Archive for the ‘Parable of the Corrupt Manager’ Tag

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

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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 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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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

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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.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY; AND HIS SON, WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY; HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET AND RELIGIOUS WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND SAINTS OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZITA OF TUSCANY, WORKER OF CHARITY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/perplexing-readings/

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Proper 20, Year C   7 comments

Teachings_of_Jesus_31_of_40._parable_of_the_unjust_steward._Jan_Luyken_etching._Bowyer_Bible

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

God, the Powerful, and the Powerless

The Sunday Closest to September 21

Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 22, 2019

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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:

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/

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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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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/god-the-powerful-and-the-powerless/

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