200 One Dollar Bills,
Painting by Andy Warhol (1928-1987),
Painted in 1962,
Silk Screen on canvas
© Sold Sotheby New York in 2009 for $43.8 million
You cannot be the slave both of God and of money
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?
‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and laughed at him. He said to them, ‘You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.’
Reflection on the painting
Jesus continues to talk to us about money in today's reading. It is not money that Jesus condemns as such but the worship of the making of money and turning it into a false god. If we pursue money, crave money and spend all our time making money, then all other things will fall into the background: friends, family, charity, integrity and faith will all be relegated to being of secondary importance.
God and the making of money cannot coexist in us as equals. One of the two will exercise dominion over us. We have to choose which one we want that to be. If we choose God as our top priority, then the making of money should be at the service of him.
In 2009, Sotheby's New York sold this vast canvas by Andy Warhol from 1962, depicting 200 dollar bills, for $43.8 million (against a pre-sale estimate of $8-12 million). The painting is part of Warhol's famous Dollar Bill series, which marks the first instance of the artist's use of the silk-screening method. Warhol depicts and exposes the crassness of money, commercialism and materialism. About his dollar signs, Warhol said 'big-time art is big-time money', making the point that art is just a commodity. In these works Warhol prompts us to reflect on the relationship between art and wealth.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus prompts us to think about our own relationship God and wealth. Which do we consider to be more important: God or wealth? Only one can have true dominion over us.
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