Networked Blogs on Facebook

Search This Blog

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lexegete™ | Year C -- Pentecost XIX

Lexegete™ | Year C | Luke

October 7, 2007 (Lectionary 27)

Complementary Series

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Psalm 37:1-9 (Ps. 37:5)
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

Semicontinuous Series

Lamentations 1:1-6
Lamentations 3:19-26 (Lam. 3:23) or Psalm 137 (Ps. 137:7)
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

Day of Thanksgiving (Canada)
October 8, 2007

Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm 100 (Ps. 100:4)
Philippians 4:4-9
John 6:25-35


1a. CONTEXT: LUKE 17:5-10

Our pericope occurs in the midst of the section of Luke's Gospel
between the Transfiguration and Passion Week. Jesus has set his "face
to go to Jerusalem" (10:51). On the way he has sent his disciples
forth in mission and has confronted his foes (notably the Pharisees)
and contrasts the values of the Pharisees and Scribes with that of his
disciples (11:37-12:59). With acts of miraculous power and with
teaching he seeks to prepare his disciples for life after his death
and resurrection, though they fail to understand that. In Chapter 16
Jesus contrasts the function of the Torah with that of the faith of
his disciples, again contrasting his disciples with the Pharisees,
concluding with the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus with the
provocative quote of 16:31 as its climax. Our lesson today completes
this thought with Jesus providing private instruction to his
disciples. To appreciate Luke 17: 5-10 more fully, one should also
read verses 1-4. Those verses provide a context of forgiveness and
its relationship to faith that adds meaning to our pericope.

Luke 17:5-6 find a parallel in Matthew 17:20 and a variation of a
parallel in Matthew 21:21. This Q saying on faith follows immediately
in Luke's Gospel another Q saying on forgiveness 17:3b-4 (Matthew
18:15; 18:21-22) and a Markan saying on the results of causing
someone to sin 17:1-2 (Mark 9:42; Matthew 18:6-7). Luke places them
with some unique material in the Parable of the Servant's Wages (17:7 10) to establish his point on the nature of faith and discipleship.

1b. TEXT: LUKE 17:5-10

Lk. 17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"

Lk. 17:6 The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.

Lk. 17:7 "Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table'?

Lk. 17:8 Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'?

Lk. 17:9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?

Lk. 17:10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"

cf., for additional helps.

2. Analysis: Luke 17:5-10

Luke 17:5 hoi apostoloi - the Apostles. Luke uses apostolos (one
sent forth) six times in his Gospel (6:13; 9:10; 11:49; 17:5;
22:14; and 24:10) and though they appear in close proximity in
verses to mathetes (disciple - taught or trained one) they are
not synonymous terms. Disciples refers to the group of followers
of Jesus who were present in much of his earthly ministry,
including the women who followed him. The Apostles were the 12
chosen from amongst the disciples to be the future leaders of the
church. To use the term apostoloi here rather than repeating
17:1 mathotas indicates the importance of this question for Luke.

Luke 17:5 prosthes omin pistin - Add to us faith, Increase our faith

Luke 17:6 ei echete pistin - if you have/possess faith. Pistis &
Pistos (faith and faithful) occurs 16 times in Luke (5:20, 7:9,
7:50, 8:25, 8:48,12:42, 16:10, 16:11, 16:12, 17:5, 17:6, 18:8,
18:42, 19:17, and 22:32) and 4 of those times (7:9, 12:42, 17:6,
19:17) are in the context of Q writings. Whereas most of the uses
of faith or faithfulness describes a general condition, in Q
"Each occurrence is in a context where faith or faithfulness is
acted out in some specific way-by word or deed. Thus the context
for the use of the word faith is that of the wisdom-prophetic
approach to action-by their fruits you will know them (p. 140,

Luke 17:6 sukamino - Sycamine tree, Black Mulberry Tree, a tree with
an extended root system, very difficult to uproot. Contrast with
Matthew 17:20 where mountain is used rather than sukamino.

Luke 17:7 arotriaonta ...poimainonta - plowing ... herding in the
sense of keeping sheep. These are examples of toilsome work not
symbols of ministry.

