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Ryan P.

Tinetti EN-105 Major project

Friends with Mammon: An Exegetical Study of Luke 16v1-9 PART 1: TEXT AND TRANSLATION 1 He also1 began saying to the disciples, A certain man was rich who had a manager, and this one was accused to him as squandering his possessions.2 2 And calling him, he said to him, What is this I am hearing about you? Surrender the account3 of your management, for you are not able to be manager anymore. 3 And the manager said to himself, What will I do, since my master is taking away the management from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4 Aha! I know4 what Ill do so that when I am removed from managing they will receive me5 into their homes! 5 So after summoning each one of his masters debtors, he began saying to the first, How much do you owe my master? 6 And the first debtor said6, One hundred barrels7 of olive oil. And he said to him, Take what you owe8 and quickly sit down9 and write, Fifty. 7 Then to another he said, And youhow much do you owe? The man said, A thousand bushels10 of wheat. He says11 to him, Take what you owe and write, Eight hundred. 8 And the

Martin Scharlemann, Proclaiming the Parables (St. Louis: CPH, 1963), 83, notes, de; kai; is a favorite transition device of St. Luke[It] shows that the parable connects to the previous chapter. 2 From uJpa;rcw, this form is often used as a substantive, denoting ones property (e.g., Luke 11v21, 12v33, 14v33; see BDAG, 1029). 3 Kenneth Bailey, Poet and Peasant (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 97, points out that the definite article with lo;gon precludes the translation an account. 4 e[gnwn is an aorist for present action (aka dramatic aorist); see Stanley E. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament (Sheffield: SAP, 1999), 36. 5 The indefinite 3rd person plural verb de;xwntai is a Semitic substitute for the passive voice (Joseph Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke, X-XXIV [AB 28A; New York: Doubleday, 1985], 1100). Cf. v9. 6 Since the Greek oJ de; signals a change of speaker, for the sake of clarity I have made explicit the speaker. 7 Louw & Nida (Johannes Louw and Eugene Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains [2 vols.; New York: UBS, 1988-89], 81.20), noting the potential symbolic significance of the numeral 100, suggest 100 barrels as dynamically equivalent to ba;to~roughly 9 gallons. D and 1241 read ka;dou~, a significantly smaller amount, probably to make the parable less fantastic. 8 Literally your letters, used as an idiom for an account, oras I have translated, following Louw & Nida (33.39)an account of your debt: what you owe. 9 The awkward phrase kaqi;sa~ tace;w~ is omitted in D, but is best explained as a participle of attendant circumstance, communicating an action thatis coordinate with the finite verb (Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996], 640). 10 The Greek ko;ro~, from the Hebrew r/K, amounts to between ten and twenty bushels, and so I have approximated 1,000 (cf. BDAG). 11 le;gei, a sudden slip into the historic present.


boss praised12 the manager of unrighteousness13 because he acted shrewdly. For the sons of this age are shrewder in dealing with their own generation than are the sons of light. 9 And I myself say to you, make friends for yourselves14 by means of unrighteous wealth15, so that when it fails you will be received16 into the eternal dwellings. PART 2: COMMENTARY I. Introduction The New Testament has been so doggedly pursued over the last two millennia that almost no passage has eluded the grasp of commentators and exegetes. Every iota and keraia has been agonized over; no petra has been left unturned. Which makes the parable at the beginning of Luke 16 that much more enticing. There are nearly as many interpretations to it as it has interpreterseach with their own slant on the story that supposedly wrangles it for good. Kenneth Bailey is typical in calling Luke 16v1-9 the most difficult of all the synoptic parables.17 The novice exegete, then, approaches the text with a certain degree of trepidation. The parable itself,18 of course, is straight-forward enough: a profligate manager plays fast and loose with his masters goods and is subsequently caughtand canned; with the imminent end of the world as he knows it, the manager needs to cook up a scheme to ensure a roof over his head; he (someway) cancels a portion of what is owed by

