Week of Proper 26: Friday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

True Wealth

NOVEMBER 8, 2019

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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.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/true-wealth/

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