Finding Security in Relationships — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Finding Security in Relationships

Economy: Old and New

Finding Security in Relationships
Friday, November 29, 2019

No servant can serve two masters. They will either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon. —Luke 16:13

I encourage you to read Luke 16:1-13, which provides context for the final verse, “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” Jesus creates a clear dualism between God and what he calls “mammon.” Mammon was the god of wealth and money, superficiality and success. Jesus says we’ve eventually got to make a conscious choice here.

Most of Jesus’ teaching is what we call nondual, for example: “Let the weeds and the wheat grow together” (Matthew 13:30); “My Father’s sun shines on the good and the bad” (Matthew 5:45). But there are some areas where he’s absolutely dualistic, either/or—usually anything having to with the poor or with money! I believe Jesus is dualistic on these topics because he knows what most of us are otherwise going to do, that most of us will serve mammon. We’re wired to focus on short-term, practical gains. And, of course, money often does solve our short-term problems.

But I hear Jesus saying that a long-term solution is to seek relationship over money. I saw this at work most clearly when I was able to preach in many “poor” countries that don’t have the same kinds of infrastructure and safety nets that so-called “developed” countries do. (At the same time, I must note that much of the poverty around the world is due to exploitation and colonization by industrialized countries. I refuse to romanticize the economic deprivation of much of the world’s population.)

Some folks who may not have a 401k or retirement fund rely on their family and community as insurance. They stick together much better than many financially comfortable people do. When we’re well off, we often don’t need or care about one another. When our very survival depends upon it, we are more likely to love and honor our parents, to treat our children with care and respect—because we need each other. Relationships are our most powerful and reliable 401k. I’m not saying I don’t believe in universal health care, social security, or other public services, but I do think Jesus is saying the real security system is how we relate, how we love. These, he says, are the eternal dwellings that last forever.

In her book, The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist points out that modern science is discovering a similar truth in nature. She writes:

Contrary to those models of Nature as innately, intensely, and almost exclusively competitive, more recent scientific study has illuminated the powerful role of mutuality, synergy, coexistence, and cooperation in the natural world. . . .

The idea that scarcity and competition are just the way it is is no longer even viable science. Respected evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris notes that Nature fosters collaboration and reciprocity. Competition in Nature exists, she says, but it has limits, and the true law of survival is ultimately cooperation. . . .

Sahtouris and others note that contrary to the competitive theme that “survival of the fittest” connotes, a more accurate description would be “survival of the cooperative and collaborative.” [1]

I (Richard) can’t help but wonder what makes it so hard for us to think this way!

[1] Lynne Twist with Teresa Barker, The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.: 2003, 2017), 152-153.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Money,” Homily (September 22, 2019),

Image credit: Le Denier de la Veuve (The Widow’s Mite) (detail), James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: As long as we operate inside any scarcity model, there will never be enough God or grace to go around. Jesus came to undo our notions of scarcity and tip us over into a worldview of absolute abundance. The Gospel reveals a divine world of infinity, a worldview of enough and more than enough. The Christian word for this undeserved abundance is “grace.” It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model and to live with an attitude of gratitude. —Richard Rohr
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