Weekly sermon thoughts for everyday discipleship based on two RCL lectionary readings
Sermon thoughts for everyday discipleship
by John Watson
Sunday 22nd September 2013
1 Timothy 2:1-7 and Luke 16:1-13
This weeks gospel story causes no end of headache for biblical scholars and no end of frustration in giving an interpretation (in fact Julian Apostate was known to use this parable in an attempt to discredit the Christian faith!) Let the reader beware.
We see a crafty (‘dishonest’ in v8) manager who is making sure he has somewhere to go to when he is made redundant. Then in a twist is commended by the rich man he works for and then Jesus appearing to endorse similar practice.
But the key is knowing what Jesus is encouraging. The manager uses his position to not simply reduce his own culpability but also how much the tenants owe. He fiddles the books to hide his mismanagement of the estate but in doing so he also reduces the debt burden of the tenants. The passage ends with the great admonition - ‘you cannot serve God and wealth’ (v13) as it begins a longer section in Luke which focuses on money and giving away possessions with the contrasting parable of the rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31).
In the story of the shrewd manager his actions secures his immediate future, but says Jesus, if we act with similar shrewdness we will secure our eternal future (v9). The relief of poverty of the tenants by the manager is held in contrast to the man who did not help Lazarus later in the chapter and thus goes to ‘hell’
By being light to wealth - even if it not our own, and being concerned to help the poor with any means we will be storing up a future not just for ourselves but for those is need. The image is given and thus implied that those we help will act as a witness to the way we used wealth as a blessing to others, not just for ourselves. (Maybe a Lukan version of Matthew 25 sheep and goats). They will welcome us into ‘eternal homes’. It is a great use of the imagination to think of the implications of the way we use our money.
Jesus then continues to speak about the use of ‘dishonest wealth’ and I think implies that if we have not used the wealth of the world to bless the poor - we have not used it correctly. How on earth can we be then entrusted with what really matters? Wealth, which is not our own anyway, is for everyone. As Francis Bacon, the English philosopher once said ‘Money is like muck - no use unless it be spread about’. Wealth can be used to be blessing but it can also ensnare, hence Jesus words in v13 and the coming passages about the use of money.
So we are exhorted to pray for our leaders, our nations leaders in 1 Timothy so that they do not interfere with the preaching of God’s kingdom. We are to pray for them so that everyone may be saved. This also includes praying that they use the resources they hold on behalf of all of us, in a wise and generous way, ensuring that they are a blessing to others, not just themselves.
John is the Vicar of St Paul’s, Tupsley and St Andrews, Hampton Bishop in Hereford Diocese. He’s also currently doing Doctoral Studies at Kings College London.