Luke 17:10 oti douloi achreioi esmen, o spheilomen poimsai
pepoimkamen - unprofitable slaves are we, we ought to do what we have done.

3. Strategy: Luke 17:5-10

The directions that this passage give us cause us to look
seriously at faith, not as a work, but as a gift. It is not
quantifiable. You cannot measure faith on a scale of 1 to 10, you
either have the gift or you don't. To use an old example you are
either pregnant or you are not, no one is a "liitle" pregnant. The
same is true of faith as Jesus shares with his apostles in this
conversation. That is the difference in the use of faith in vs. 5 by
the apostles, when they wish a quantity (on a continuum) and the use
of faith by Jesus in vs. 6 when he describes it as a gift that can do
powerful things (but as an either/or situation).

To have apostles ask this question is to put a great deal of
weight upon the question and the answer. Each time the apostles are
mentioned in Luke it is for a strong purpose. From their choosing in
6:13, to their return from their mission 9:10, to pronouncements of
their message and doom 11:49, to this basic question of faith 17:5, to
their presence at the Last Supper 22:14, to the resurrection
announcement in the upper room 24:10 the apostles are given a key
place in Luke's Gospel as the presence of the word illustrates a key
point. Perhaps Luke's community, as is the Christian Community in the
United States these days, was struggling with those who used works of
faith as a measure of their power, to rank themselves higher in the
community. Perhaps there was a struggle within the community as
faith seemed to "work" for some people and not for others. Whatever
the reason, Luke found it important to emphasize faith and forgiveness
(including vs. 1-4) as the "duty" (doing what they ought to do) of
disciples not something done for a reward.

The rewards of discipleship, Jesus in the pericope, implies is
not in working for some tangible reward, but comes incidentally in
doing that to which you are called. And thus Luke reinterprets Q to
match his theology of faith active in service as a natural response to
the gift, not as a sign of proving an amount of faith. It is in doing
one's duty without seeking profit (vs. 10) that amazing things can
happen - Sycamine trees can be planted into seas, or more amazing
things can happen. The offering of complete gracious forgiveness can
overcome the stumbling block, the "scandala" verse 1. As the parable
of the servant's wages points out, again even forgiveness is not done
to seek some reward, but is done because that is what disciples ought
to do.

Eduard Schwiezer on pages 264-265 in his book The Good News
According to Luke writes this of this passage:

"What vs. 10 requires is not a degrading confession of
sin but love that knows that its duty is never done. A
disciple of Jesus is not "worthless" because he is nothing
and can do nothing but because he can never begin to
fulfill everything left to do. This holds true for
community leaders, whom Luke may be thinking of....This
sets us free from all conceit which leads in turn to
judgment and comparison and feelings of inferiority, giving
insight into the fact that a life made meaningful by service
is a gift. Requested by his disciples to give with the
fullness of his authority (vs. 5), Jesus sets them free to
be natural and live a self-evident life on behalf of those
who need their service."

To be a disciple of our Lord then and now is to have the gift of
faith, not as a tool that can be used to better ourselves, but a gift
to enable us to live our lives doing that which we ought, i.e.
forgiving sins, caring for others, even those we don't like, as our
next pericope will indicate concretely.

4. References: Luke 17:5-10

Edwards, Richard A. A THEOLOGY OF Q - Eschatology, Prophecy, and
Wisdom Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976

Schweizer, Eduard -THE GOOD NEWS ACCORDING TO LUKE - translated
by David E. Green. Atlanta: John Know Press, 1984

Danker, Frederick W. JESUS AND THE NEW AGE According to St. Luke -
St. Louis: Clayton Publishing House, 1972

Gilbertson, James G. PC STUDY BIBLE - Seattle: Biblesoft, 1988
(Computer Study Bible and Concordance in NIV, KJV, and ASV).

