Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Of shrewd managers, prophets, injustice, and the way we are
Image credit: Unknown artist, found at: 

 This past Sunday's gospel, Luke 16:1-13, includes the parable of the shrewd manager. It is one of Jesus' hardest parables to hear and to preach. Here is this crook who doctors up the books and swindles his master, and exploits the debtors to boot, making them beholden to him at a later date (in a blackmail-like position) should he need to resort to such a measure. 
   Then in my morning devotion time, I read from the prophet Amos. He, like most, if not all the biblical prophets was given an almost impossible call-to preach justice among the complacent, self-centred Northern Kingdom aristocrats, who pampered themselves and entertained themselves to death while laying in their ivory beds. All of this wealth gained by robbing the poor and endlessly exploiting them. 
   We preachers of today, how do we handle such texts? Do we go the route of the televangelists and avoid such texts by focussing solely on "the gospel of health and wealth," which is not gospel at all? Or do we let fly like Jesus and Amos and "let the chips fall where they may?" 
   Whatever we do, the truth is the truth, we all are indicted in the lifestyle we lead-at least here in the Western world. Our wealth and self-indulgent lives are no better than the ancient Israelite aristocrats. We too exploit the weak and the poor endlessly by making whole nations into our slave labour camps in order to extract mother nature's resources for our high-tech devices, toys, gadgets, computers, etc. 
   In our sinful, exploitative state, one day, as singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn so astutely observes in one of his songs several years ago: "the word mercy is going to have a new meaning when we are judged by the children of our slaves." 
   So the question for us all, in relation to our sinful, exploitative state is: how, when and can we repent, not merely as individuals, rather as a society and civilization, and return to the LORD our God, who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love?  

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