Compare the Greek ejpaine;w with ejpaite;w in v3 as a possible wordplay: the steward would have had to pray, but he ends up being praised. 13 A straightforward objective genitive, contra the attributive (Hebraic) genitive favored by most translations. See commentary below. 14 eJautoi`~, used in the second person, with a dative of advantage. 15 Literally mammon of unrighteousness, this is more likely a case of the Hebraic genitive (cf. n.13). 16 de;xwntai is again the Semitic substitute for the passive; see n.5 above. 17 Bailey, Poet and Peasant, 187. 18 I take the parable proper to be 16v1-8. There is also plenty of debate on this point, of course, but entering into those discussions is beyond the purview of this paper. -2-


his masters debtors; the master commends his shrewdness. So the story goes, without much dispute. No, the problem with the parable is its applicationprovided by Jesus in verse 9: Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, in order that when it gives out they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. So Robert Farrar Capon points out, 16:9 is the verse that did all the attracting to begin with and is therefore the crux interpretum of the whole passage.19 Friends with mammon? Since when, Jesus? To ease the tension before we get too far, let me briefly lay my cards on the table right here at the outset. The parable, which I entitle the shrewd manager, is what James Voelz calls a piety parable: it instructs disciples of Jesus in their response to the coming reign of God.20 It has a low degree of correspondence to realitythat is, the author does not intend it as an allegory, per se, but rather as a story making a single point. Within the diverse interpretations of details, two main explications of this point prevail: Some take it to teach shrewdness in the use of our money; others, prudence in the time of crisis.21 With Blomberg, though, I do not see these as mutually exclusive. In view of the eschatological crisis of the coming reign of God, the disciple is exhorted to make shrewd use of mammonwhich mammon he will be unavoidably involved with and which, if he is not careful, will compromise his allegiance to God and so leave him out in the cold

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Robert Farrar Capon, Parables of Grace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 145. See James W. Voelz, What Does This Mean? (2nd Ed; St. Louis: CPH, 1995), 301-315. 21 Craig Blomberg, Interpreting the Parables (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1990), 246. -3-


(heat?), so to speak, on Judgment Day. With this goal in view, let us now broach the hardest parable.22 II. Narrative analysis Overview of Luke The Gospel according to Luke is the narrative of the world-upending good news of Jesus the Messiah. The tone is set thematically in the Magnificat of chapter 1a song in praise of God my savior: He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1v51-53) John the Baptist carries this narrative theme along when he arrives preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (3v3). The fruits of this repentance are principally economic in character (3v10-14). Then, Jesus himself identifies his ministry with the liberating proclamation of Isaiah 61: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4v18) A kingdom is coming that is not aligned with the ways of the world; it is, if you like, a backward kingdom, in which the lowly are exalted, the poor blessed, and the bound freed (cf. 6v20-26). Lukes narrative delineates this kingdom as present in Jesus himself, Gods eschatological Messiah, who is summoning disciples to follow himallowing no worldly attachment to intervene (9v57-62; 14v25-33). The narrative, in short, is of a

Capon, Parables of Grace, 145. -4-


Messiah who turns the worlds economies on their ear, and calls disciples to comply with this economy, living under his backward kingdom. In Lukes narrative, a decisive turn takes place at 9v51: Jesus sets his face for Jerusalem and the fate awaiting him there. The portion of the narrative that follows, in which our present text is located, extends through chapter 19, and consists primarily of Jesus teachings as he goes through the villages and towns. In the immediate context of the narrative, Jesus has responded to the grumbling of the scribes and Pharisees at his welcoming of tax collectors and sinners (15v1-2) by offering a series of parables to the effect that God is pursuing all men in the hope that they would repent and trust in him. Now, in the beginning of chapter 16, his attention turns to his disciplesthough verse 14 makes apparent that the prior audience is not out of earshot. Narrative analysis of Luke 16v1-9 The parable itself consists of five characters and five scenes. (Our passage as a whole comprises a sixth scene: Jesus application in verse 9.) Before considering each section of the parable in greater depth, we offer a brief survey of characters and scenes. The first character is the rich man (plou;sio~) of verse 1, whom I deem to be the master (ku;rio~) of verse 8. Bailey would have us view him as an upright man23: The wealthy, distant, foreign, ruthless landowner is unknown in the synoptic parables.24 For the implied reader, then, the master is a generally positive and trustworthy character. The second character and protagonist is the manager/steward (oijkono;mo~). The parable