5. Hymn Suggestions: Luke 17:5-10

LBW # Hymn Name

503 O Jesus, I have promised

230 Lord, Keep us Steadfast in Your Word

293/4 My Hope is Built on Nothing Less

357 Our Father, by Whose Name

433 The Church of Christ in Any Age

500 Faith of our Fathers

Exegete: Philip N. Gustafson [ ] is Pastor of St. Paul Lutheran and Reformation Lutheran Churches in Vandergrift, PA, in the Southwestern Penna. Synod of the ELCA. St. Paul-Reformation is an innovative cooperative ministry in Vandergrift [see: ].



© 2007

Tischrede Software

Dartmouth,MA 02747


Monday, September 24, 2007

Lexegete - Pentecost XVIII

Lexegete™ | Year C | Luke



September 30, 2007 (Lectionary 26)

Complementary Series

Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Psalm 146 (Ps. 146:7)
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

Semicontinuous Series

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16 (Ps. 91:2)
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31


1a. CONTEXT: Luke 16:19-31

There is something about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus that reminds us of a fairy tale or a morality play. Like a Punch and Judy show, first century rabbis used this Egyptian folk tale to convey a simple view of ethics. In the judgment in the afterlife, the immoral rich man will receive punishment and the poor man will be comforted. Jesus uses the vehicle of this well-known story to grasp his audience's attention and add a provocative twist to the tale: he links the story to Moses and the prophets, and to an understanding of the resurrection.

The specific Lukan context for this parable is Jesus teaching his disciples. He is overheard by avaricious Pharisees who proceed to deride him.

The passage occurs in a unique Lukan section, Luke 9: 51-18: 14. Luke uses this long section to portray his major themes. (1) The purposeful God acts in a final way toward the world through the spirit present in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. (2) The end time is an occasion for all human beings to decide their destiny in the last judgment of the Holy God. (3) The manifestation of the divine plan in this servant messiah, who reaches out to the outcasts such as the poor, the lost, and the sinner, while calling into judgment the rich, the self-satisfied, and the self-righteous in their separation from God. All of these themes are vividly present in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

The social, economic, and political context of Luke reveal further clues to the understanding of this particular parable. After the Neronian
persecutions, Luke offered a two volume apologia, Luke-Acts, addressed to those outside the church, attempting to bring order to the chaos which followed this time of trouble, to refute the many false accusations, and to regain tolerance throughout the empire (Caird, p. 13ff.).

A more specific issue is who held power in this setting. There are two geographic jurisdictions in Luke's description of events. Pontius Pilate had authority in Judea and Samaria while Herod Antipas ruled Galilee and Perea. The rich man could have been a Sadducee who collaborated with Romans for political and/or economic favor. The purple robe could have been that of a High Priest. The social, economic and religious habits of their fellow countrymen, the Pharisees and Sadducees, must have been evident to the disciples of Jesus, and a possible identification of the rich man with these people could have affected the way in which the disciples interpreted this parable.

For example, the existence of one social custom of Jesus' day was certainly well known to the disciples, and is helpful to us today as we try to understand the dramatic power of the story. Rather than use utensils in eating, people tore bread to scoop up the food. Most people ate both the bread scoop and the main dish, but the wealthy simply used bread as disposable utensils, the vehicle by which rich food was carried to the palate. The hungry poor, like Lazarus, stationed themselves near the site of such banquets, hoping to survive on the bread scoop leftovers. (James, p. 25.)

1b. TEXT: Luke 16:19-31


[Greek Text © 2006 ]

Lk. 16:19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

Lk. 16:20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,

Lk. 16:21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.

Lk. 16:22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

Lk. 16:23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.

Lk. 16:24 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.'

Lk. 16:25 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.

Lk. 16:26 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.'

Lk. 16:27 He said, `Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house--

Lk. 16:28 for I have five brothers-- that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.'

Lk. 16:29 Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.'

Lk. 16:30 He said, `No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'

Lk. 16:31 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.'"

