#Cross-selling is the Podcast for September 25, 2016. John Stumpf appeared before the Senate Banking Committee this week, just in time for “the Rich Man and Lazarus” to show up in the three year reading cycle for church. What does the Church have to say about Pharisees, Stumpf, and others when it comes to money, the poor, and us? Listen to this podcast to find out.: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Church #WellsFargo #JohnStumpf #Pharisees #Amos #Luke16 #RichMan&Lazarus #Dives&Lazarus #Poor #Idolatry
Cross-Selling: Luke 16:14-31
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For Listener Supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/28/2016 The 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 16:19-31.
Talking about wealth is a touchy subject in the United States. The problem is that if people are not wealthy, they want to be wealthy. So, to talk about money in any way shape or form is a problem. In short, we all love money. Now, we don’t like it when someone gets caught cheating or lives in such a way that they seem to be bragging about their wealth. Another thing we hate is wealth that begets a sense of privilege.
So, when John Stumpf was brought before the Senate Banking Committee last week, the grilling he got from Senator Elizabeth Warren was dripping with this contempt we have for people who are wealthy, live by an alternative system of economic justice, and cannot understand why they are treated with scorn when caught. John Stumpf is the CEO and Chairman of the Board for Wells Fargo. He used the concept of “cross-selling” to share holders to increase the price of Wells Fargo stock over three years. People below him were pressured to create accounts for current customers without their knowledge to give the allusion of exemplary “cross-selling”. Mr. Stumpf happened to have large portions of stock and its value increased by over $250 million during that period. The only people fired in the whole escapade were those at the bottom of Wells Fargo’s Gantt Chart, the people pressured to have high cross-selling numbers so that Mr. Stumpf’s stock could go up. At least that is the appearance.
Why is it that Mr. Stumpf becomes the poster boy for the rich man in our story from the Gospel of Luke in just the week that this passage appears in the Lectionary? There are no coincidences.
In our story, not only does the rich man ignore Lazarus begging at his gate, when they die, he asks Abraham to send Lazarus as his servant to give him some water from Heaven, as he sits in Hell! Chutzpah. It just goes to show that arrogance is in place in the damned in the afterlife. Yet, the rich man’s arrogance continues even after Abraham refuses his request. It may seem kind for him to think of his rich brothers, to send someone from the dead to them so they don’t end up in hell. But Abraham’s response is telling, he says, “They have Moses and the prophets.” In other words, they have the Scriptures.
What does the Scriptures say to the rich man and his brothers? It says this from Moses speaking in Deuteronomy 15:4-11. Listen…
So, Moses is saying that we should have an openess to giving to the poor. In fact, Moses was giving this injunction to the whole nation of Israel, not just to individuals. It was the law for individual and communal actions. What is most striking to me from this passage is this, “Your heart should not be grudging when you give [to the poor].” Moses refers to the poor who receive aid as “your brother.” So, this passage points to how Jesus did not come with a new law about how we should have a preferential option for the poor; he came to point to how Deuteronomy should be fulfilled in our actions.
If anyone should know the Scriptures, it is Pharisees that we have been engaged with this whole of Chapters 15 and 16 of Luke. In these chapters, Jesus has been taking on the Pharisees. First, they didn’t like how Jesus dined with the sinners. He told them stories about the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, the Lost Prodigal, and how to be good stewards of our goods for use in the Kingdom of God. The Pharisees mocked him because they were lovers of money, in v. 14. Jesus responds by telling them about the laws regarding divorce and the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus for our readings today. Every one of these is a fulfillment of the purpose of the Law.
The sin of the Pharisees in this case is that they loved money more than God and his Law. They loved money so much that they mocked Jesus when he clearly pointed out that although they studied the scriptures continually throughout the day they missed clearly what Moses had said to them about the poor. They had stopped looking at people as brothers and sisters and started looking at them as objects. They grudged that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. They mocked him when he taught them things straight from the Scriptures because they loved money more than people.
What were John Stumpf and the executives at Wells Fargo thinking? There were reports of people who were incurring late fees for accounts they did not even set up under this cross-selling scheme. Did the executives even care about the burden they were placing on the poor? Or, did they grudge that they were poor?
We have a serious problem in this country with the way we talk about the poor. We act like people who are poor are that way because they are lazy, don’t want to work, want to cheat people by taking money they don’t rightly deserve. I have worked amongst the poor and with the poor often in 30 years of ministry. I often get to be a parish’s representative to the poor.
The conversations in the Church are much the same as the Pharisees when we set up a ministry to serve the poor. We place all kinds of checks and balances, make the poor give their economic information in multiple forms. We have people go out to their homes to verify if they are really poor. It is humiliating for them.
The poor that I have known work at Family Dollar, Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Pick Strawberries in the fields, sell cars, harvest tobacco from tobacco barns, etc. They are hardworking people who want more money so that they can fix some things in their house, not buy another one. They want to be respected for the good jobs they do, not talked about as being able to “only work at McDonald’s.” The rich man cannot see Lazarus as anything more than a person that “only begs at his gate,” but God sees him.
In the Kingdom that is coming, God sees. God sees the hardworking person. He sees the poor as humans that have hopes, dreams, and feelings. He sees those who search for the lost, rejoice with the found, use their goods for his good purposes, and who see others as their brothers and sisters with needs. We serve a Father of Justice. He sees. He knows.
One of the most gratifying things about working in the African American community is that they don’t abide foolishness. They call it out because there is a long history that flows from slavery, jim crow, and racism. They know a God of justice. They know that when they get to heaven, they will be like Lazarus, free at last. That hope is for us, too. We will be free. We will be free from our prejudices, our blindness, our lack of compassion, and anything else that keeps us from living joyfully and without that burden of idolatry against our brothers and sisters.
Heaven is a time that we will live in the Kingdom. It is the Kingdom come. It is his will be done, on earth, now, currently, in our churches, as it is in heaven. In the face of Wells Fargo and cross selling, a kingdom like that is badly needed and we know how to live it. Let it be so. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian