Sunday, August 1, 2010

Trinity 9: A Devotional Commentary

2 Samuel 22:26-34 With the merciful you will show yourself merciful. With the perfect man you will show yourself perfect. With the pure you will show yourself pure. With the crooked you will show yourself shrewd. You will save the afflicted people, But your eyes are on the haughty, that you may bring them down. For you are my lamp, Yahweh. Yahweh will light up my darkness. For by you, I run against a troop. By my God, I leap over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect. The word of Yahweh is tested. He is a shield to all those who take refuge in him. For who is God, besides Yahweh? Who is a rock, besides our God? God is my strong fortress. He makes my way perfect. He makes his feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me on my high places.

1 Corinthians 10:6-13 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be idolaters, as some of them were. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Neither let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them committed, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell. Neither let us test the Lord, as some of them tested, and perished by the serpents. Neither grumble, as some of them also grumbled, and perished by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall. No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Luke 16:1-9 He also said to his disciples, “There was a certain rich man who had a manager. An accusation was made to him that this man was wasting his possessions. He called him, and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ The manager said within himself, ‘What will I do, seeing that my lord is taking away the management position from me? I don’t have strength to dig. I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do, so that when I am removed from management, they may receive me into their houses.’ Calling each one of his lord’s debtors to him, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe to my lord?’ He said, ‘A hundred batos of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred cors of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ His lord commended the dishonest manager because he had done wisely, for the children of this world are, in their own generation, wiser than the children of the light. I tell you, make for yourselves friends by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when you fail, they may receive you into the eternal tents.

Reading this parable should cure anyone who reads it of the notion that the parables are about how to run a successful business. It should also cure anyone who reads it of the idea that God acts reasonably towards us. This is perhaps the most offensive parable to all forms of religion. What kind of God would commend an unfaithful steward for forgiving the debts of others after already being fired for his own unfaithfulness? But this is exactly what God does all the time. In fact if the stewards were a "faithful steward" he would have been kicked out of the kingdom. The unfaithful steward had no false notions about his own faithfulness and worthiness. But he knew that his Master was merciful. He put all his hope and all of his trust in the mercy of the Master.

This parable shows us what the office of the holy ministry is all about. It's not about faithful stewards who stand as an example of faithfulness and tell others to imitate them. It's about unfaithful stewards--sinners who are worthy of the Master's temporal and eternal punishment who go around telling other debtors that their sins have been forgiven. They have no right to this forgiveness. They have not earned this forgiveness. The steward has not earned any right to mess with the debts of others. But the Master is merciful. The Master Himself died for the debts owed to Him.

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