The gospel poses a question for us, wrapped up in a statement: are we the slaves of money or the servants of God?
Jesus is not really one for giving us half measures or grey areas. It matters what we base our lives upon. If money or material things matter to us more than anything else, then we can only deal in the currency of this world. Jesus is not naïve and his advice is practical: use money wisely, but don’t allow it to become a god. We may find comfort and security on earth in the way we use our money and possessions, but if it is eternal life that we are seeking, then our priority must be in serving God.
This is especially a challenge for those who have riches. One of the most captivating things about the late Queen Elizabeth is that despite living in palaces and castles, she did not base her life on any of those earthly riches. We saw in her a person of genuine faith, who worshipped God and set out to serve the people of God in the way that was marked out for her. It would be very easy in such a role to be seduced by money and to revel in privilege. Queen Elizabeth is loved and respected because she seemed to manage to avoid that temptation.
The prophet Amos calls out those who exploited ordinary people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. Charging excessive amounts for essential goods and making poor people into wage slaves was not acceptable in the sight of God. In times past we saw how kings and aristocrats in our own country would exploit the less fortunate. Sadly, it still happens in some parts of our world. In our own country it’s not the kings and queens who exploit ordinary people. Big business seems to have taken on that role. Thankfully, the queen we are mourning never lost sight of the people of the country she was called to serve.
When we worship the one true God, as she did, then we begin to discover something of that peace St Paul was writing about in his first letter to Timothy. When we offer prayers for those in authority, we pray that they may discover that we all belong to God, no matter how rich or poor. Our prayer deepens our compassion and our willingness to use our gifts, not only for our own good, but for the good of others too. We pray for a more just society and world, where everyone belongs and where no one is left behind.
Those who can be trusted in small things, says Jesus, can also be trusted with greater things. Our character shows through in the way we treat other people and the way we use what we have, especially our money. I give thanks that Queen Elizabeth could be trusted with greater things, because she served not herself, but Christ, our universal and eternal King. I pray that our choice may be to leave behind the slavery to material things and to find our true riches in the service of God and his people.