Friday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
(Romans 15:14-21; Luke 16:1-8)
Once an ecumenical group of ministers was discussing a gospel passage much like the one we read today. The ministers were nonplussed at the obvious implication that people should help others out of their own self-interests. Is love really the motivator, the ministers seemed to ask themselves, if ones benefits from the action?
The ministers were responding from the perspective of the influential Lutheran theologian, Anders Nygren. Intolerant of self-love, Nygren drove a wedge between real love, which he termed agape or divine love, and acquisitive love, which since the Greek philosophers has been called eros. According to Nygren, the former has nothing to do with the latter. He would label any action falling short of pure selflessness as unworthy of Christianity and revelatory of fallen human nature.
But Nygren’s thesis does not adequately account for how humans are created. We are hard-wired, as they say, to seek happiness. Christ has revealed that this happiness is found in God alone, which is eternal life. It is not selfish to seek eternal life. Most people will admit this when they see that it requires denial of at least some temporal goods. With this distinction in mind Jesus in the gospel today shows his disciples that they, like the parable’s steward, must show kindness to the poor, who are like the parable’s debtors, so that God will in turn favor them.