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Bailey, Poet and Peasant, 87. Ibid., 90. -5-


informs the reader from the start that he is disreputable, but as the story unfolds it becomes clear that he is to be sympathized with. The third and fourth characters are a pair of the masters debtors. They are essentially props for the parable and thus are strictly onedimensional in characterization. The fifth character, if we are to call him such, is Jesus himself as the narrator. He is a reliable narrator, and so both his storytelling and his application are to be trustedif not immediately understood! The implied reader is thus bound to accept Jesus words at face value. The parables opening scene (v1) provides the backstory for the relationship of the master and the manager, and the precipitating issue: accusations of unfaithful stewardship. The second scene (v2) presents the crisis: the accused manager is summarily fired. The third scene (v3-4) is the fired managers soliloquy contemplating his future, and makes for the storys rising action. In fine dramatic fashion, a resolution is reached but not disclosed, thereby raising the suspense. In the climactic fourth scene (v5-7), we see the managers plan play out, as he forgives some of what is owed by his masters debtors. The fifth scenes denouement (v8) depicts the managers vindication, as the master commends his shrewdness in the face of crisis. Finally, Jesusin the sixth scene of the passage (v9) provides application and the upshot of the parable: eternal welcome is ensured by following the managers shrewd example. Now, as best as we can, let us attend to some of the more difficult details of the parable to substantiate the interpretation here proposed.



III. Scene analysis Scene I: Backstory We are told in the first scene that this story is about a rich man and his manager, evoking Jesus earlier parable in the travel narrative about a master who leaves his stewards to oversee his estate while he is gone (12v35-48). The thrust of that parable is end-time judgment and the faithfulness of disciples in the intervening period.25 Similar themes are rightly to be expected in the present text. The parable begins with an anonymous tip to a rich man concerning his manager: hes being ripped-off. Marshall asserts that, since it was accused to him rather than him discovering on his own, this suggests that the rich man is an absentee landlord.26 Following Bailey, however (see above), I do not see this to be the case: concerned members of the community are simply acting as whistle-blowers to the managers ruse. His possessions (ta; uJpa;rconta) is sufficiently vague, and it need not be conjectured just what possessions the manager has squandered and how; the point is that he has indeed squandered them. This initial issue sets the stage for what follows, rather than a supposed disgrace to the master (though it is no doubt that as well): It is better to take the story as developing on the basis of the steward having been found out than as turning upon the honor of the master.27

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John Nolland, Luke 9:21-18:34 (Word 35B; Dallas: Word, 1993), 705. I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 617. 27 Nolland, Luke 9:21-18:34, 797. -7-


Scene II: Crisis The rich man wastes no time. Calling the manager in, he keeps the discussion to a minimum. What is this I am hearing about you? has the force, not so much of a genuine question (which it is at the locutionary Level 1) but of a rebuke: You have done wrong Bailey notes, The word order is Semitic, idiomatic, and forceful.28 The master is not asking for the manager to give an explanation (i.e. Offer me an account) but to surrender the paperwork detailing his management. By decrying the ability of the manager to manage any longer, the master is in fact denying his admission to do so: he is, in effect, fired. We might further note that this speech act of the master is performative in nature, for it accomplishes what it says in the very act of saying it. Bailey supports this contention by calling to our attention that, as far as the master is concerned, the manager is at this very moment released of all duties: Legally his authority as an agent is immediately cancelled.29 And yetit is as far as the master is concerned. Until the word spreads to the community, the fired manager is still able to exercise his authority. This window is what allows for the action that follows. The function of this scene in the narrative is therefore as the crisis that brings about the ensuing action. The significance is that the steward is now facing impending judgmentand for those with ears to hear, we might say that its judgment of eschatological proportions.


Bailey, Poet and Peasant, 96. Bailey also considers the apparent silence of the manager significant, but I thinkgiven the force of the masters questionno opportunity for a response by the manager is intended. 29 Ibid., 97. -8-


Scene III: Rising action The manager now contemplates his choices in a soliloquy that provides the rising action for the narrative.30 He is faced with some unseemly choices for a man of his social stature on account of the inevitable disgrace his dismissal will bring him. We infer from his exclamation in verse 4 that his goal is to make sure that he keeps a roof over his head. With such a goal in mind, he mulls over a pair of alternative career paths: digging and panhandling. These were not desirable solutions. Nolland notes, Begging and manual labor were the steps immediately above slavery in the social scale.31 The sheer fact that the manager reckons these as possibilities demonstrates how grievous his situation is since, Bailey writes, An educated man in authority is not expected to consider manual laborSurprisingly, his only reason is his physical weakness.32 On the other hand, that he rejects begging is to his credit in a society that accepts begging as a legitimate, although despised, profession.33

