Jesus says ‘networking is good, actually’
A Reflection for the Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop
Find today’s readings here.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,
so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (Lk 16:9)
I used to hate networking.
When I was a student at Fordham, I remember getting told over and over again by professors, academic advisors and even upperclassmen that I should always be networking. Whenever there was a job fair or a guest lecture, or if there was someone around that was tangentially related to something that I wanted to be doing, I was supposed to be networking. I was supposed to go up to them and introduce myself and be charming and memorable and make sure that I got their contact information so I could follow up with an email.
To someone who grew up battling social anxiety, this was absolutely terrifying.
I was a socially awkward people pleaser. That meant that any time that I feared I would not please a person (especially authority figures), I would avoid talking to them altogether. Then, whenever I did work up the courage to talk to these people, I would wind up with a business card gathering dust in my wallet because I was horrified by the prospect of them ignoring my messages.
Jesus acknowledges the nuances of a complicated world. He knows that there are many levels of relationship that we can have with people.
Moreover, because I was often so bad at making connections, I valued the friendships that I had and put a lot of work into them. I did not always succeed in being a good friend, but I put in the time because I liked my friends—not because I wanted something from them. I had an inherent distaste for so-called “transactional relationships,” which is exactly what I felt networking was. It felt like I was using them to get ahead, and I was relying entirely on whether or not they felt I would be useful to them in some way.
Today’s Gospel, though, reminded me that you should never fear going out into the world and demanding things from it—as long as you put what you gain to good use.
Jesus tells his disciples, “Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” This is maybe one of the most striking things Jesus says in the Gospels, but in it lies an important insight into the character and disposition of our Messiah. He makes a very clear distinction between our earthly, material existence and the ultimate salvation that awaits us in the Kingdom of Heaven. It might seem utilitarian, even mercenary, but Jesus advocates for ignoring scruples if it means contributing to the greater glory of God.
Jesus acknowledges the nuances of a complicated world. He knows that there are many levels of relationship that we can have with people. Many, hopefully, can be true friends, but some, particularly those who have “dishonest wealth,” we must learn to befriend in a different way. Jesus says it is not only okay but righteous to “make friends” with these people to ensure that their earthly resources are applied in a way that contributes positively to people’s lives. And, if we are compassionate enough in our approach, they may become actual friends, too.
These days, I feel much more zen about networking. After graduating from college and beginning a job that I really loved, I found the confidence I had been lacking during my school years. That was when I started falling in love with networking, when I really came out of my shell. Networking, to me, is now fun—whenever I am at a party or an event, I try to play a game of how many new connections I can make. Sure, most of them might just be a followup email that never gets responded to, but a few of them might become friends. And you never know what a friend can do for you when you have done something for them.