by Ray Gentry
If last week’s text was a struggle to suss out exactly what Jesus was trying to say, this week’s is quite the opposite. Summing this parable up as “Poor Guy Hero/Rich Guy Villian” is too broad a description - this parable is really about the rich guy.
I think that ends up being an important point. It isn’t uncommon for the parables to be used to bless the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized while excusing acceptance of the status quo. In this reading, despite being the only named character, the poor man dies and is carried away by the angels. It’d be like naming the John Wick franchise after the puppy - it carries all the context, but isn’t what the story ultimately focuses on. There is no discussion about Lazarus’ worthiness - he’s poor and is thus carried to by angels to his ancestors.
by Rev. Elizabeth Rawlings
“And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by the way you use unjust wealth so that, when that wealth is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal tents.” Luke 16:9
Imagine this: Sam works for an investment company, managing a portfolio of repackaged debt (CDOs). They sell packages of medical debt, mortgages, credit card debt, etc. for pennies on the dollar to investors who then either continue to collect debt payments (with obscene amounts of interest) or attempt to collect on the debt. Now imagine that Sam’s boss hears through the grapevine that their performance is less than spectacular. Sam is asked to come to a meeting and give an account for everything bought, sold, and earned. Facing the prospect of termination, Sam comes up with a plan to make some friends in case of unemployment: they go into the system and reduce the amount owed by hundreds of people. Sam emails those people to let them know that their debts—under which many were drowning—have now been cut by at least half. The recipients of Sam’s debt forgiveness are now more able to pay off their debts, and more able to do other things: like pay rent and buy food. Sam gets fired, but not before the story goes viral: grateful people have posted all over social media about the generous stranger who erased their debt. Someone starts a GoFundMe for Sam. Sam’s boss, though angry, is also quietly impressed at the moves Sam made. “Well played. You’re fired,” the executive texts the now former employee. A master of screwing people over for money, the executive recognizes and appreciates the way Sam used the system to screw the business and gain from it. Sam’s shrewdness (not to mention the opportunity for the company to take credit for the debt relief, and thereby lure more borrowers to the company) gets Sam a promotion instead of a firing.
“And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by the way you use unjust wealth so that, when that wealth is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal tents.”
Every English translation I look at for this verse uses the word “dishonest,” as in dishonest manager and dishonest wealth. But according to Strong’s, adikos means unjust, unrighteous or wicked. How does your reading of this parable change when you replace dishonest with unjust?
This is the Revised Common Lectionary sermonizing archive.