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Dealing with the Mammon of Iniquity (Luke 16:1-13)

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The parable of the Unjust Steward in Luke 16:1-13 confuses a lot of people because of one factor that is assumed by Luke and which a lot of modern day readers do not know: that the unjust steward was praised by his lord for having given a good impression of him to his debtors. In first century Palestine, a man’s “face” can be more important than the quetion of wealth. Inspite of this ignorance of a little known aspect of the culture of Jesus’ times, preachers and even lay people are aware that in Luke 16:1-13, the point of the lesson is the way Christians are to work out their salvation (crafty like the steward) and second, how to make use of “dishonest” wealth so that God’s face be honored. Below are some sermons and articles that are available on the web about Luke 16:1-13.

An article by James Squire “Jesus as the Dishonest Steward” is found here.. There is no real exegesis on Luke 16:1-13 only the assumption that what has been said on the topic is correct: that “dishonesty” is the main topic of the parable. The parallels which the author draws between the dishonest steward and Jesus are interesting. The author writes:

The manager in Jesus’ parable resembles certain characters in this decade’s business scandals. He’s cooked the books, and when caught he doctors them again. Curiously, Jesus’ own behavior isn’t much different! He’s wasted God’s mercy on tax collectors and sinners, and soon his critics will not only fire Jesus, they’ll have him killed. How dare he spend God’s time and wealth on scum!” (2004 Sundays and Seasons, page 305). Jesus indeed cooks God’s books for us. It’s the scandal to beat all corporate scandals, an injustice unparalleled in the course of human history. He showers God’s wealth on the least productive members of society and on those who do not merit anything but scorn, often in defiance of the law of Moses. In economic terms, his investment program is fiscally irresponsible, not even worthy of Chapter 11. Surely he was sent here to promote God’s own law, but if so, he had a very peculiar way of doing it. As Jesus points out in his parable, what the dishonest manager does while he is still employed seems to be binding on his employer. Sure enough, God is compelled to sign on to this radical new economy. But in Jesus, God silences all charges of scam by suffering the dishonest manager’s punishment on the cross. And in Jesus, God makes alliances with all sinners so that his economic plan can go forward undeterred by death.”

“What is Money For?”is a sermon on Luke 16:9-13, but with an eye to the preceding parable of the dishonest steward and verse following: verse 14.

Jennifer Copeland’s sermon entitled “Shrewd Investment” is about “shrewdness” in the way we live our Christian lives

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An article from the Expository Files puts Luke 16:1-13 within the context that starts in 15:1. The Pharisees after all were not only self-righteous and have excluded publicans and sisters from those to be saved, they were also greedy for money. The author also makes a good point in stating that the Unjust Steward and the Unjust Judge (in the parable about the widow’s prayer) are the two instances in the Lucan gospel where Jesus uses unrighteous examples to draw a point. In my opinion, these are instances where the rhetoric of Jesus uses extremem examples to make a forceful point.

Christine Pohl’s sermon entitled “Profit and Loss” relates Jesus’ statement on “mammon” with the oracle of Amos in Am. 8:4-7 which is also our first reading for the 25th Sunday OT Year C. “Our relationship to “mammon” tests our faithfulness.” Christine Pohl says. “Whether justly or unjustly acquired, various forms of wealth can become our master, shaping and filling our lives in a godlike manner.” Obviously she is alluding to the three times that Jesus uses the word “mammon” in Luke 16:9-13. The sermon is actually on the right way of using wealth.

Bill Long’s “Making Friends By Means of Mammon” (you find it here) demonstrates how confusing the parable of Unjust Steward is.

John Meunier blogs about Luke 16:1-13 in Come To The Waters . Interesting is the way he implicitly draws parallels between the “generosity” of the unjust steward and that of God (cf. Parable of the Prodigal Father). Finally, Frederick J Streets’ “Accountability — Living by the Word” (Link to the article) focuses on the integrity of the unjust steward in dealing with his problem and on verses 9-13. From these Streets draws a lesson:

We demonstrate our accountability to God through our faithfulness and integrity. We are all called by God to be just stewards of the resources, gifts and talents that we have been given. They are to be used only for the glory of God. We are to strive for consistency in the manner, spirit and attitude we bring to the use of all our resources regardless of the size of our responsibility. A just steward is one who can give an account of his or her faithfulness and integrity. The text states that those who act in faithfulness and with integrity managing small matters will demonstrate the same quality of care when their resources are increased. God is interested in providing us with more good things of God’s creation. We can have more when we take care of what God has already given us

Originally posted 2007-09-23 22:17:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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