Above: The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken
God, the Powerful, and the Powerless
The Sunday Closest to September 21
Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost
SEPTEMBER 18, 2016
The Assigned Readings:
Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 and Psalm 79:1-9
Amos 8:4-7 and Psalm 113
1 Timothy 2:1-7
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.
Some Related Posts:
Proper 20, Year A:
Proper 20, Year B:
Prayer of Praise and Adoration:
Prayer of Confession:
Prayer of Dedication:
1 Timothy 2:
The lectionary readings for this Sunday challenge several audiences.
- 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.
- Amos 8:4-7 reminds us that God will punish those who exploit the poor. This should frighten many people.
- 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.
- 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