Archive for the ‘Parable of the Unjust Steward’ Tag

The Kingdom of God, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:  Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord and Master, who by thy Word hast called us to watch for thy return:

grant that when thou comest we may be found at work,  serving men in thy name.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 126

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Ezekiel 47:1-12

Revelation 7:9-17

Luke 16:1-9

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The vision of the future in Ezekiel 47 is one of those prophecies that remains unfulfilled.  It, seemingly set after the end of the Babylonian Exile, depicts Judea as blessed by God and the Temple as sitting atop the center of creation.

That is not our reality, though.  No, we live in a world in which many Christians suffer for their faith and some of them become martyrs.  No, we live in a world in the which the Parable of the Unjust Steward makes practical sense.  That parable, for all its interpretive ambiguities, does teach a clear lesson:  One who hears the gospel must act decisively–stake everything on the Kingdom of God, present partially, with more to come.  The fully realized Kingdom of God–as the Gospel of Matthew calls it–is the Kingdom of Heaven, as Jonathan Pennington asserts.

How we–individually and collectively–live is crucial.  Do we act decisively, staking everything on the Kingdom of God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE FRANCES DE CHANTAL, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE VISITATION

THE FEAST OF ALICIA DOMON AND HER COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN ARGENTINA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BARTHOLOMEW BUONPEDONI AND VIVALDUS, MINISTERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDWIK BARTOSIK, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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God, the Powerful, and the Powerless   1 comment

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Above:  The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 and Psalm 79:1-9

or 

Amos 8:4-7 and Psalm 113

then 

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Luke 16:1-13

The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 20, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

Proper 20, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/proper-20-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-eighteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-confession-for-the-eighteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-dedication-of-the-eighteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Amos 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/week-of-proper-8-friday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/proper-11-year-c/

1 Timothy 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/devotion-for-september-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Luke 16:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/devotion-for-the-thirty-eighth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-1/

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The lectionary readings for this Sunday challenge several audiences.

  1. In Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 either the prophet or God mourns for the afflicted people, who suffer because of societal sins.  Are you, O reader, among those who take part in societal sins?  Am I?  My Neo-orthodox theology tells me that the answer to both questions is affirmative.
  2. Amos 8:4-7 reminds us that God will punish those who exploit the poor.  This should frighten many people.
  3. The Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager, in a difficult situation of his own creation, eased his problem by easing the economic burdens of those who could not repay him.  In the process he made his employer look good and exposed that employer’s exploitation of those people simultaneously.  The employer could not reverse the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager’s actions without making himself look bad.  This parable reminds us of, among other things, the divine imperative of helping those who cannot repay us.
  4. 1 Timothy 2:1-7 tells us to pray for everyone, powerful and powerless.

One of my favorite ways of approaching a given passage of narrative Scripture is to ask myself who I am most like in a story.  Since I am honest, I am not like the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager except when I function as an agent of grace.  And I have not exploited people, so I am not like the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager’s employer.  So I am usually most like one of those who benefited from debt reduction.  If we are honest, we will admit that we have all benefited from grace via various agents of God.  Some of these agents of God might have had mixed or impure motives, but the consequences of their actions toward us have been positive, have they not?

One great spiritual truth I have learned is that, in the Bible, good news for the exploited often (but not always) means bad news for the exploiters.  And the exploiters can learn to change their ways.  I ponder the Parable of the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager and play out possible subsequent developments in my mind.  How did the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager fare in his new life?  Did his former employer cease to exploit people?  There is hope for all of us, powerful and powerless, in God’s mercy.  What we do with that possibility is to our credit or discredit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY VAN DYKE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF HOWARD THURMAN, PROTESTANT THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAW, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/proper-20-year-c/

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Numbers and Luke, Part II: In It Together   1 comment

parable-of-the-unjust-steward

Above:  The Unjust Steward

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 9:1-23

Psalm 98 (Morning)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening)

Luke 16:1-18

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 16:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-1/

Prayers for Cities, Neighborhoods, Communities, and Those Who Serve Them:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-cities-neighborhoods-communities-and-those-who-serve-them/

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Biblical nuances interest me.  In Exodus 12 we read regarding the Passover meal:

No foreigner shall eat of it.

–verse 43a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

and

If a stranger, who dwells with you would offer the passover to the LORD, all his males must be circumcised; then he shall be as a citizen of the country.  But no uncircumcised person may eat of it.  There shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you.

–verses 48-49, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Then, in Numbers 9,  observing the Passover meal (the first one in the wilderness) is mandatory (delayed for reasons of ritual impurity).  Then we read:

And when a stranger who resides with you would offer a passover sacrifice to the LORD, he must offer it in accordance with the rules and rites of the passover sacrifice.  There shall be one law for you, whether stranger or citizen of the country.

–verse 14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Unfortunately, there was a death penalty attached to not obeying the mandate.  This is the Law of Moses, after all; there is a death penalty attached to many offenses.  On the other hand, however, resident aliens (as opposed to mere strangers) were equally subject with Israelites to the Law.  And why not?  The Israelites and the resident aliens were, as we say in North America,

in it together.

