Lectionary Text for Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1; Psalm 79:1-9; Amos 8:4-7; Psalm 113 1; Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13
Amos 8:4-7: “Hear this, you that trample on the needy and bring to ruin the poor of the land, 5 saying, ‘When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the Sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great and practice deceit with false balances,6 buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and selling the sweepings of the wheat.’ 7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.”
Luke 16:1-13: “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. 2 So he summoned him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.” 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. 4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.” 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” 6 He answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.” He said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.” 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.” 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. 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.
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. 11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 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.”
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost Comment: Shrewdly faithful or faithfully shrewd? That is the question! The online dictionary (dictionary.com) defines the adjective shrewd as “astute or sharp in practical matters: a shrewd politician, keen, piercing or artful. The definitions malicious or bad are listed as archaic. So today to be shrewd is considered positive and if you believe it to be negative, your thinking is obsolete.
Well it seems that the obsolete definition is used in both Scriptural texts. For Amos it was the unscrupulous ways that the wealthy cheated the poor. Jesus also uses the negative definition for the manager in his parable who squandered his employer’s property. Clearly God who spoke through Amos disapproves the behavior of the wealthy, but declares not to forget. Later, in Amos’ prophesy, God tells rebellious Israel his corrective plans.
The setting for this parable in Luke 16 begins in Luke 15. It begins, “By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently” (Luke 15:1, Peterson’s the Message). Among those of “doubtful reputation” were Publicans, who made their livings by the same means as the crooked manager. But before Jesus confronts them about their deceitful occupations, Jesus makes it plain in three parables (the Lost Sheep, Coin and Son) that they are loved beyond their wildest dreams.
Unlike Amos who warns of God’s wrath in response to Israel’s injustice, Jesus takes a different approach, which is conveyed in his parable. After the master finds out how the manager shrewdly plans and prepares for future unemployment, he praises him! Is Jesus condoning devious mindsets and behavior in the acquisition of wealth? Of course not, but one thing is certain, Jesus knows his audience and just how to ‘shrewdly’ convey his message, to ‘drive’ his point home. The point being that we need to check our attitudes towards money.
How you get it and how you use it is indicative of who masters your life. If you are shrewdly faithful that is acquire and use wealth at the expense of others or if you are faithfully shrewd in finding monies for the building of God’s kingdom. If you are shrewdly faithful, then Amos is speaks to you. Whether you believe in God’s wrath or not our secular judicial system, may grind slowly, but it grinds truly. If you are faithfully shrewd, then those who benefit from your gifts will remember you when you need it most.
O God, thank you for reminding us that we live in a material world and that world is good because you created it. Teach us in the most positive ways of shrewdness to steward it. Amen
Blessings from Ordinary Times
© September 1, 2010
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