Fitzmyer, Gospel According to Luke, 1101, points out the presence of similar monologues in Lukes gospel at 12v45, 15v17, 18v4-5, and 20v13. 31 Nolland, Luke 9:21-18:34, 798. 32 Bailey, Poet and Peasant, 98. 33 Ibid. Nestle-Aland suggests that there may be an echo here of an oracle concerning Jerusalem in Isaiah 22: 15 Thus says the Lord God of hosts, Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: 16 What have you to do here, and whom have you here, that you have cut out here a tomb for yourself, you who cut out a tomb on the height and carve a dwelling for yourself in the rock? 17 Behold, the Lord will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you 18 and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die, and there shall be your glorious chariots, you shame of your master's house. 19 I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station. No commenter consulted, though, picks up on this, and any proposed significance is dubious. -9-


Then, in verse 4, we have the Eureka! moment. The grammar (see note __) reinforces the drama of the moment, as the manager has an epiphany that, we are led to believe, will solve his predicament. The goal, as we noted above, is to ensure shelter. The scene fades, and we as the reader/listener await to witness the unfolding of his plan. Scene IV: Climax Now we arrive at the parables climax and the resolution of the crisis depicted in Scene II. In few other places in Lukes gospel is the interpreter so keenly aware of the gulf separating him from Lukes first century, Near Eastern context than here. A host of questions about the cultural setting are apropos to what followsand commentators, to varying degrees of satisfaction, have answered them. In the present analysis we can only briefly touch on a couple of these questions. First, with respect to the debtors whom the steward summons: are these simple peasants, or more wealthy entrepreneurs? Nolland, judging from the large amounts owed by the debtors, writes, The master is dealing with large-scale business associates here, not with ordinary people and ordinary economic levels.34 These are movers and shakers from the community. Second, and more importantly, what exactly is the manager doing when he enjoins the debtors to mark down what they owe? Specifically, is the manager indulging in further squandering of his masters estate,35 or is he relinquishing some of his own incomeeither commission or kickback? Nolland favors the former, stating, If the steward has been

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Nolland, Luke 9:21-18:34, 799. Marshall (Gospel of Luke, 614) calls this the obvious interpretation of the story. - 10 -


pocketing the difference, then this present act would simply be to expose his own corruption to those he has formerly cheated and only now for the first time treats squarely. There is nothing here to serve as a basis for expecting a major investment of hospitality in return.36 Bailey likewise disagrees with the notion that the manager subtracts his cut.37 Marshall concedes, however, in light of Jesus application, the possibility of the latter interpretation: This interpretation gives a closer link to the interpretation (16:9) that the steward was making use of his own money, and the disciples are called to act wisely with their own money."38 I favor this latter interpretation, that the manager is relinquishing some of his own cut. Given Nollands caveat that there is finally no adequate basis for drawing into the parable the complexities of the first-century loan market,39 I rest on what makes the most sense of the narrative. As we will see, only this interpretation accounts for the subsequent action of the storynamely, the masters commendation. The resolution that the manager settled on, then, is to use his mammon to make friends (cf. v9). He forfeits some of his own wagesearned or notto mark down the accounts of the masters debtors. In other words, he takes the fall for the sake of the debtors (of course, he doesnt do it altruistically, but in order to secure future shelter now that his mammon has given out).40 Nolland directs us to the key social phenomenon that the manager is exploiting here:

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Nolland, Luke 9:21-18:34, 799. Bailey, Poet and Peasant, 88. 38 Marshall, Gospel of Luke, 615. 39 Nolland, Luke 9:21-18:34, 800. 40 If the reader picks up on possibilities for preaching here he is not far off; see Appendix. - 11 -


