Monday, September 17, 2007

Who do you serve? Luke 16:1-13

Luke 16:13 is easily used as a maxim for living. Jesus words easily slip out of the context of scripture and into our vocabulary as a proverb. "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (KJV) It's the kind of statement we can pull out of scripture and use anytime we see somebody tenuously balancing service to God with service to their wealth. But in context Jesus words aren't a simple formulaic proverb for somebody else; his words meet us in the middle of life.

Jesus' story didn't end with a simple moral formula--in fact the point he was making is only simple if we deny just how deeply we are all caught in sin.

Look at the unjust manager and his compounding problems. His boss found out he was squandering money he was supposed to be managing. He was about to loose his job, and worse yet he didn't want to go out and beg or find whatever work was available digging ditches. So he quickly tried to curry favor with anyone he could turn to--in order to protect himself. He told his bosses debtors to write off some of what they owed hoping they would look out for him in return.

Real life and real economics are always complicated by sin: greed, sloth, envy and all the other deadly sins are part of our real character and our real lives. The temptation in reading this story is to think that Jesus is talking about somebody else. But in truth he's talking about all of us. It's tempting, to point to somebody else's economic wrongs and injustices, but the harder truth is that all of us are caught in a tangled global web of high minded and underhanded finances in which the pursuit of money and wealth has become the highest good.

Jesus' understood just how deeply we are caught in the muck of sin. He knows full well that we are all in far deeper than we're ready to admit even to ourselves. We cannot extricate ourselves from this situation. We are already trying to serve too many different masters. The hope in Luke 16 isn't that we'll all wake up and work for justice and that the situation will get better because we'll all become better people (original sin doesn't go away that easily); rather hope comes from falling into the hands of the living God who was crucified to take away the sins of the whole world.


LawAndGospel said...

This was good food for thought!

Pastor Eric said...

You make a very good point, but I would like to take this deeper. The shrwed manager is commended for acting shwredly in this world; planning for his "earthly" future -- if only Christians were just as tenacious about planning for their "heavenly" futures. Not acting shwredly but being diligent in their faith and doing what it takes to proclaim that faith to others. Because we are often times more interested in planning for retirement than for heaven the question that needs to be asked of all of us (like you said) is "who do you serve?"

Thanks for the thoughts.

The Unlikely Conversationalist: said...

the point you make is really needed for this discussion. We have to really wrestle with the concept of wealth and our shrewd use of our real wealth.
If we are only worried about the here and now then that's all that we'll have, but if we are worried about the kingdom of heaven even more will open for us.