Proper 20 (Year C): Litany for Economies

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This week’s Gospel reading from Luke 16 is one of those head-scratcher texts. The kind you read and know immediately that you don’t already have whatever context you probably need to understand the dynamics of. What do we do with Jesus when he says “make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes” ? I had to read several commentaries on the passage to get a start.

I was especially enlightened by Dr. Mitzi J. Smith’s commentary on this passage, which frames it as a slave parable and assumes the character of the “manager” to be an enslaved and oppressed person. She sagely reminds us that “wealth is generally built upon the backs of the enslaved, women, the poor, and the oppressed; that wealth for one usually presumes poverty for many. The larger the wealth gap in favor of a few, the more people are impoverished” (via Working Preacher).

Dr. Barbara Rossing suggests that Jesus is critiquing the capitalistic practice of charging interest on loans in her commentary, pointing out that “Luke is making connections between debt structures, the urgency of impending judgment, and the idol of Mammon [Wealth]” (via Working Preacher).

I’ve incorporated these ideas in this litany, as well as the overall themes in Luke’s gospel regarding wealth, greed, and what keeps us from an authentic spirituality and true discipleship (See last week’s text in which Jesus states: “None of you can become my disciple in you do not give up all your possessions” Luke 14:33). And drawn also from Amos 8 and Matthew 23.

Oh God, give us courage to examine the ways our lifestyles and cultural habits
Exploit the poorest among us.
Give us wisdom to see the ways we are complicit
In “trampling on the needy, and bringing ruin to the poor.”

Litany for Spending Money

I’ve been going through Luke, and writing prayers each week for a few months now, and it has been a fruitful spiritual practice. To take the words of Jesus and inhale them so deeply that a congregational prayer may breathe out - well, I recommend it. Read Jesus, then pray about what he says: a formula for transformation.

The discussion has primarily been about money and possessions, about how difficult it is to have them and also participate authentically in the Kingdom of God as it was begun by Jesus. We are forced, in some ways, to acknowledge our disadvantages. We are at a disadvantage because we live in the U.S., and are by and large not debilitatingly poor; and it is the poor to whom the Kingdom is given (1). So by being born in an affluent nation with access to clean water and cheap food and clothing and the internet and iphones, we have to admit that our starting line is farther back; closer to that, say, of the Pharisees, if we’re counting.

When I admit that, I start to see the baggage that comes with it all. I wonder how to simplify. I wonder how to live well and prophetically in this culture and economy. I’ve talked before about all the ways we vote, and it’s an idea I tend to come back to. We have money (or at least we have credit) and we have to use it to survive so how can we use it to help the world survive as well? How can we spend money well, in a way that goes with the grain of the Kingdom of God and not against it?

I have a few ideas. First we can routinely give it away, as much as we can stand to. We can give it to our home churches, and to organizations that do good work, that feed hungry folks and fight injustice and care for orphans. I’ve even started keeping singles in my mom-mobile and giving them away to every panhandler I see at any intersection I pass (2).

Second, we can spend less and buy less unnecessary crap we don’t need so that we have more to give away and more to invest so we can give it away in the future. This is stewardship (3).

Third, we can think about what we are buying when we buy it. Are we supporting sweat-shop slavery when we buy fast-fashion? Are we supporting a sustainable food economy that cares for the earth and the health of the humans it feeds? Are we feeding our bodies in a way that creates health and peace in them? Are we supporting brands that pay workers a fair and living wage? Are we supporting companies that exploit people, animals, and the environment? Are we making peace with our dollar-votes?

These are questions I’m asking myself, and questions I think we have a responsibility to ask if we are trying to honor Jesus with our money. I don’t expect to ever do this perfectly. I don’t expect to ever have a leg to stand on to criticize how another person spends his or her money. I expect to spend the rest of my life on this earth trying to be faithful with money, failing and trying, failing and growing.


God of Love and Light,
Our whole lives on this earth, we must interact with money.
We acknowledge that whatever money we have, it’s because you have given it.
We acknowledge that with it comes responsibility.
We acknowledge that with it comes opportunity for doing good.

Help us in our weakness.
Help us when we are tempted to idolize money.
     We want to honor you above all.
Help us when we are tempted to be self-serving and ungenerous.
     We want your generous heart to beat within us.
Help us when we are tempted to gratify ourselves with false consolation.
     We want to be comforted by your presence.
Help us when we are tempted to become miserly and joyless.
     We want to enjoy the fruits of our work, and of the earth.
Help us when we are tempted to be apathetic toward the people who produce the things we buy.
     We want to care for those who are unseen.
Help us when we are tempted to be apathetic toward our own body- and soul-health.
     We want to glorify you in our bodies and care for them as temples.

May we be forces for good in this world,
Courageously examining the consequences of all we do, all we consume.
May we invest in treasures that last, both in this world and beyond it.
May we become peace-makers and peace-purchasers.
As you yourself are our peace (4),
So may we be the peace of the world.



  1. Matthew 5:3

  2. Matthew 5:42 “Give to anyone who asks of you.” I’m not mentioning this as a pat-myself-on-the-back. I’m sharing a practical idea of a way that scripture might come alive in our daily lives.

  3. Matthew 25:14-30, the Parable of the Steward

  4. Ephesians 2:14

Litany for Money: A Deeper Economy

I first read the book _Deep Economy_ by Bill McKibben, sometime around 2008. It and its title have stuck with me, and spurred me on to reading several other books about Creation care and financial stewardship. For my husband and I, stewardship is a deep idea, one we value highly. We have existed in scarcity and in relative abundance. We have made wise decisions and foolish ones. We have been complicit and imperfect and fearful and hesitant and faithful and brave.

I think that in dealing with money we would do well to remember the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, as well as the Parables of the Treasure and the Pearl in Matthew 6. Not to mention the fact that, as Dave Ramsey is fond of pointing out, in the four gospels Jesus talked about money almost as much as he talked about the Kingdom of God. Whether we currently see the world from a position of scarcity or from abundance, money and stewardship seem worth praying about. Thus I give you this rather ponderous but well-meaning litany.

You created humanity, and humanity exists in an economy based on money.

We acknowledge that money profoundly affects our lives.
We acknowledge that dealing with money requires our attention and effort.
We acknowledge that the love of money is a root of evil.
We acknowledge our temptation toward greed.
We acknowledge that money and hard work are linked.
We acknowledge that money and privilege are linked.
We acknowledge that poverty is an ongoing problem, and that Your heart is for the poor.

We confess our love of money.
We confess our equating money with power and status.
We confess our squandering of resources.
We confess our hesitance to risk, to invest, and to have faith.
We confess our obsession with possessions.
We confess our worry when needs arise.
We confess our jealousy of the riches of others.

Give us our daily bread.
Give us enough, but not too much.
Give us treasure that moth and rust do not destroy.
Give us riches of life, relationships, and joy.
Give us wisdom to handle money in ways that reflect Your character.

Help us to steward well that which You choose to give us authority over.
Help us to have healthy attitudes towards money, to neither disregard nor idolize it.
Help us to use our money for Your kingdom work.
Help us to care for the needy, the orphan, and the lonely.
Help us to be generous, as You have been generous towards us.
Help us to be disciplined and work hard, and be rewarded accordingly.
Help us to save for times of need, and for pleasure.
Help us to trust in Your care and provision.

May we, Your children, exist in a deeper economy;
     not an economy based on money or power, but on grace.
May we live, not from scarcity, but from the abundance of Your kingdom.