The ancient world ran on the basis of a reciprocity ethic: good turns given and returned. The stewards move gave him a claim upon his masters debtors that was much more secure than any contract. Public honor required that they make some appropriate return to their benefactor.41 With this cultural background, we are able to fill in the blanks of the managers plan. He has secured a home by making friends with mammon. The outcome is assured. The camera zooms in on the managers pained smirk while his mammon is subtracted from the debtors bill, and fades to black. Scene V: Denouement We turn finally to the denouement of the parable, the tying together of what loose strands remain. We are back where we started, with a showdown between manager and master. Or are we? There has been some debate in the past over the identity of oJ ku;rio~ in verse 8, whether it is Jesus or the master speaking. Marshall, however, writes, There is no evidence that demands that ho kyrios be taken to mean Jesus, and it is probable that v. 8a is an original part of the parable.42 Furthermore, among contemporary commentators, Bailey writes, It is almost universally conceded that Luke understood the master of verse 8 to be the rich man of verse 1.43 So, then, the master/rich man praised the manager of unrighteousness on account of his shrewdness. But why? Before answering that question, we need to address the translation of to;n oijkono;mon th`~ ajdiki;a~, for the way the interpreter takes this phrase

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Nolland, Luke 9:21-18:34, 803. Marshall, Gospel of Luke, 620. 43 Bailey, Poet and Peasant, 104-105. - 12 -


will impinge greatly on his interpretation of the parable as a whole. If, as most translations take it, the phrase means unjust steward or dishonest manager (so in the KJV, ESV, NIV, etc.), then we are seemingly bound to read back into the managers actions ajdiki;a; in other words, he must have been doing something inappropriate there to retain this title.44 On the other hand, if it is translated manager of unrighteousness, which is the natural way to take the genitive construction and befits the external entailment of oijkono;mo~ (viz., oijkonome;w), then another exegetical possibility arises. In verse 9 and again in verse 11, mammon is called unrighteous.45 Given the antipathy toward wealth and money throughout Lukes narrative (discussed in the narrative analysis above), and these immediate contextual clues, I think that it is reasonable to assert that ajdiki;a is metonymy here for mammon itself. Nature and nurture, character and environment, are not sharply distinguished in Lukes gospel: we are sinful people living in a sinful world. Jesus forgiveness enables and summons the disciple to live faithfully in that sinful world. Returning to the story: the manager, himself unquestionably unrighteous, was also mired in an unrighteous systemand in turning from his


I do not think that this is a necessary conclusion from that translation. If we recognize in this sceneas I think we shouldshades of the eschatological courtroom, the point could also be that the manager, though he is unrighteous, is finally vindicated because, at the time of crisis, he repented. His past notwithstanding, he is justified in the eyes of the Mastersola gratia, if you like. I offer this (perhaps too creative) interpretation by way of concession to the conventional translation; no commentators, to my knowledge, posit such exegesis.

I grant that in verse 9 there is a parallel construction to here in verse 8, with ajdiki;a as the genitive object. In response, I would say: i) Not every genitive need to be the samefor instance, the preceding verse has both possessive and objective genitives; and ii) There is a textual variant that reads a[dikou mammw`na~, suggesting a straight-forward adjectival sense. It is not, in other words, a cut and dried case.

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unrighteous ways in the face of crisis, he illustrates how would-be disciples should respond, faced with analogous circumstances.46 So, then, why does the master praise the managers shrewdness? If we accept the interpretation put forth to this point, the managers reaction in verse 8 is utterly unsurprising for the implied readerand moreover, it fits with the application that Jesus himself gives in verse 9. The fired manager divested himself of the mammon he would have received as his cut from his masters debtors, decreasing their balance, and ensuring shelter in the process due to the reciprocity ethic of his society. The apparently magnanimous master is subsequently celebrated by the community, and at no cost to himself. The only one who has taken a hit is the manager himself. The master therefore praises his former employee for his shrewdness because he found a way to use mammon to benefit all parties involved (especially himself) when he was faced with a grave crisis. The alternative is, essentially, to make the master out to be rather capricious something of an aficionado of shrewdness.47 So Nolland writes, The unlikelihood that a master who has just been swindled would consider his swindler praiseworthyhas led to theories of mistranslation, as well as to the suggestion that there is heavy irony in the masters praise.48 He concludes, However grudgingly given, a recognition of the cleverness of this fellow is not out of place.49 From this perspective, the masters reaction would have to be surprising to the implied reader, an unexpected turn in the flow of the