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 16: 19-31

The first modern interpretation of the parables is marked by A. Julicher's HISTORY OF THE INTERPRETATION OF THE PARABLES OF JESUS. His primary contribution was to free the interpretation of parables from the arbitrary allegorical methods used by most earlier works. Like A. Schweitzer's attempt to free the "quest of the historical Jesus" from the projections of ideology by earlier commentators, Julicher tried to put an end to such abuse in the interpretation of the parables. However, his solution was to reduce the interpretation to a single pristine point which he assumed came from specific historical events. Commenting on the parable we are examining, Julicher stated: "The story of the rich man and poor Lazarus was intended to bring joy to such as live in pain, terror to those who live at ease." More recent studies have tried to elaborate a broader understanding of parable interpretation without slipping back into allegory. For example, the form critics emphasized the diversity among the various categories of parable types. (Jeremias 16-19)

The obvious caution to any future analysis is an awareness of the constant temptation to project into the parable our own agenda. We can allegorize with the newest hermaneutical ideology as well as with an ancient, fantastic imagination.

The best historical evidence for the origin of this popular story is the Egyptian folk tale brought by Alexandrian Jews into Palestine. They told a story of the poor scholar, whose burial had no mourners, and the rich publican, whose funeral was elaborate. In the next world, the scholar went to the garden of pardise while the rich publican suffered torture. This story concluded with the words, "He who has been good on earth will be blessed in the kingdom of the dead, and he who has been evil on earth, will suffer in the kingdom of the dead." (Jeremias p. 128)

Not unlike Shakespeare or any great storyteller, the Lukan Jesus used a diversity of sources to gain attention and drive home his particular point. Narrative theology accepts that a good story possesses rich ore and can be refined to portray several facets of insight and typology wihtout succumbing to the license of allegory.

The analysis of "poor Lazarus and the rich man" is clarified in a word study of its key expressions:

1. "...DRESSED IN PURPLE AND FINE LINEN..." is a description that identifies this person as a particular rich man who could afford such luxuries. Religiously, it could easily identify a Sadducee who collaborated with the Roman occupation to secure his wealth. Theologically, the Sadducee identification is confirmed by his lack of moral concern and disbelief in judgment in the afterlife. Politically, he could be seen as a follower of Herod Antipas or Antipas himself.

2. "LAZARUS" could possibly be the brother of Martha and Mary, whom Luke described in Chapter 10: 38ff. which has a connection with John 11. The two may be using a common source. However, this is made problematic by the fact that, unlike John, Luke does not mention directly the miracle of Lazarus being raised from the dead.

3. "HADES" is usually associated with SHE'OL, but this context portrays a division into two parts. On the one hand, GEHENNA is a place of torment for the unrighteous. The word is derived from GE HENNON, the valley circling Jerusalem from the south to the southwest. It had been the site where children were sacrificed to Molech and by Jesus' time was a smoldering garbage dump. On the other hand, PARADISE was where the righteous were comforted. The origin of this term is Persian; in that culture PARADISE referred to a king's garden or park surrounded by a protective wall. Thus PARADISE had its roots in a story of a garden of Eden prior to the Biblical story.

4. "A GREAT GULF HAS BEEN FIXED" is a description consistent with later Judaism's understanding of the division within SHE'OL. "Enoch xxii. 9 mentions a well in the righteous division of SHE'OL, and also testifies to the separation between the two parts."

5. "THEY HAVE MOSES AND THE PROPHETS" are the Jewish moral authorities whom Herod Antipas, in his remarriage, and his five living brothers have ignored. The Pharisees with whom Jesus collaborated confirmed this expediency of interpretation. The new age proclaimed by John the Baptizer, an Elijah figure, prophesies against the abomination of adultery.

6. "IF SOMEONE RISES FROM THE DEAD" is taught in 'Moses and the Prophets" according to Acts 26: 22-23. (word study from A. R. C. Leaney, pp. 225-226.)

3. STRATEGY: Luke 16: 19-31

The key issue for the preacher is the relationship between and consequence of eschatology and ethics. What is believed about human destiny has direct consequence on one's moral behavior, both personally and in community.

Helmut Thielicke, the famous German preacher and ethicist, chose originally to follow Julicher's emphasis on one key theme to unlock the meaning of the parable: "And this key is none other than the speech of Abraham in which he says that a man must hear Moses and the prophets if he is to come to terms with his eternal destiny" (Thielicke, p. 42).