We humans are all

in it together,

are we not?  We do not have to like each other, socialize together, understand each other, or be similar to each other, but we must understand that what one person does affects others.  One main fault of extreme libertarianism is its excessive individualism, its failure to give due weight to mutual dependence, the actual state of the human race.  Sometimes I need to curtail my appetites for the benefit of others.  Yet the collective has no right practice the tyranny of the majority or of the vocal, screaming, hysterical, minority which might control some part of state machinery.  The individual and the collective need to exist in balance:  rights and liberties, in the light of natural law and the fact that the dissident might be correct, at least partially.  Mutual respect goes a long way toward preventing violations of civil liberties and rights.

The unjust steward of the parable knew that he needed others immediately and urgently.  So, for selfish reasons, he brought his master into compliance with the anti-usury parts of the Law of Moses.  His reasons did not matter to those he helped.  Money was a means to several ends, some of them righteous in spite of the person’s motivation.  And money was crucial to being able to afford a style of piety which Jesus condemned.  Poverty, Jesus said, ought not to mark one as incapable of living faithfully.  And those poor people (many of them, anyway) financed the lifestyles of the rich and overtly pious.  How just was that?

When Christ comes to be our judge, may he rule that we acted consistently to raise each other up, to bind up each other’s wounds, to bear each other’s  burdens as able and always and to avoid stomping on each other.  We do, after all, need each other, even if we do not know that fact.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BAIN OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, MONK, MISSIONARY, AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ONESIMUS NESIB, TRANSLATOR AND LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/devotion-for-the-thirty-eighth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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True Wealth   1 comment

Above:  Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Romans 15:14-21 (Revised English Bible):

My friends, I have no doubt in my own mind that you yourselves are full of goodness and equipped with knowledge of every kind, well able to give advice to one another; nevertheless I have written to refresh your memory, and written somewhat boldly at times, in virtue of the gift I have from God.  His virtue has made me a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles; and in the service of the gospel of God it is my priestly task to offer the Gentiles to him as an acceptable sacrifice, consecrated by the Holy Spirit.

In Christ Jesus I have indeed grounds for pride in the service of God.  I will venture to speak only of what Christ has done through me to bring the Gentiles into his allegiance, by word and deed, by the power of signs and portents, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I have completed the preaching of the gospel of Christ from Jerusalem as far round as Illyricum.  I have always made a point of taking the gospel to places where the name of Christ has not been heard, not wanting to build on another man’s foundation; as scripture says,

Those who had no news of him shall see,

and those who never heard of him shall understand.

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

Luke 16:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus said to his disciples,

There was a rich man who had a steward, and he received complaints that this man was squandering his property.  So he sent for him, and said, “What is this that I hear about you?  Produce your accounts, for you cannot be steward any longer.”  The steward said to himself, “What am I to do now that my master is going to dismiss me from my post?  I am not strong enough to dig, and I am too proud to beg.  I know what I must do, to make sure that, when I am dismissed, there will be people who will take me into their homes.”  He summoned his master’s debtor’s one by one.  To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?”  He replied, “A hundred jars of olive oil.”  He said, “Here is your account.  Sit down and make it fifty, and be quick about it.”  Then he said to another, “And you, how much do you owe?”  He said, “A hundred measures of wheat,” and was told, “Here is your account; make it eighty.”  And the master applauded the dishonest steward for acting so astutely.  For in dealing with their own kind the children of this world are more astute than the children of light.

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The dishonest/unjust manager/steward worked for an extremely wealthy landlord who charged high rates of interest on rent the tenants owed.  The manager/steward seems to have been abusing his post for personal gain.  So the landlord prepared to fire the manager/steward, who ingratiated himself to the tenants by removing the interest from their debts.  This made the manager/steward friends while making the landlord look better than he was, while bringing the landlord into compliance with Biblical anti-usury laws.  Surely the landlord could not undo the manager/steward’s final actions without looking bad.

The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following breaks up Luke 16:1-15 over two days, so verse 9 will fall within a reading for Week of Proper 26:  Saturday, Year 1.  Yet I must bring verse 9 into the devotion at this time:

So I say to you, use your worldly wealth to win friends for yourselves, so that when money is a thing of the past you may be received into an eternal home.

This statement fits neatly into rabbinical statements of the time.  Helping the poor was of great spiritual value, the rabbis taught, and God took note.  Or, as William Barclay summarized it,

True wealth would consist not in what people kept, but in what they gave away.  (The Gospel of Luke, 2001 revision, page 248)

True wealth resides in people, relationships, and intangibles.  The wealth we have in accounts and objects are just means to an end.  And let no one think that money can buy happiness.  Studies I have read indicate that some of the most miserable and stressed out people in the world are the richest ones.  Or, as Ira Gershwin wrote in Porgy and Bess:

Folks with plenty of plenty

have a lock on their door,

afraid somebody is gonna rob ‘em

who’s out to get some more.

Paul did not “live well,” as we might think of that concept, after his conversion to Christianity.  He nearly died more than once, faced false and malicious legal charges, spent time in prisons, was shipwrecked once, and ultimately met his death on the orders of the Emperor Nero.  But, as one reads Paul concluding his great Epistle to the Romans, one ought to notice that the man is quite content.  His treasure was spiritual, and he knew that.

That is the treasure that neither rust nor moth can destroy.  May all of us seek and find it, then hold on to it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ERIK IX OF SWEDEN, KING AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF TAMIHANA TE RAUPARAHA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-friday-year-1/

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