Lectionary blog: Unrighteous wealth – Living Lutheran

Lectionary for Sept 18, 2022
15th Sunday after Pentecost
Amos 8:4-7; Psalm 113;
1 Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13

In a stunning contrast to previous weeks, Jesus teaches about the right way to pursue comfort in this week’s lectionary reading. Of course, the comfort that Jesus tries to draw his hearers to is eternal dwellings rather than passing wealth. Indeed, he insists that people should rid themselves of unrighteous wealth in order to follow God more faithfully.

To begin the lectionary reading, Jesus tells a frequently misunderstood parable. A manager has been accused of mismanaging his master’s assets. Before he is removed completely from his post, the manager goes to each of his master’s debtors and, depending on your reading, either drastically slashes what they owe or gives them credit for fictitious payments. Either way, the manager has made friends of the debtors and has even impressed his boss with his shrewdness. Please note: Jesus is not telling his followers to cheat on their bills. Far from it!

After Jesus tells the parable, he makes a wry observation: The children of this age are shrewder when dealing with their generation than the children of light (Luke 16:8). People outside the kingdom of heaven know how to use money to win friends and influence people. People in the kingdom of heaven aren’t so clever with the use of money. If ordinary folks know how to use unrighteous mammon (9, 11), or wealth/greed personified, in order to build up resources for themselves in this life, why don’t the citizens of the kingdom of heaven know this skill? After all, Jesus’ followers, as we have been reading this summer, are to seek to divest themselves of their wealth. One cannot seek to build up wealth for themselves and at the same time follow God (13). It’s simply not possible. Mammon is an alternative lord, who is served by acquisitiveness and wealth accumulation.

Of course, Jesus isn’t the first one to point out this simple binary choice between serving God and acquiring wealth. One of the fieriest prophets in Israel’s history, Amos, observed the situation in the prosperous Northern Kingdom: the rich trampled the needy and caused the deaths of the humble. The rich couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to be over so they could again use fraudulent weights and measures to cheat their customers. They plotted to reduce the price of humans so they could enslave people for less cost and greater profit. They even plotted to sell chaff as if it were grain, literally selling worthlessness as if it were life-giving food (Amos 8:4-6). The pursuit of wealth has always led some humans to abuse others—…….

Source: https://www.livinglutheran.org/2022/09/lectionary-blog-unrighteous-wealth/