Bailey (Poet and Peasant, 106) grants that this interpretation is strengthened in that it would further indicate the eschatological thrust of the parable. 47 Objective genitive. 48 Nolland, Luke 9:21-18:34, 800-801. 49 Ibid. - 14 -


story.50 We would thus accordingly expect this to be the upshot of the parablee.g., God commends all those who cast all their hopes on his mercy.51 This is not, however, the direction Jesus goes; instead he points us to the managers use of mammon in the face of crisis. Scene VI: Application In conclusion, we consider the apparently cryptic application of the parable offered by Jesus that, in my estimation, is considerably elucidated by our interpretation of the parable. To make friends by means of unrighteous mammon means, more or less, what the manager does in the parable: give it away in order to curry favor. The significance of this action, however, is that you will not serve mammon, but God (cf. 16v13). Mammon, as the manager learned, inevitably gives out; eternal dwellings do not. Jesus therefore is exhorting his disciples to make faithful use of mammon, guarding against the manifold unrighteous uses available in this sinful world, by making friends through generosity and so not becoming idolatrously attached to it. Then, on the Last Day, they52 will welcome you into those eternal dwellings. We may therefore summarize the message of the passage as a whole thus. In this world you will have unrighteous mammon. Divine judgment is imminent on all unrighteousnessnot least because of covetousness. In light of this judgment, act shrewdly with your mammon. Acting shrewdly as a disciple with respect to mammon

The Message paraphrase of 16v8 betrays this: Now here's a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! This simply does not comport with Jesus unapologetic abruptness in the scene change between verses seven and eight. 51 This is essentially Baileys interpretation; see Poet and Peasant, 107. 52 Angels? The Church triumphant? Jesus himself? The text gives no indicationprobably because its beside the point, which is that you will be welcomed. - 15 -


means being detached from it (an attitude cultivated through generosity), rather than serving it. If you practice this as an expression of your faith, you will not fail to serve/be enslaved to Christ and so receive vindication on Judgment Day.53 APPENDIX: HOMILETIC APPLICATION54 Theres a lot that you can do with mammon. Eugene knew that full well. Perhaps more than anything else, this was his problem. He worked as manager of the von Himmel estate, monitoring the appetizing flow of mammon that passed between debtor and creditor, marveling at all the delicious things it could buy. But Eugene was no mere voyeur; he was more a conoisseur of mammon, you could say, and bristled when barbarians irreverently called it money. Eugene was von Himmels right-hand man, if anyone cared to know, and the thorn in the side to all the landlords debtors. Theo von Himmel held vast propertyMore than he could reasonably maintain, Eugene would demurand he let it out to the well-to-do entrepreneurs of the community. Someone had to oversee all the subsequent transactions, and this was Eugenes job. He kept tabs on the rich olive farmers and rich vinedressers and rich wheat farmers, all borrowing from his even richer master. And he worked hard. Hard enough, he thought, that all these rich folk could afford for Eugene to keep more than just tabs. He was no mere accountant, after all; he was the numbers man par excellence. So for Eugene, as for so many accountants, he could only count so many beans before he started hungering after a burrito of his own. Von Himmel himself didnt luck into his present fortune. He worked hard, and appreciated not only the summit but the climb. Now he wears a 10-gallon hat and smokes big cigars and plays roulette for the thrill. He often says that he has earned the right to invest in the more refined pursuits of real estate and making a name for ones self. Anyway, these pursuits demand much less of a mans time. Which is not to say that he disregards his estate; only he has all but removed himself from the minutiae of his operationentrusting it instead to his manager, Eugene. Which is why he was finding out from some two-bit narc and not his own careful oversight that Eugene, the manager and overseer of his entire estate, was receiving more kickback than from a shotgun blast. Von Himmel was unsurprised. Eugene had been trotting around in velour jump-suits lately, and he knew he didnt pay more than a polyester-blend wage. At any rate, he had long since lost track of actual dollars and cents, having ascended to that stratum of wealth where your net worth is compared with small
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For a homiletic appropriation of this text for the edification of the Church, see the Appendix. The sermon is entitled Friends with mammon. It was originally prepared for P-438. - 16 -


