Archive for the ‘Greed’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 16, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Ancient City of Laodicea

Image Source = Google Earth

Wealth as an Idol

AUGUST 21, 2022


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 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


Genesis 8:1-13 or Acts 26:1, 9-23, 27-29, 31-32

Psalm 132:1-5, 11-18

Revelation 3:14-22

John 8:31-47


Laodicea was a wealthy city, a center of the refining of gold, the manufacture of garments, and the manufacture of a popular salve for eyes.  The church in that city was also wealthy, not on Christ.  Jesus said to keep his commandments.  St. Paul the Apostle relied on Christ.

As I have written many times, deeds reveal creeds.  To quote Proverbs, as a man thinks, he is.  And as one thinks, one does.  God is like what God had done and does, in Jewish theology.  Likewise, we are like what we have done and do.

Are we like the Laodicean congregation?  Are we lukewarm?  Are we comfortable, resting on our own laurels and means?  Do we have the luxury of being that way?  (FYI:  “We” can refer either to congregations or to individuals.)

Wealth is not the problem.  No, wealth is morally neutral.  Relationships to wealth are not morally neutral.  To the extent that a person or a congregation may rely on wealth, not God, one makes wealth an idol.

There was once a man who owned a large tract of land.  He enjoyed boasting about how much land he owned.  One day, the landowner was bragging to another man:

I can get in my truck early in the morning and start driving around the edge of my property.  Late in the day, I haven’t gotten home yet.

The other man replied,

I used to have a truck like that, too.

The Bible burst the proverbial balloons of those who trust in their wealth, not in God.  Aside from Revelation 3:14-22, one may think readily of the Gospel of Luke and various Hebrew prophets, for example.  One may also quote 1 Timothy 6:10 (The Jerusalem Bible, 1966):

The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls to any number of fatal wounds.

One may also quote Luke 6, in which the poor are blessed (verse 20), but the rich are having their consolation now (verse 24).

Wealth is morally neutral.  Relationships to it are not.  May we always trust in God and acknowledge our duties to one another, in mutuality, under God.










This is post #1000 of ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS.


Devotion for Proper 6, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well of Jacob

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

JUNE 12, 2022


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 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


Amos 9:8-15 or Proverbs 22:1-23

Psalm 119:33-48

1 Timothy 6:1-8

John 4:1-42


First, I condemn all forms of slavery at all times and places.  The acceptance of slavery in 1 Timothy 6:1-2 is false doctrine.

With that matter out of the way, I focus on my main point.  1 Timothy 6:7 is correct; we came into this world with nothing.  We, likewise, can take nothing with us when we die.  Greed is a form of idolatry.

The reading from Proverbs 22 includes harsh words for those who oppress the poor.  To oppress to the poor is to get on God’s bad side.  Oppression of the poor is a topic in the Book of Amos.  That practice is one of the stated causes of the fall of the northern Kingdom of Israel.

Judgment and mercy exist in balance in Amos 9.  The destruction, we read, will not be thorough.  Then restoration will follow.  This restoration remains in future tense, given the scattering of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

LORD, let your mercy come upon me,

the salvation you have promised.

–Psalm 119:41, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Jesus knew how to use harsh language.  He used none with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, though.  He had a long conversation with a woman–a Samaritan woman.  Jesus surprised even his closest associates by doing so.  Christ offered grace and no judgment.  Many exegetes, preachers, and Sunday School teachers have judged the woman, though.  They should never have done so.

The woman at the well was different from the condemned people in Amos 9 and the false teachers in 1 Timothy 6.  She was receptive to God speaking to her when she realized what was happening.  That Samaritan woman gained insight.  She also acquired a good name, something more desirable than great riches.










Devotion for Proper 23, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

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

Image in the Public Domain

Perplexing Readings

OCTOBER 10, 2021


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 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


1 Samuel 15:1-23 or Jeremiah 31:27-34

Psalm 109:1-5, 21-27, 30-31

Romans 11:1-21

Luke 16:1-15


We have some perplexing readings this Sunday.  Seldom does a lectionary load a Sunday with difficult lessons.

