Sermon: “People Make the World Go ‘Round”

Luke 16:1-13
Seventeenth Sunday of Pentecost
September 22, 2013
First Christian Church
Mahtomedi, MN

people make the world go roundIf there’s one thing that I absolutely love, is listening to R&B music from the early 1970s.  I picked this up basically by osmosis.  My Dad would sometimes go downstairs and listen to music on his combination record player/8 track tape player.  The three or four year old version of me would be downstairs doing what kids did and I would hear the music by such acts like Marvin Gaye or the Spinners or the Stylistics.  Those songs were imprinted into my brain circa 1973 and remain in my grey matter to this day.

A lot of these songs came in the wake of the 1960s and the social movements that took place during that era.  Which meant that you would find songs talking about war, and poverty and the environment.  The poppy Motown sound had given way to a more grittier version of R&B that focused on the issues of the day.  Maybe the best example was the album, What’s Going On, by Marvin Gaye.

One of those songs was one called “For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays.  It was released in 1973 and became a top ten hit for the group.  You have probably heard the song; it begins with a deep thumping bass line that plays throughout the whole song and at some point the group starts singing a background lyric where you hear the word money sung several times.  The song is based on First Timothy 6:10, which starts, “For the Love of Money is the root of all evil.”  Clearly this is a song about the dangers of greed.  Here are some of the lyrics:

For the love of money

People will steal from their mother

For the love of money

People will rob their own brother

For the love of money

People can’t even walk the street

Because they never know who in the world they’re gonna beat

For that lean, mean, mean green

When you read today’s text today, or at least when I was reading it, this song came to mind.  Now, this parable, the Parable of the Dishonest Manager, is one of the most confusing and downright bizarre stories that Jesus has ever told.

We have a manager that isn’t performing up to expectation, so his boss was getting ready to fire him.  The manager was interested in going down to the unemployment office, let alone find a lower paying job.  He came up with an idea: he was going to treat the farmers who were the clients of the rich man with a bit of kindness in the hope that he would be treated with kindness when he lost his job.  So, he meets with each client and reduces the amount they owe the rich man.  One person that owed 900 gets his bill cut in half.  Another get their bill cut but 25 percent and so on.  Word gets around to the the dishonest manager’s boss.  Now, one would expect that the rich man would have been steamed and maybe would have hauled his employee’s glutemus maximus before the authorities for his shady dealings.

But he doesn’t do that.  No, he commends the manager for his shrewdness.

So, what’s the point of this parable?  I will admit that it’s hard to figure that out.  The manager should have been fired AND been arrested for what seemed close to embezzling.  Instead, he is loved by everyone.  The tenants loved him because he lowered their debts; the rich man loves him because the shady manager gave the rich guy good PR.

What if Jesus was using this scoundrel to make a point?  What if Jesus is telling those around him that what was important was not money but developing relationships with people?  What if the savvy nature of the manager, as unseemingly as it was, remind us that even if we have cunning and monetary themes, what matters, what allows us to survive is the relationships we make?

What does this parable have to say to us?

We live in a culture where we don’t like to talk about money, even though we swim in this very consumeristic culture.  The church isn’t any better; we hate talking about money, especially pastors.  But we all deal  with money.  What matters to God is how we deal with money- does it bring people together or push them apart?  The dishonest manager was able to save himself by giving away money, the rich man’s money, but he gave it away nonetheless.

How we use money matters to God.  As Jesus notes, we can’t serve both money and God.  Money should be a means to an end, as it was for the manager- to allow him to lead the life he had grown accustomed to, but it was still a means to an end.

There is another song from the early 70s that I love.  It’s another hit by the group the Stylistics called “People Make the World Go ‘Round.” This song is kind of the antithesis of “For the Love of Money,” in that it talks about all the various people, both good and bad that make up this crazy place called home. The lyrics go:

Trashmen didn’t get my trash today

Oh, why? Because they want more pay

Buses on strike want a raise in fare

So they can help pollute the air

But that’s what makes the world go ’round

The up and down, the carousel

Changing people, they’ll go around

Go underground, young man

People make the world go ’round

Wall Street losin’ dough on ev’ry share

They’re blaming it on longer hair

Big men smokin’ in their easy chairs

On a fat cigar without a care

But that’s what makes the world go ’round

The up and down, the carousel

Changing people, they’ll go around

Go underground, young man

People make the world go ’round

People make the world go around.  No matter what we do, no matter how much we have in the bank, what matters is not how much we have, but the people we have around us.  When we act justly with our sisters and brothers, we are showing that God and God’s ways are more important than making money.

People make the world go round.  Thanks be to God. Amen.

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