Using a rather individualistic point of view, Thielicke draws the dramatic figures deeply in the flesh. He follows his theological premise: "For me the leitmotiv became Luther's dictum, PERSONA FACIT OPERA, ' It is the person who does the works'...I have been interested in the theological question of what change takes place in a man, and naturally also in the forms in which he expresses himself, when he finds God and so also himself." (Thielicke, p. 8)

But many years later, in a Princeton seminar in the 1970's, it was interesting to see Thielicke's growth in interpretation. He is now willing to allow the specific historical context to have a larger voice. In an interpretation reminiscent of Reinhold Niebuhr's MORAL MAN AND IMMORAL SOCIETY, Thielicke now points out that the position of the individual in society can have a significant effect on not just the person but the community too. For example, how did the manner in which the rich man gained his wealth affect the poor? The synergistic nature of man's relationship to his community becomes much clearer in this later interpretation of the parable.

In the earlier writing, Thielicke shows how the figure of the rich man evaded and escaped the issue of poor Lazarus. Not unlike a substance abuse addict denying his problem, the first century "yuppie" distanced himself from the horror of poverty by escaping into the Dolce Vita. Thielicke enlarges the issue in the seminar by showing how everyone is rich in some fashion whether money, health, intellect, etc.

One cannot help wondering how Thielicke would advise us to preach on this parable today. Undoubtedly, he would add social, political, and economic issues to the parable of private piety. I imagine he would agree with Martin Luther King who, in his last sermon, spoke of preachers' fears about what would happen to themselves if they did act, instead of fearing what would happen to the poor if they did not.

Another possibility for sermon development can be seen in the fact that, in the Lukan narrative, the rich man seems unaware that his status and life style have been radically changed by the new situation in which he finds himself. Instead of conversing with a fellow human being, Lazarus, he addresses himself to Abraham as if they were peers. He seems to forget the prerogatives of his earthly life are ended. He presumes twice to ask Abraham to "send Lazarus" for water and to his brothers as if he were a servant or slave to do the bidding of an upper crust person such as himself and Abraham. He just does not catch on that a new age has dawned.

In terms of corporate personality, the rich man illustrates the mindset of many modern technocratic nations and multinational corporations. In their striving for growth and profit, they seem to disregard both natural resources and persons. Far too often they arrogantly abuse ecological systems and poor population to their own ends. Even in temporal terms, the consequences of such immoral behavior have dramatic long-term effects on the lives of everyone on the blue planet. What is less evident or admitted is that all of us in a consumer society directly or indirectly participate in this system. Who are the Lazaruses who live at the doorstep of our city?

4. REFERENCES: Luke 16: 19-31

Caird, G.B. SAINT LUKE. New York: Penguin Books, 1963.

James, Ann. "A Fellow Child of God." in THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY,
July-August 1978, pp. 25-26.

Jeremias, Joachim. THE PARABLES OF JESUS. New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons, 1955.

Fuller, Reginald H. PREACHING THE LECTIONARY. Collegeville, MN:
The Liturgical Press, 1974.

& Brothers, 1958.

Thielicke, Helmut. THE WAITING FATHER. New York: Harper & Brothers,

Exegete: M. Douglas Girardeau
Episcopal Diocese of Easton, MD


LEXEGETE™ copyright 2007

Tischrede Software

Dartmouth,MA 02747


Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Lexegete™ | Year C | Luke

September 23, 2007 (Lectionary 25)

Complementary Series:

Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113 (Ps. 113:7)
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

Semicontinuous Series:

Jeremiah 8:18—9:1
Psalm 79:1-9 (Ps. 79:9)
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

Michael and All Angels | September 29, 2007
Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3 | Psalm 103:1-5, 20-22 (Ps. 103:20, 21)
Revelation 12:7-12 | Luke 10:17-20


1. CONTEXT: Luke 16:1-13

The general theme of the two volume work of Luke-Acts relates to beneficial actions of God in the lives of people in this world. The theme is developed in the meaning of what God has done, first in the servant, Jesus, and then in the servant, the church. In volume one, the Gospel, after introducing Jesus, the work of Jesus is described in two stages. This is followed by a report of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

This lection is a portion of the second stage of the description of the work of Jesus. The format for this stage is a journey toward Jerusalem. During the journey, Jesus both teaches and does the works of God. This lection is one of the lessons of Jesus. It is introduced with the formula: "And he also said to his disciples..." This formula serves two roles. One, it marks the transition from one segment in the stage to the next. Second, it indicates audience. "Disciple" can refer, however, to the inner band or to the larger public crowd. In this instance, the audience seems more likely to be the public crowd than the inner band.