  1. The attack on the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 was to avenge an Amalekite attack on Israelites centuries prior, in Exodus 17:8-16.
  2. According to Deuteronomy 20:16-18 and 25:17-19, King Saul and his forces, engaged in a holy war (Is there such a thing?), should have killed all enemies, taken no prisoners, and taken no booty.  They took booty and spared the life of King Agag, though.  This, according to 1 Samuel 15, led to God’s final rejection of Saul, who had blamed others for his violation of the law.  (Are we not glad that leaders everywhere no longer deflect blame for their errors?  That is a sarcastic question, of course.)
  3. The tone in Psalm 109 is relentlessly unforgiving.
  4. We read in Romans 11:1-21 that Gentile believers are, by the mercy of God, a branch grafted onto the Jewish tree.  Yet the Gentile branch is not exempt from the judgment of God.  The Gentile branch also has a long and shameful record of anti-Semitism.
  5. The Parable of the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager is a challenging text.  The titular character is not a role model, after all.  Yet he is intelligent and able to secure his future by committing favors he can call in when he needs to do so.  One point is that we should be astute, but not corrupt.  Naïveté is not a spiritual virtue.
  6. Money is a tool.  It should never be an idol, although it frequently is.  Greed is one of the more common sins.

I admit my lack of comfort with 1 Samuel 15 and its background.  As Amy-Jill Levine says, people did things differently back then.

I also know well the desire for divine vindication, as well as the unwillingness to forgive.  And, when I want to forgive, I do not always know how to do so.  This reminds me of the predicament of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 7:19-20.

Each of us is susceptible to many forms of idolatry.  Something or someone becomes an idol when one treats something of someone as an idol.  Function defines an idol.

And what about that parable?  In the context of the Gospel of Luke, one needs also to consider teachings about wealth–blessed are the poor, woe to the rich, et cetera.  The theme of reversal of fortune is germane.  Also, the order not to exalt oneself, but to be kind to those who cannot repay one (Luke 14:7-14) constitutes a counterpoint to the dishonest/corrupt/astute manager/steward.  Remember, also, that if the fictional manager/steward had been honest, he would have kept his job longer, and we would not have that parable to ponder as we scratch our heads.

Obeying the Golden Rule, being as innocent as doves, and being as wise as serpents seems like a good policy.  May we heed the law of God written on our hearts, by grace.










Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 28, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Parable of the Wicked Servants

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Servants

Image in the Public Domain

Humility and Arrogance

NOVEMBER 11-13, 2021


The Collect:

Almighty God, your sovereign purpose bring salvation to birth.

Give us faith amid the tumults of this world,

trusting that your kingdom comes and your will is done

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53


The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 4:4-18 (Thursday)

Daniel 4:19-27 (Friday)

Daniel 4:28-37 (Saturday)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

1 Timothy 6:11-21 (Thursday)

Colossians 2:6-15 (Friday)

Mark 12:1-12 (Saturday)


FYI:  Daniel 4:1-37 in Protestant Bibles equals Daniel 4:1-34 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox translations.


Arrogance can be easy to muster and humility can be difficult to manifest.  I know this well, for

  1. I have been prone to intellectual arrogance, and
  2. humility can be painful.

To be fair, some people I have known have nurtured my intellectual arrogance via their lack of intellectual curiosity and their embrace of anti-intellectualism.  That reality, however, does nothing to negate the spiritual problem.  I am glad to report, however, that it is a subsiding problem, by grace.

The internal chronology of the Book of Daniel defies historical accuracy; I came to understand that fact years ago via close study of the text.  The Book of Daniel is folkloric and theological, not historical and theological.  The folktale for these three days concerns King Nebuchadrezzar II (a.k.a. Nebuchadnezzar II), King of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, who reigned from 605 to 562 B.C.E.  The arrogant monarch, the story tells us, fell into insanity.  Then he humbled himself before God, who restored the king’s reason.

So now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of Heaven, all of whose works are just and whose ways are right, and who is able to humble those who behave arrogantly.

–Daniel 4:34, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is folklore, not history, but the lesson regarding the folly of arrogance is true.

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-12) exists in the context of conflict between Jesus and Temple authorities during the days immediately prior to his death.  In Chapter 11 our Lord and Savior cleansed the Temple and, in a symbolic act, cursed a fig tree as a sign of his rejection of the Temple system.  In Chapters 11 and 12 Temple authorities attempted to entrap Jesus in his words.  He evaded the traps and ensnared his opponents instead.  In this context Jesus told the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.  The vineyard was Israel, the slain slaves/servants were prophets, and the beloved son was Jesus.  The tenants were the religious leaders in Jerusalem.  They sought that which belonged to God, for Christ was the heir to the vineyard.

