Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 20C

Track 1: The Dishonest Steward

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1
Psalm 79:1-9
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells the parable of the unjust steward:

“There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 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.’ 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. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, `How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, `A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, `Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 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.’ 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. 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.   (Luke 16:1-9)

The parable seems to be quite a controversial one. It is not su much that the parable is controversial but rather the interpretations of it. Some Bible “scholars” have suggested that Jesus is actually commending the steward because of his shrewdness. Worldly people are more clever that we Christian disciples, the thinking goes Thus we need to be more sophisticated and shrewd like the world. Is Jesus really saying that? I believe that is highly doubtful!

The dishonest steward was actually stealing money from the rich man in order to endear himself with other people like himself. Would the rich man commend someone who is stealing his money? Doubtful wouldn’t you say?

Maybe the steward is being commended for his shrewd planning for a more secure future? The parable states:

Make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.   (Luke 16:9)

How secure is wealth, especially dishonest wealth? The parable implies that it will not be lasting in the long run? An even more sobering thought is expressed in the parable. What is the final destination for those who have relied upon dishonest wealth? They will be welcomed into “eternal homes.” The word “eternal” in the original Greek is αἰωνίους (aiōnious). It mean “perpetual.” There is nothing really perpetual in this life so that rules out any earthly destination.

Clearly, Jesus is not commending the dishonest steward. He is saying, in a sarcastic way, that the dishonest steward has, by his actions, sealed his final destination. He will be welcomed there by people like himself, but it not God who will be welcoming him.

Today’s Old Testament reading reveals God heart for those who have been defrauded and not the defrauders:

My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
my heart is sick.

Hark, the cry of my poor people
from far and wide in the land:

“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”

(“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
with their foreign idols?”)

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.”

For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.   (Jeremiah 8:18-21)

At the end of the parable, Jesus, commends the faithful stewards and not the dishonest one.

“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. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 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.”   (Luke 16:10-13)

The dishonest steward put his trust in wealth. Where do we place our trust? There are only two choices: God or financial wealth. It is one or the other. Which one leads to eternal life in heaven?

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.   (John 3:16)

 

Track 2: The Unjust Steward (Alternative)

Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

This second homily is like the first one in its approach and conclusions. What is different are the introductory readings from the scripture. In this case, the heart of God concerning the poor is revealed through the Prophet Amos:

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,

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,

buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:

Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.   (Amos 8:4-7)

The conclusion of the parable of the unjust steward is the same:

“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. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 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.”   (Luke 16:10-13)

Whoever or whatever we serve will determine our final destination.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.   (John 3:16)

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Filed under Eucharist, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C

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