Ingenuity for good or self-interest

By | September 15, 2010

There is a world between digging and begging. It is the world of ingenuity. By using our wits, we accomplish what we want. That ingenuity is ambiguous in that it is sometimes graced and is of help to others and ourselves; sometimes it is sinful in that it is used


Bishop Robert Morneau

for exploitation or manipulation.

The prophet Amos attacks the ingenuity of those who cheat the poor. The Lord does not forget these matters, claims the prophet. God’s concern is always with the needy.

St. Paul was an ingenious person. He was intelligent, committed and energetic. Early on in his religious formation and practice, that ingenuity did not serve him well. He persecuted the church of Jesus with a vengeance. Going from house to house, he sought out the infidel Christians and had them imprisoned. But after the experience on the road to Damascus, everything changed. Now his vision was focused on the person of Jesus and the mission of reconciliation. This apostle to the Gentiles ventured forth to preach the message of God’s love and mercy with great boldness, even to the point of death. Now his ingenuity served him well.

What an ingenious fellow we have in the Gospel. Here is the non-digger, the non-beggar. To avoid exertion of the shovel and to escape standing on the street corner with a tin cup, he devised a plan to ingratiate himself with folks whom he would help by immorally reducing their debts. At the end of this story we hear the surprising line: “And the master commended the dishonest steward for acting prudently.”

What all this means is that the talents, blessings and gifts that God bestows upon us can be used for good or ill. What is disturbing is that so many individuals who have no concern for God seem to be so clever and energetic in achieving goals of self-interest while so many who claim to be disciples of the Lord fail to exert energy in attaining the things of God. To commend a thief for achieving his goals is not to commend the act but rather to note how individuals work hard for their own benefit. Would that all of us who claim to be Gospel people be so “ingenious.”

Amos used his gifts as a prophet for justice; St. Paul used his gifts to guide people in the way of Jesus; the steward in the Gospel used his gifts for his own benefit.

Questions for reflection

1. What gifts has God given you?

2. Are those gifts used for the good of others or just yourself?

3. How is it that many nonreligious people are more ingenious in their life’s work than those who claim to be Christian?


Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.

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