1 Timothy 6:11-21 continues a thread from earlier in the chapter.  Greed is bad, we read:

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

–6:9-10, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Faithful people of God, however, are to live differently, pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness (verse 11).  The wealthy are to avoid haughtiness and reliance on uncertain riches, and to trust entirely in God (verse 17).  Further instructions for them include being generous and engaging in good works (verse 18).

Complete dependence upon God is a Biblical lesson from both Testaments.  It is a pillar of the Law of Moses, for example, and one finds it in 1 Timothy 6, among many other parts of the New Testament.  Colossians 2:6-15 drives the point home further, reminding us that Christ has cancelled the debt of sin.

Forgiveness as the cancellation of debt reminds me of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35).  A king forgave a large debt–10,000 talents–a servant owed to him.  Given that one talent was fifteen years’ worth of wages for a laborer, and that the debt was therefore 150,000 years’ worth of wages, the amount of the debt was hyperbolic.  The point of the hyperbole in the parable was that the debt was impossible to repay.  The king was merciful, however.  Unfortunately, the servant refused to forgive debts other people owed to him, so the king revoked the debt forgiveness and sent the servant to prison.

So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

–Matthew 18:35, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Just as God forgives us, we have a responsibility to forgive others.  Doing so might require us to lay aside illusions of self-importance.  That has proven true in my life.

The path of walking humbly with God and acknowledging one’s total dependence upon God leads to liberation from illusions of grandeur, independence, and self-importance.  It leads one to say, in the words of Psalm 16:1 (Book of Common Worship, 1993):

Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

I have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord,

my good above all other.”








Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 24, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Licensed Wreckers in the Hands of the Receivers

Above:  Licensed Wreckers–In the Hands of the Receivers, 1882

A familiar event:  a greedy few benefit from the collapse of a corporation, by order of a court.

Artist = Joseph Ferdinand Keppler (1838-1894)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-28458

Proper Leadership

OCTOBER 19 and 20, 2023


The Collect:

Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts.

Created by you, let us live in your image;

created for you, let us act for your glory;

redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50


The Assigned Readings:

Judges 17:1-6 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 17:14-20 (Friday)

Psalm 96:1-9 [10-13] (Both Days)

3 John 9-12 (Thursday)

1 Peter 5:1-5 (Friday)


The themes of being a good example and of leading intertwine in these days’ assigned readings.  Indeed, one may have fine moral character and be a bad or ineffective leader, but a good leader–a fine shepherd of the people–will possess proper moral qualities.  As an old Greek maxim tells us, character is destiny.

We read of two bad examples–people not to emulate.  Micah of Ephraim (Judges 17:1-6) practiced idolatry.  He went on in the succeeding verses to hire a Levite as his priest.

Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because the Levite has become my priest.

–Judges 17:13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Yet the idolatry remained and no ritual, regardless of its sanctity, functioned as a talisman against the consequences of sin.  And Diotrephes (3 John 9-12) used a local congregation as his power base and lied about others to protect his status.  He disobeyed the advice in 1 Peter 5:1-5, for he used his position to lord it over the congregation.

Proper leadership entails functioning as a good example.  To exercise the trust that is a leadership role as one should is to build up the people–to work for the common good–and not to line one’s proverbial pockets.  Official corruption is one of the major causes of poverty, as numerous examples (especially in oil-rich areas with rampant poverty yet a relative few very wealthy people) demonstrate.  Also, how one behaves speaks more loudly than what one says.  Political talk is cheap, but actions count.  I recall an editorial in a Roman Catholic magazine in the middle 1990s.  The author, who had no kind words for politicians, who used the rhetoric of “family values” to win elections then did little or nothing to help the poor, much less families, wrote,


The criticism remains valid in a host of circumstances.

The words of Psalm 96:13 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979) can function as both encouragement and as bad news.

He [the LORD] will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

It is good news for the oppressed and the downtrodden and terrifying news for the oppressors and those who trod upon people.  So be it.