1b. TEXT: Luke 16:1-13

Lk. 16:1 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.

Lk. 16:2 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.'

Lk. 16:3 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.

Lk. 16:4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.'

Lk. 16:5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, `How much do you owe my master?'

Lk. 16:6 He answered, `A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, `Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.'

Lk. 16:7 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.'

Lk. 16:8 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.

Lk. 16:9 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.

Lk. 16:10 "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.

Lk. 16:11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?

Lk. 16:12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?

Lk. 16:13 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."

2. ANALYSIS: Luke 16: 1-13

Notes from the English Text:

Jesus told a parable. This parable is the kind of story one can hear traveling around. It has the feel of a "community gossip" account of a manager who got into trouble with his employer. The lection includes in 16: 1-8 the story followed by a lesson from the story, almost in an Aesop's Fable fashion. Then in 16: 9-13, a second teaching is attached. It seems related only by the theme of the use of possessions.

Notes on Greek words and phrases:

Lk. 16: 1 - [oikonomon] "manager," "house steward;" The word originally meant one who supervised the affairs of the house of another. In time, it came to refer to one who managed the business affairs of another. It appears to be used in this latter sense here.

Lk. 16:1 - [diaskorpizon] "waste;" From scatter, it is sometimes used to mean lose or waste.

Lk.16: 2 - [apodos tou logou] "render an account;" The manager was required to give an accounting of his management of the finances of his employer.

Lk. 16: 8 - [oikonomon teis adikias] "worldly manager;" The emphasis for the word, "unrighteous," is more on one who acts in the way of the world than on dishonesty or evil. The manager of the story is described as worldly, not dishonest.

Lk. 16:8 - [phronimos epoieisen] "act prudently;" or "act shrewdly;" Both are included here. The manager was prudent in the sense of acting quickly in a time of crisis; shrewd in finding a way to use for his own advantage options still available to him.

Lk. 16: 13 - [mamona] "possessions;" The word can refer to wealth or property. In this case it seems more likely that it means no more than possessions.

Notes from commentaries:

This parable typically causes Christian readers some discomfort. This is unnecessary. The story is told for the lesson - not as an example of behavior. The Lord's approval reveals the point of the lesson. The manager faced a crisis. About to lose his job, he faced embarrassment by working at menial jobs or loss of income by going without a job. He wanted neither. He wanted to provide for his financial needs. One need not approve his methods to realize he recognized his crisis situation and acted to prevent personal disaster.

The problem for the manager probably was not dishonesty. The story implies more carelessness or incompetence than dishonesty. His poor performance had cost his employer money. The implication is that the employer wanted to replace him with a more effective manager.

Using the legal powers he still had before being relieved of his duties, he reduced the amount owed his employer by all of his debtors. This built gratitude which could result in his getting help after losing his job.

Jesus drew a "lesson" from this gossip story. The manager recognized the crisis that threatened his personal well-being. He used what was available to him to protect his future.

The very presence of Jesus presented a crisis to those in the crowds who listened to him. The Son of God had come to "seek and to save the lost." Participation in the Kingdom of God (Salvation, fellowship with God) was an issue for them. Their crisis was how to respond to Jesus. If they responded with faith in Jesus, they would be forgiven and receive welcome into the Kingdom. If they rejected Jesus, they would exclude themselves from participation in the Kingdom.

