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Lenten Journey Day 23: Schmoozing
Of all the topics we have discussed during the Lenten season, did you ever think we would talk about “schmoozing?”
The word schmoozing implies disingenuous feelings, a type of insincerity. Interestingly enough, Jesus turned the schmoozer into the hero of his story. Of course, I’m talking about the insincere, unjust and dishonest steward, the story from which we have been learning for the past two days but today we do so from yet another angle.
Remember, the steward is one who has been trusted by his boss, to manage the business affairs – the boss’ wealth and assets. As the story goes, it turns out that this steward is a crooked man. He is a man who has stolen and found to be dishonest. As he is being fired by his employers he is ordered to give “an accounting of your stewardship!”
The story continues, as Jesus tells it, like this:
So he thought to himself, “I’m not strong enough to dig. And I’m ashamed to beg. I know what I’ll do so when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.” So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” “800 gallons of olive oil,” he replied. The manager told him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly and make it 400.” Then he asked the second, “And how much do you owe?” “A thousand bushels of wheat.” He replied, “Take your bill and make it 800.”
What is this steward up to? He is taking what does not belong to him and he is using it for his profit. Interesting. You would think that his boss would be more upset. But Jesus turns the situation around. “The master,” Jesus says, “commended the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly…” And the justification? Jesus continues “…for the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than the people of light. I tell you use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves so when it is gone you will be welcomed in eternal dwellings.”
This can be very confusing on the surface. In fact, something as disingenuous as schmoozing becomes a norm for this person and he is commended for his behavior. He is applauded for his shrewdness. But the justification statement is very important. When Jesus says, “the children of this world are more shrewd in their dealings than the children of light” he is telling us that while we are here in this world we need to use the tools that are given to us. We must find the language of this world to better understand one another and function together – to communicate, so that we can implement and do the work that is necessary. Of course, confusion can arise because it sounds foreign based on our prejudices. That is, we are conditioned to believe that religious individuals do not opt for disingenuous means. That is, this does not sound “religious.” But that is the beauty of what Jesus is teaching us and the beauty of our Church Fathers’ direction at this point in Lent.
During this second half of the Lenten Journey we are coming down off the mountain top, as we are looking ahead at life on earth. We have to understand that this is a real life. Sadly, many times the religious community wrongly places its emphasis on a life to come forgetting that our life here is one of beauty, one that needs to be cared for and one with which we need to interact. Today we know that there are many problems in the world. There are wars, famines, injustice and an absence of peace on every corner of the globe. On a very personal level, we know of disease and illness. Relationships have gone awry. Families are being destroyed by our materialistic desires. Drugs are coming into the lives of our children and wreaking havoc. All these things Jesus tells us are real. Don’t think that you can avoid them. However, he gives us the tools to deal with our real problems. Those tools are not the holy ones we expect, rather they are rooted in the ways of the world. It figures. To deal with the issues of this world, you need the tools of this world.
Overcome the problems that you have using the tools and the talents that God has given you. As you do so, you begin to see the big picture and your place within it. You have the tools to do anything, even bring about peace. That anger and hatred that escalate into war and genocide, poverty, sickness, disease, pollution and then manifest themselves into cancers and the cancer of hunger, can all be solved by using “worldly wealth” – money – to bring about God’s justice here in this world. The schmoozing is up to us.
Thank God we have this opportunity of Lent to set ourselves right. God has given us those tools. Look around and find the places where you can use that talent, where you can schmooze… and using the language of this world, better our situation and work to make dreams into reality.
Remember, this life is beautiful. This life, right now, is worth living. This life is what God has given you. Do not look out beyond yourself and your life. Do not look at something or some life to come. It is this life that is God’s gift. Enjoy it. Schmooz. Make a difference in the lives you touch. He has given you everything you need to make it and make this the beautiful life that He intends it to be.
Let us pray the prayer of St. Nerses Shnorhali:
I confess with faith and adore You, O light indivisible, simultaneous Holy Trinity and one Godhead, creator of light and dispeller of darkness. Dispel from my soul the darkness of sin and ignorance and at this hour, enlighten my mind that I may pray to you according to your will and receive from you the fulfillment of my supplications. Have mercy upon all your creatures, and upon me a great sinner. Amen. (I Confess with Faith 2/24)
Photo: (c)2009 Fr. Vazken Movsesian