Proper Leadership


Devotion for May 24 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Crucify Him! Crucify Him! (Puck Magazine, March 19, 1913)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Ecclesiastes and John, Part I:  Futility and Perceptions Thereof

MAY 24, 2021


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


The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 1:1-18

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

John 6:60-71


Some parts–such as much of the Book of Proverbs–of the Bible seem overly optimistic to me.  The same rule applies to elements of the Torah.  Obey God, they say, and you (plural or singular) will flourish.  Life will consist of prosperity, safety, and cute, cuddly kittens which scamper about while looking adorable.  (Okay, I invented the part about kittens.)  Yet what about the Book of Job?  And what about the death of Jesus, the martyrdoms of ten of the original Apostles, and the martyrdom of St. Paul of Tarsus?  For that matter, what about the sufferings of faithful Christians since St. Stephen?

Koheleth, in Ecclesiastes 1, asked

What real value is there for a man

In all the gains he makes beneath the sun?

–Verse 3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Jesus lost followers in John 6:66.  I think also of St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (the Wonder-Worker), Bishop of Neocaesarea, Pontus, Asia Minor, who died in 268.  He had seventeen members of his flock when he became bishop.  For three decades he shepherded the Christians under his care through hardships, including a plague, a siege, and a Roman imperial persecution.  And, when he died, he still had only seventeen parishioners.  Had his work been in vain?

I think not.  If St. Gregory’s work has been in vain, so had our Lord’s.  But sometimes human concepts of work as leading to certain rewards fail to explain reality accurately.  Honest people scrape by sometimes while high-rolling criminals become wealthier.  Those whose greed tipped economies into globally-related recessions do not suffer financially, but innocents in the working class do.  I wonder what Koheleth would write about skullduggery in the world’s financial capitals and in the corridors of power in contemporary times.

Yet, sadly, Koheleth was partially correct in Chapter 1:  Much work is futile.  And this need not be the case.  Society is what people have made it, so is current reality can change.  May they do so for the benefit of more people, especially those without financial cushions and golden parachutes.  The Hebrew Prophets would approve.







Week of Proper 25: Monday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 25: Tuesday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Wedding Rings

Source = Jeff Belmonte

Men, Women, Paul, and Jesus

OCTOBER 24 and 25, 2022



Ephesians 5:1-33 (Revised English Bible):

In a word, as God’s dear children, you must be like him.  Live in love as Christ loved you and gave himself up on your behalf, an offering and sacrifice whose fragrance is pleasing to God.

Fornication and indecency of  any kind, or ruthless greed, must not be so much as mentioned among you, as befits the people of God.  No coarse, stupid, or flippant talk:  these things are out of place; you should rather be thanking God.  For be very sure of this:  no one given to fornication or vice, or the greed which makes an idol of gain, has any share which makes an idol of gain, has any share in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with shallow arguments; it is for these things that divine retribution falls on God’s rebel subjects.  Have nothing to do with them.  Though you once were darkness, now as Christians you are light.  Prove yourselves at home in the light, for where light is, there is a harvest of goodness, righteousness, and truth.  Learn to judge for yourselves what is pleasing to the Lord; take no part in the barren deeds of darkness, but show them up for what they are.  It would be shameful even to mention what is done in secret.  But everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed in the light becomes light.  That is why it is said:

Awake, sleeper,

rise from the dead,

and Christ will shine upon you.

Take great care, them, how you behave:  act sensibly, not like simpletons.  Use the present opportunity to the full, for these are evil days.  Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  Do not give way to drunkenness and the ruin that goes with it, but let the Holy Spirit fill you:  speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and songs; sing and make music from your heart to the Lord; and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ give thanks every day for everything to our God and Father.

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, be subject to your husbands as though to the Lord; for the man is the head of the woman, just as Christ is the head of the church.  Christ is, indeed, the saviour of that body; but just as the church is subject to Christ, so must women be subject to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it, to consecrate and cleanse it by water and word, so that he might present the church to himself all glorious, with no stain or wrinkle or anything of the sort, but holy and without blemish.  In the same way men ought to love their wives, as they love their own bodies.  In loving his wife a man loves himself.  No one ever hated his own body; on the contrary, he keeps it nourished and warm, and that is how Christ treats the church, because it is his body, of which we are living parts.

That is why

(in the words of scripture)

a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

There is hidden here a great truth, which I take to refer to Christ and to the church.  But it applies also to each one of you:  the husband must love his wife as his very self, and the wife must show reverence for her husband.


