Sept. 26, 2010 —Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
What kind of steward are you? The Gospel reading from Luke 16 really challenges us. Oh, we may try to get around it by maintaining that we aren’t stewards, that we’ve never committed ourselves to the practice of stewardship. But, like it or not, you are a steward. You are responsible to God for how you use what he has entrusted to you. You may be a good steward, or a bad steward, or a mediocre steward, but you are a steward. So, what kind of steward are you?
One of the challenges in Luke 16 is that the passage makes a connection between sin and the type of stewardship we practice. If you don’t see the connection, it’s probably because most of us have been given a limited understanding of sin.
We usually think of sins as the bad things people do, such as stealing, sexual sins, and murder. If we think about it a little more, we may add other examples like gossiping, lying, and excessive gambling.
But when we get down to it, what is sin? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity” (1849). And in explaining the different kinds of sins, the Catechism goes on to teach us, “Sins can be distinguished… as sins in thought, word, deed, or omission” (1853).
And that last kind is what the rich man in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus was guilty of, sins of omission. Jesus did not say that the Rich Man (usually called Dives, from the Latin for “rich man”) had harmed poor Lazarus in any way. He had not stolen from him or cheated him. There is no hint that Dives ordered his servants to drive Lazarus from the doorway or threatened him. Apparently Dives ignored Lazarus – and that was his sin.
Dives was rich, very rich if he “dressed in purple garments and fine linen” as well as dining “sumptuously each day.” He could easily afforded occasionally giving some food to Lazarus, who would have appreciated the leftovers from Dives’s meals or even the sweepings of the scraps that fell on the floor, but he was offered nothing.
Dives was indeed guilty of sin, not the sins of commission (the bad things we do in thought, word, or deed) but the sin of omission, omitting doing the good we can. He could easily have done good to Lazarus but didn’t bother. He was guilty of a “failure in genuine love for God and neighbor.” His lack of caring injured “human solidarity,” to use the Catechism’s phrase. And so self-centered was Dives that he apparently didn’t even think of his brothers until after he had died and it was too late.
So what about us? Are we good stewards with the time, the talent, and the treasure God has given us? Do we use them to serve God and his Church and other people – our family and friends and neighbors and the wider human community?
Jesus did not intend this parable to teach us that it’s wrong to have decent clothes and delicious food. It is reasonable to have a comfortable home, and we need time for relaxation and refreshment.
But it is wrong – sinful – to keep all that’s entrusted to us for our own enjoyment. It’s wrong to omit doing good because we can’t be bothered. For our own spiritual health, we need to use some of our time, share the fruits of our talent, and offer a portion of our treasure for others. Unless we do, we become like Dives and are guilty of the sin of omission, of not doing the good we can. And we’ll be judged to have been very poor stewards indeed.