nations rather than individuals. It wasnt the money that bothered him; it was the lack of respect. *** Eugene was deciding between his Gucci and Versace loafers when he got a call from the masters secretary. Boss wants to see you right now, Eugene. He quick pulled out his Boisenberry PDA and consulted his schedule. His quarterly meeting with von Himmel was two months away. Any idea what its, uh, about? Hes not happy, Eugene. He set down the receiver and climbed atop his feather bed to lay down. Gazing up, as if peering into heaven itself, he said to himself, I need this. *** Eugene opted for the Hush Puppies. One did not approach the master with head raised high. He put on his best look of puzzled concern, with his lips shoved together, and his eyebrow compressed to form a bell curve. He breezed past the secretary and tapped on von Himmels half-open door. Who darkens my door without understanding? The voice boomed from the rear of the office, veritably sending shockwaves through the threshold. Von Himmel chortled as Eugene slithered into the room. There, the master sat majestically atop his throne, flanked by statuettes and paper-weights and picture frames, all paying homage atop his desk. Ah, Eugene, I should have known! Come in, have a seat. Eugene huddled into the armchair. Listen, EugeneIve heard things. Not good, Eugene; things about you and your managing of my estate. Would you know anything about these things? Eugene feigned bemusement and remained silent. He could tell it wasnt working; a word not spoken was as good as a confession, but he was hoping not to incriminate himself any more than he needed to. Von Himmel narrowed his eyes as he stared at his employee, his tongue probing the inside of his cheek while he awaited a reply; none came. He cleared his throat and leaned forward on his elbows. Thats what I thought. I am a good man, Eugene, a generous man, and I dont need my name being dragged all over town, folks thinking Im some bumpkin who lucked into his fortune. I have a reputation to uphold! The boss was talking himself into it now. He stood up behind the desk, dominating Eugenes modest frame.

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Do you think youre the only decent accountant in this town? Von Himmel pressed. Eugene wanted to interject that he was no mere accountant, but the moment was not yet propitious. Youve got until 3 this afternoon to clear out your desk and hand in your accounts. God help me, if youre not gone by then, itll be weeping and gnashing of teeth! You hear? *** The disgraced manager slipped away to his office, already pondering his fate. His prudence didnt extend to a savings account, and so losing this job would pull the roof right off his head, too. He had no back-up plan. A chill ran up his spine as he imagined cold nights on park benches and cold shoulders from passersby. A man couldnt live without sanctuary; hed rather be a doorkeeper in his masters house than be out on the streets! Alas, no such severance was offered. Eugene began pacing around his office, muttering to himself. This is fantastic, just great. I guess Im out of this line of work; what landlord wants to hire the guy who plunders his coffers? And I dont exactly have a lot of marketable skills. I have the strength of a starved gerbil, so manual labors out. The only trade I ever learned was with baseball cards, so thats no good. And Ill sell my right arm before I beg. Sowhat? Scanning his office for ideas, he saw all von Himmels mammon had bought him: the Persian rug, the marble chess set, the calfskin couch. He turned his eyes upon his glockenspiel, with the pirouetting Germans announcing mittag, the noon hour. Eugene felt a pit in his stomach; he had lost his appetite. He may not be good at much, but one thing was certain: he was good at indulging in mammon. But where had it gotten him? He knew all too well all that it could buy. Then suddenly a thought arose that occurred to him as deliciously contrary: if mammon got him into this mess, it would someway also have to get him out. A stack of papers filled the corner of his desk: the debt records of all von Himmels clients. The single sheets of paper held the fortunes of countless men in the communityand Eugenes, too. He looked wonderingly at the stack and thought, No. He knew a lot of things you could do with mammon, but not that. He began kneading his hands together and cried, God help me, come 3 oclock, if I have to plunder hell itself, I am going to prepare a place. *** By and large they were not stupid men. You dont reach their level of society by lacking wits. Yet some of von Himmels debtors were decidedly simpler than others; behind closed doors the boss, unimpressed by such men, called them suckers and scalawags.