Psalm 37:27-33 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

27  The righteous are always generous in their lending,

and their children shall be a blessing.

28  Turn from evil, and do good,

and dwell in the land for ever.

29  For the LORD loves justice;

he does not forsake his faithful ones.

30  They shall be kept safe for ever,

but the offering of the wicked shall be destroyed.

31  The righteous shall possess the land

and dwell in it for ever.

32  The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,

and their tongue speaks what is right.

33  The law of their God is in their heart,

and their footsteps shall not falter.


Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who fear the LORD,

and who follow in your ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

4 The man who fears the LORD

shall thus be blessed.

The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.


Luke 13:10-21 (Revised English Bible):

He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath, and there was a woman there possessed by a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years.  She was bend double and quite unable to stand up straight.  When Jesus saw her he called her and said,

You are rid of your trouble,

and he laid hands on her.  Immediately she straightened up and began to praise God.  But the president of the synagogue, indignant with Jesus for healing on the sabbath, intervened and said to the congregation,

There are six working day:  come and be cured on one of them, and not on the sabbath.

The Lord gave him this answer:

What hypocrites you are!

he said.

Is there a single one of you who does not loose his ox or his donkey from its stall and take it out to water on the sabbath?  And here is this woman, a daughter of Abraham, who has been bound by Satan for eighteen long years:  was it not right for her to be loosed from her bonds on the sabbath?

At these words all his opponents were filled with confusion, while the mass of the people were delighted at all the wonderful things he was doing.

What is the kingdom of God like?

he [Jesus] continued.

To what shall I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his garden; and it grew to be a tree and the birds came to roost among its branches.

Again he said,

To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like yeast which a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour till it was all leavened.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 25:  Monday, Year 1:

Week of Proper 25:  Tuesday, Year 1:

The Feast of Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos (February 13):

The Feast of Sts. Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe, Holy Women (January 29):

The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, Equal to the Apostles (July 22):

The Feast of Joanna, Mary, and Salome (August 3):

The Feast of Sts. Mary and Martha of Bethany, Friends of Jesus (July 29):


Ephesians 5:2 sets the tone for the rest of the chapter, which flows organically from Chapter 4.

Live in love as Christ loved you and gave himself up on your behalf, an offering and sacrifice whose fragrance is pleasing to God.

Therefore exploitative behavior, whether sexual or economic, is off-limits, as is all else that does not build up others.  And, in terms of relationships, there is no license for one to lord over another in the style of a dictator.  So nobody ought to read Ephesians 6:22-24 outside of the context of Ephesians 5:21

(Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.)

and 5:25-33.  To do so is to engage in the Biblical malpractice of prooftexting. If wives are then supposed to be subject to their husbands, husbands ought to be subject to their wives, according to Ephesians 5:21.

Women feature prominently and favorably in the New Testament.  We read of Paul working with women in ministry.  The example of Prisca/Priscilla comes to mind immediately.  And Jesus treated women as equals, violating social conventions.  So he, for example, saw no difficulty with Mary of Bethany sitting at his feet as a male disciple would or with speaking at length and intelligently to the woman at the well.  Our Lord also depended on certain women for financial support of his ministry.  And let us never forget the women at the cross and the tomb.  Furthermore, there is Galatians 3:28; in Christ, it tells us, there is no male or female.

I invite you, O reader, to consider the end of Ephesians 5 in the context of these facts and the rest of the epistle, which speaks of acting compassionately, thinking of feelings and reputations of others, and being tender-hearted with one another.  All of this occurs within the context of an understanding that we are parts of the body of Christ; one part ought not to oppress another.  Then I invite you to act and continue to act accordingly.


Proper 23, Year B   16 comments

Above:  Front of the 1934 U.S. $100,000 Bill  (Worth $1,630,000 in 2010 Currency)

Images of U.S. banknotes are in the public domain.

God, Injustice, Wealth, and Misplaced Attachments

The Sunday Closest to October 12

The Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 10, 2021



Job 23:1-9, 16-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then Job answered:

Today my complaint is bitter;

his hand is heavy despite my groaning.

Oh, that I knew where I might find him,

that I might come even to his dwelling!

I would lay my case before him,

and fill my mouth with arguments.

I would learn what he would answer me,

and understand what he would say to me.

Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?

No, but he would give heed to me.

There an upright person could reason with him,

and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.

