convicted fallen politician Bo Xilai of corruption and sentenced him to life in prison, capping one of the country’s most lurid political scandals in decades.
Huffpost reports that the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court convicted the former Politburo member and Chongqing city Communist Party chief on charges of taking bribes, embezzlement and abuse of power. He was sentenced to life in prison on the bribery charges, 15 years for embezzlement and seven years for abuse of power.
On another news, Philippines court filed charges on some senators and many congressmen relative to abuse of funds meant to support the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or the Pork barrel system. These funds are intended by the Philippine government to help local cooperatives and non government organization projects through their respective provincial congressional representatives. The Pork Barrel System has been the practice of this government for years as was introduced by the United States Government in her early years. But these Philippine public officials diverted millions of people’s money to a non existent non government organizations with fake signatures and used them for their personal use.
Ruth Cortez, a famous filipino activist whom I met over the weekend at the Buenavista United Methodist Church in Alameda, pointed out that the only difference between the US and the Philippines in implementing this system is: In the United States, a fund can only be released when the project proposal is made and all requirements submitted. In the Philippines however, the money is given to the law makers before even a project proposal is made and all requirements submitted. It is sickening to the people to learn that a bridge was funded without the actual bridge made, and photos of completion were submitted but was actually taken from another provincial project and not such particular one. The people are robbed and now they are retaliating saying, “Give us back our money.”
The United States does not wash hands on this as well. Remember the time when Banks would lure you to apply for refinance? At the end of the day, you will be surprised of hidden charges that accumulated and which resulted to your house value to be underwater. Oh and that they say, “You can use the money to improve your house, get away for vacation in the Caribbean and all those luring techniques where we, like a hungry fish would take the bait and go away with a hook on our throat. And now, collecting departments bug your telephone and even you change your phone number, they have ways to get to you and offer you half prize of what you owe them, and because it sounds inviting, you get to bite the same bait to finally get off of it.
This reminded of a story about a department store clerk who had broken all sales records by being clever. Modestly disclaiming credit, he explained to his boss, “A customer came in, and I sold him some fishhooks. “You’ll need a line for those hooks,” I said, and sold him some line. Then I told him, “you have to have a rod to go with the line.” and I sold him a rod. “You ought to have a boat so you can use your new rod in deep water.” I suggested, and sold him a boat. Next I told him, “You’ll need a boat trailer,” and he fell for that, too. Finally, I said, “How will you pull the trailer without a car?” And guess what? He bought my car.” And the boss said, “But I assigned you to the greeting card department.”
That’s right, ” the salesman nodded. “This customer came in for a get well card for his girl, who had a broken hip. When I heard that, I said to him, “You haven’t got anything to do for six weeks, so you might as well go fishing.”
The book of Amos was written 750 years before Christ. At a time of an ever widening gap between the wealthy few and the destitute masses, Amos had the courage to protest openly against the materialistic, rich, and sophisticated leaders who were so greedy as to exploit the poor. Many of the Israelites were so greedy that their worship of God was only an empty ritual. Like scrooge at Christmas, they couldn’t wait for the end of the holy days so that they could get back to work for business profits. Not only that: They would make greater profit by cheating their customers. They would short weight the bushel by adding stones to tip the scales. They would sell debtors into slavery for failing to pay for even a pair of sandals. They would mix the refuse of the wheat with the good grain they sold. I remember when a whole chicken was sold by the weight. It was heavy that it costs so much. I found out later that the dealers would inject water into them.
Amos spoke of social injustice as being blasphemy against God.
In todays second reading, St Paul reminded young Timothy that when we worship, it must be with blameless hands which means positive involvement as well as distinct attempts at fairness. The silence of ordinary people has been the most decisive political act of our time. “The love of money is the root of all evil” St Paul reminded Timothy. Love of money becomes the root of our being driven away from our relationship with God when we divulge ourselves to loving money and become greedy and forget the needs of your fellow human beings as well as the purpose of what God wants us to use the wealth entrusted to us to become good stewards.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us we need to be just as clever in planning for a future for ourselves, and it’s not just for the few years we spend on this earth that we have to provide, but also for our time in eternity. So if our best future lies in heaven, then we must all take active interest in our future.
The Gospel also warns us against amassing money/wealth as if that is the source of eternal bliss. In fact, the opposite is true. Each of us can write a short history of our money in six words: “Here it is. There it goes.” On the other hand, Jesus is suggesting that we use money wisely. One way of using money is to give to the poor. Those who receive it become our friends now and in heaven later.
Another statement that Jesus makes on how to shape our future is: “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones.” Little drops of water, little grains of sand make the might ocean. So too, our great doing of little things, makes the great life and the responsible use of little things on earth determine our great reward in heaven.
I thank all of you who participated in the pledging program as your act of thanksgiving to God for the many enumerable blessings you received, including your life and family. We may fall short in attaining our financial goal this year, but I must say, you have all contributed, small and great, toward the implementation of the vision and mission of this Church and I thank you for that. Your faithfulness to do God’s purpose will reward you great in heaven.
Faithfulness in little things is a big thing. Hence let us be aware; when we neglect little deeds of kindness, little words of love or little acts of forgiveness, we are neglecting our duty to shape our future which is a kingdom of love, unity and peace. Amen.