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Let it be known that Eugene did not despise these men; in fact, he knew them to be the most honorable of von Himmels clients, which is why he called on them first. They thought it strange, being urgently summoned like this, but the unpromising harvest may have caused their landlord some concern over their ability to keep their end of the bargain. So an urgent call from Eugene did not exactly lift their spirits; he had a habit of leaving them with lighter pockets. Sam Creighton was the first to be summoned, and, letting himself in, he eagerly strode across the room to shake Eugenes hand. He owned a three-bedroom colonial, with a vacant guesthouse out back. I got down here as quick as I could. If this is about my business covering our loan, I can assure you, Eugene, that our humble operation is going to do everything it can to meet costs. We wont Eugene waved him off, and bid him sit down. Mr. Creighton, say no more. Mr. von Himmel and I understand your situation. Creighton breathed a sigh of relief, then furrowed his brow. So, then, what is this about? Is Mr. von Himmel funding another orphanage and in need of more assistance? He leaned in and gently set a hand on the desk. Heh, uh, no, nothats not it. I dont think there will be any such projects for awhile, actually He trailed off, before retrieving his composure. Look, Mr. Creighton, Ill get right to it. As you know, von Himmel is a very generousalbeit hardman. No question about that. It is indeed going to be a tough season, isnt it, Mr. Creighton? I hope not, but it looks that way. So you could use a break in your rent. I wouldntI mean, of course, but Mr. Creighton, say no more. I have beheld your plight, and pleaded with von Himmel to reduce your debt. Now, he is a generous man, as you said, but hard, and he needed persuading. Oh, I went to bat for you, Mr. Creighton. I begged. I said, Mr. von Himmel, where would we be if not for our faithful, honorable tenants like Mr. Creighton? You didnt! Creighton gripped his armrests, rapt, as if watching some cosmic courtroom scene unfold. Ah, but I did, my friend. I know you would do the same for me. So I told him, If we arent the kind of outfit that looks out for its clients, Im not sure I can work here anymore.

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Oh, Eugene, II dont know what to say. Im honored! You need not say anything, Sammay I call you Sam? With all due respect to my master, it is men like you who not only keep our economy going but, if I may say so, keep the moral foundation of our community strong. Creighton blushed. Eugene noted the enjoyment he felt feeding these lines to the client. Now, exactly how much is it you owe Mr. von Himmel? Why, ten thousand dollars. Eugene was reviewing Creightons account very officially. Yes, I see that right here. Mr. Creighton, I want you to take this here slip and cross out the 10,000 and write 5,000. But I couldnt! You canand you must. It would be an insult to von Himmels generosity to not! Mr. Creighton stifled nascent tears as his shaking hands grasped the bill. His eyes seized the managers. Mr. von Himmel may be a good man, but I know who I really have to thank. I wont soon forget this, Eugene. Oh, its nothing, Eugene retorted, stretching his arms wide, his legs crossed. Its only money, right? And as soon as he said it, he knew that it was true. *** His new friends gone, Eugene finally set to boxing up his things. With only the hours of noon to three and some savvy dealing, he had managed to ensure not only a roof over his head, but also goodwill from those whod lacked any reason to sympathize with him. Not a bad afternoon. Eugene had known a lot of things you could do with mammon; making friends wasnt one of them. It was a lesson worth pondering. But for him, the lesson came at a costquite literally. He had endured a kind of dying, and it was a death that left neither himself nor his clients the same. The phone, sitting contentedly on the floor, rang. It was the secretary. Boss wants to see you right now, Eugene. ***

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The hallway sprawled before him as Eugene shuffled toward von Himmels office. After exchanging pleasantries with the secretary, he came to the masters door. Taking a deep breath, he knocked firmly. An affirmative grunt, and Eugene sheepishly crept in, taking a seat off to von Himmels right. The boss was in a strange mood. When he first caught wind of his discharged managers latest, shenanigans, you can imagine how he felt. It wasnt about the mammon, which he had more than enough of; it was about respect. But thats also why, when the word spread that an impromptu holiday had been declared in his honor, and that families were dancing in the street, he started to change his tune. Now, as his fired manager inched in, von Himmels fury was met by a measure of admiration. Maybe this guy wasnt a mere bean counter, after all. I didnt expect to have another talk with you, Eugene, the boss began. Eugene looked at the floor, silent. You know better than anyone how important my mammon is to me. Any man in his right mind would show you the door, and I have to say, I am such a man. Many would show you the back of their hand, too. Eugene, still looking at the floor, sensed von Himmels hand approaching and braced for impact. Instead, he felt a great big paw patting him on the shoulder. He ventured to look up. Ive got to hand it to you, Eugene. Maybe the only thing I can appreciate more than mammon itself is a man who knows how to use it. Youre one shrewd kid. Giving away mammon? Good Lord! Who in Gods name, being rich, becomes poor for the sake of suckers and scalawags?

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