God has made my heart faint;

the Almighty has terrified me;

If only I could vanish in darkness,

and thick darkness would cover my face!

Psalm 22:1-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

and are so far from my cry

and from the words of my distress?

2  O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer;

by night as well, but I find no rest.

3  Yet you are the Holy One,

enthroned upon the praises of Israel.

4  Our forefathers put their trust in you;

they trusted, and you delivered them.

5  They cried out to you and were delivered;

they trusted in you and were not put to shame.

6  But as for me, I am a a worm and no man,

scorned by all and despised by the people.

7  All who see me laugh me to scorn;

they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,

8  “He trusted in the LORD; let him deliver him;

let him rescue him, if he delights in him.”

9  Yet you are he who took me out of the womb,

and kept me safe upon my mother’s breast.

10  I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born;

you were my God when I was still in my mother’s womb.

11  Be not far from me, for trouble is near,

and there is none to help.

12  Many young bulls encircle me;

strong bulls of Bashan surround me.

13  They open wide their jaws at me,

like a ravening and roaring lion.

14  I am poured out like water;

all my bones are out of joint;

my heart within my breast is melting wax.

15  My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd;

my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;

and you have laid me in the dust of the grave.


Amos 5:6-7, 10-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Seek the LORD and live,

or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire,

and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it.

Ah, that you will turn justice to wormwood,

and bring righteousness to the ground!

They hate the one who reproves in the gate,

and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.

Therefore because you trample on the poor

and take from them levies of grain,

you have built houses of hewn stone,

but you shall not live in them;

you have planted pleasant vineyards,

but you shall not drink their wine.

For I know how many are your transgressions,

and how great are your sins–

you who afflict the righteous, who takes a bribe,

and push aside the needy in the gate.

Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time;

for it is an easy time.

Seek good and not evil,

that you may live;

and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you,

just as you have said.

Hate evil and love good,

and establish justice in the gate;

it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts,

will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Psalm 90:12-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

12 So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

13 Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry?

be gracious to your servants.

14 Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning;

so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

15 Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us

and the years in which we suffered adversity.

16 Show your servants your works

and your splendor to their children.

17 May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us;

prosper the work of our hands;

prosper our handiwork.


Hebrews 4:12-16 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the yes of him with whom have to do.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.


Mark 10:17-31 (Revised English Bible):

As he was starting out on a journey, a stranger ran up, and, kneeling before him, asked,

Good Teacher, what must I do to win eternal life?

Jesus said to him,

Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.  You know the commandments:  ‘Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not give false evidence; do not defraud; honour your father and your mother.’

He replied,

But Teacher, I have kept all these since I was a boy.

As Jesus looked at him, his heart warmed to him.

One thing you lack,

he said.

Go, sell everything you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me.

At these words his face fell and he went away with a heavy heart; for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round at his disciples and said to them,

How hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!

They were amazed that he should say this, but Jesus insisted.

Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

They were more astonished than ever, and said to one another,

Then who can be saved?

Jesus looked at them and said,

For men it is impossible, but not for God; everything is possible for God.

Peter said,

What about us?  We have left everything to follow you.

Jesus said,

Truly I tell you:  there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother, father, or children, or land, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much–houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and land–and persecutions besides; and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 23, Year A:

Amos 5:

Hebrews 4:

Mark 10:

Matthew 19 (Parallel to Mark 10):

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

A Prayer for Humankind:

For the Right Use of Possessions:


Job sought God and, in Chapter 23, did not find him.  In the next chapter he complained about rampant injustice, a subject which also vexed the prophet Amos.  The rich man in Mark 10 also sought God, yet his attachment to his wealth got in the way.

Do not rely on your money and say, “This makes me sufficient.”

Do not yield to every impulse you can gratify

or follow the desires of your heart.

Do not say, “I have no master”;

the Lord, you may be sure, will call you to account.

–Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 5:1-3, Revised English Bible

Both economic injustice and idolization of wealth are sins which go hand-in-hand.  Indeed, the idolization of wealth and one’s corresponding social status can lead to more economic injustice by way of Social Darwinism, which is an unfortunate and misleading label, for Darwin wrote about animal species, not human socio-economic status.  It is easier to cling to wealth in lieu of God when one has much money than when one is quite poor, but both the rich and the poor can cling to a great variety of false security blankets.

We–regardless of status–need to have just one security blanket.

