May 01, 2012

Luke 16.1-13

He also said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a steward, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his goods.

"And he called him and said to him, 'What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.'

"And the steward said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg!

"' I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.' So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'

"He said, 'A hundred measures of oil.'

"And he said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.'

"Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?'

"He said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.'

"He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.'

"The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness; for the children of the World are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the children of Light.

"And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when that fails they may receive you into eternal habitations.

"He who is faithful in very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which was another's, who will give you that which is your own?

"No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."

1 Comments:

At 12:20 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Scholars are quite sure Jesus told this story, because it sounds too disreputable for anyone else to have added.

Obvious no-brainer here: "The rich man" in this story represents God.

So "the steward" seems to point to the rulers of Israel and the Temple, the people who've been in charge of God's people. "Wasting his goods." Not using their powers and resources to help the general populace, but to enhance their own power, prestige, luxury, in the service of foreign rulers. "My master is taking the stewardship away from me" is a sharply pointed prophecy. And Jesus tells it "to the disciples," at least at first.

William Herzog: "God's character is different from the other gods and baals, for God is a God of liberation, not a god who enslaves. To have no other gods before Yahweh is to keep the project of liberation alive and well. To honor the peculiar nature of Yahweh means creating a society that reflects God's liberating character. It is not possible to worship Yahweh and enslave Yahweh's people by foreclosing on peasants and seizing the land Yahweh has given them."

And they are "serving two masters." The one they've been devoted to, de facto, has been Caesar. But it's God who has the true power. Wright: "If [the steward] knew his business he would be looking around for all the friends he could get while there is still time."

What seems to be Jesus' "approval of dishonesty" here... comes down to reducing people's debts. It is not the rich who are indebted. This debt is "unrighteous mammon" in the light of the Torah's injunctions to lend to your brother without charging interest, without worrying about repayment, without even considering whether the seventh year will soon cancel all debts. Any "wealth" that's been collected in violation of Torah, as Jesus and his Galilean tradition understands it to apply, does not really belong to the man who claims it; and the "faithful" use of it would be to reduce the burden on his neighbors. Which would have lead to the production of "true riches."

 

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