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Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Today’s Reading | Luke 16:1–31
Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God. “The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped. “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (NRSV)
In reading this parable-filled passage, I am struck by the difficulty in attempting to understand the teachings of Jesus. After several readings of the passage I can see why these lessons for living provoke confusion and curiosity. Maybe that’s the point.
What does Jesus mean by “No servant can be a slave of two masters” or “God sees through you”? I have to ask why would a master commend a steward who had cheated him? I also wonder about money, debt, and business in Jesus’ time and question whether there are aspects about that which we can know very little compared to today. Were there customs then which we no longer practice? Parables often seem purposely confusing. Again, maybe that’s the point: to cause one to think, to really consider the story’s elements.
I think Jesus is trying to teach something about living here and now in God’s kingdom and challenging us to turn popular beliefs on their heads. What exactly are my resources? How do I use my resources in the short term and long term, and can I honor God in the use of those resources? Is Jesus talking about more than money and property? What constitutes generosity?
The theme of this passage that resonates the most for me is one of responsibility. In these stories, Jesus presents intricate and difficult problems that cause me to think in ways that are not obvious. I believe Jesus wanted to disturb the status quo and challenge his listeners then and now to find new ways to understand God’s will.
Loving Creator, help me to see beyond the status quo and to think about all my resources and how to use these in a loving way, honoring your intentions. Amen.
Written by Elise Magers, Assistant Director, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being
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