As the author of Hebrews reminds us, we can

approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.–4:16, New Revised Standard Version

Our worthiness is in Christ, who died by an unjust act and was therefore acquainted with human inhumanity.  So, where is God in the midst of injustice?  God is in the midst of if with us, suffering with us.  God, who identifies and suffers with us, is our legitimate security blanket.


Week of Proper 8: Friday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  A U-Turn

Image Source = Smurrayinchester

Too Late to Repent?

JULY 1, 2022


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.


Amos 8:1-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

This is what my Lord GOD showed me:  There was a basket of figs.  He said,

What do you see, Amos?

I replied,

A basket of figs.

And the LORD said to me:

The hour of doom has come for my people Israel; I will not pardon them again.  And the singing women of the palace shall howl on that day

–declares my Lord GOD:

So many corpses

Left lying everywhere!


Listen to his, you who devour the needy, annihilating the poor of the land, saying,

If only the new moon were over, so that we could sell grain; the sabbath, so that we could offer wheat for sale, using an ephah that is too small, and a shekel that is too big, tilting a dishonest scale, and selling grain refuse as grain!  We will buy the poor for silver, the needy for a pair of sandals.

The LORD swears by the Pride of Jacob:

I shall never forget any of their doings.

Shall not the earth shake for this

And all that dwell on it mourn?

Shall it not all rise like the Nile

And surge like the Nile of Egypt?

And in that day

–declares my Lord God–

I will make the sun set at noon,

I will darken the earth on a sunny day.

I will turn your festivals into mourning

And all your festivals into mourning

And all your songs into dirges;

I will put sackcloth on all loins

And tonsures on every head.

I will make it mourn as for an only child,

All of it as on a bitter day.

A time is coming

–declares my Lord GOD–

when I will send a famine upon the land:  not a hunger for bread or a thirst for water, but for the hearing of the words of the LORD.  Men shall wander from sea t sea and from north to east to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.

In that day, the beautiful maidens and the young men shall faint with thirst–

Those who swear by the guilt of Samaria,

Saying, “As your God lives, Dan,”

And “As the way to Beer-sheba lives”–

They shall fall to rise no more.

Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

3 Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in his ways.

4 You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

Matthew 9:9-13 (An American Translation):

Afterward, as Jesus was passing along from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tollhouse, and he said to him,

Follow me!

And he got up and followed him.

While Jesus was at home at table, a number of tax-collectors and irreligious people came in joined Jesus and his disciples at table.  And the Pharisees observed it, and they said to his disciples,

Why does your master eat with tax-collectors and irreligious people?

But he heard it, and said,

It is not the well but the sick who have to have the doctor!  Go and learn what the saying means, “It is mercy, not sacrifice, that I care for.”  I did not come to invite the pious but the irreligious.


The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 8:  Friday,  Year 1:


I enjoy wordplay.  I eve have my own blog devoted to puns.  So imagine, if you, O reader, will, my interest in noting the Hebrew-language pun early in Amos 8.  “Kayitz,” the Hebrew word for “summer fruit” or “figs”,” sounds like “ketz,” the Hebrew word for “the end.”  Amos sees a basket of figs or summer fruit, a sign that the end is near.  This pun is serious.

And why was the end near?  As Amos keeps repeating–just in case we have missed it for the previous seven chapters–cheating, exploitation, systemic corruption–angered God.  And this had been going on for some time.  Those who benefited to the detriment of others showed no signs of changing their ways.  So God declared that the time for forgiveness had ended and that judgment day was near.

Now for the Gospel reading.

The Jewish men who collected taxes for the occupying Roman Empire cheated others.  These men lived–often quite comfortably–off the difference between what Rome required them to collect and what they collected.  Matthew/Levi was a tax collector before becoming an Apostle.  He repented and followed Jesus, with whom he shared a scandalous meal.  And Matthew/Levi invited some others who sought to reform their lives.

To repent, of course, is to turn around and change one’s mind.  That was what would have made glad the heart of God in much of the Old Testament, including the Book of Amos.  What we do affects others for good or for ill.  There, of course, is nothing morally objectionable about earning a just profit, but the economic exploitation of people is a sin.  To base one’s economic good fortunes on gouging people financially is wrong at all times and at all places.  And it makes God angry.

Maybe those who practice this sin still have time to repent.