3. STRATEGY: Luke 16: 1-13

Expository Notes:

Perhaps the primary issue addressed by this lection is the need to entrust one's life to Jesus. In our country, the thin "veneer" of religious respectability that covers society obscures the fact that a shrinking percentage of people are related to God through faith in Jesus. While that fact may be cause for concern, lifting our eyes to include the rest of the world should prompt recognition of crisis. We believe that God has come into human life in Jesus, the Son. Our faith teaches us all must respond to Jesus. Yet most have not. Crisis is a combination of the elements of danger and opportunity. The text presents the coming of Jesus into the world as a crisis. The danger is found in rejecting, or even ignoring Jesus. To reject faith in Jesus is to reject relationship to God. That is serious! The opportunity is to accept the freely offered forgiveness of God and welcome into the fellowship of God who loves us. This text highlights the urgency of the crisis.

A second issue addressed by this text is the matter of facing reality. There are those who quickly accuse Christians and the Church of living in the world of illusion. While we cannot agree that faith is illusion, we may recognize that we are not always realistic. The church can too easily become a "protective womb" in which we are isolated from the real world around us. The Lord we follow would have none of that. Jesus interacted with those around him - on the basis of reality not illusion. The Christian faith does not call for us to run from the world and unpleasant realities we encounter there. It calls for us to live in the world and redeem the world. This text may encourage us to some "clear-eyed realism" in the church.

A third issue we could consider in light of this text is action. There is some truth to the saw about the church: "When all was said and done, more was said than done." Admittedly, study and discussion are important. But there comes a time when Christians and the church must act. There are people hurting. There are issues of life being decided without effective input from the Christian faith. There are wars, oppression, and injustice. In the face of such matters, action is required (A golfer had a bad day. It started at the first tee. He took a vicious swing at the ball with his driver - and missed. The club head hit the ground and dirt flew in every direction. His partner looked down and noticed the other golfer had hit an ant hill. He reported that he must have killed at least a hundred ants. The golfer made another attempt. His adjustments in his swing only lowered the arc, and he hit the ground again. His partner's casualty report was about a thousand ants. Switching to an iron, the golfer blasted the dirt again, but left the ball unmoved. At that point, one dazed ant staggered past another and said: "Our only chance for survival is to get on the ball!")

Exegete: Rev. Dr. Brian A. Nelson, D. Min., is a retired pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). His most recent parish was in West Lafayette, IN, on the campus of Purdue University.



© 2007 Tischrede Software

Dartmouth,MA 02747


Monday, September 10, 2007

Still Defending Faith

Mark Edmundson, in a forthcoming book on Freud has noted the great psychoanalyst's
influence on postmodern attitudes toward God:

" A good deal of the antireligious polemic that has recently been abroad in our culture proceeds in the spirit of Freud’s earlier work. In his defense of atheism, “God Is Not Great,” Christopher Hitchens cites Freud as an ally who, he believes, exposed the weak-minded childishness of religion. Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins come out of the same Enlightenment spirit of hostile skepticism to faith that infuses “The Future of an Illusion.” All three contemporary writers want to get rid of religion immediately and with no remainder.

But there’s more to Freud’s take on religion than that. In his last book, written when he was old and ill, suffering badly from cancer of the jaw, Freud offers another perspective on faith. He argues that Judaism helped free humanity from bondage to the immediate empirical world, opening up fresh possibilities for human thought and action. He also suggests that faith in God facilitated a turn toward the life within, helping to make a rich life of introspection possible."

[ "Defender of the Faith?" MY Times Magazine, Sept. 9, 2007 ]

Anybody who has read Prof. Armand Nicholi's book "The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life" [or seen the eponymous PBS "Question of God" series based on it] will find none of this surprising. Edmundson, an English professor at the University of Virginia, and the author WHY READ? wrote in Harper's a few years ago ["On the Uses of a Liberal Education" ] that "University culture, like American culture writ large, is, to put it crudely, ever more devoted to consumption and entertainment, to the using and using up of goods and images."

Edmundson has demonstrated in any number of ways [and publications] that the life of the mind fostered by reading is essential for understanding the meaning of life in all its ultimacy. Hence his new book will, presumably, explore the death(s) of Freud both as a man and as a cultural icon. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchends, and others skeptical of God, nota bene!

David A. Buehler, PhD
Providence College