An Open Table where Love knows no borders


  1. Last night I found Gilbert’s sermon very challenging. It made me look at this parable afresh and as a consequence I have produced the following notes.

    1 How do we read it?
    e.g. Do we read the parable as finishing at verse 9, with the injunction to use worldly wealth to gain friends in heaven, or do we accept the interpretation in verses 10 – 14, that the point of the parable is that one cannot serve two masters, or do we look all the way to the end of verse 15, and conclude that the parable is aimed at the Pharisees were in trouble because they were trying to serve two masters? Or are all three equally valid?

    2 Is the parable part of a block of teaching?
    I do not think it is a coincidence that this parable follows the three ‘lost’ parables, at the end of chapter 15. These are all told to the general public including Pharisees and tax collectors;
    a) the parable of the lost sheep ch15 v1 -7
    This concludes with the phrase ‘there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents that over the ninety nine righteous persons who do not need to repent’.
    b) the parable of the lost coin v 8- 10
    This concludes with ‘I tell you there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’
    c) the parable of the lost son v 11- 32
    This concludes with the father upbraiding the elder son for refusing to join in the celebrations over his younger brother’s return. He says ‘My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.’

    And then we have the parable of the shrewd manager (corrupt accountant).
    This one is told to the disciples and not to the general public.
    So here I think the focus is on the need for the disciples to be held accountable.
    If this is the case then the disciples are to
    a) use wealth to gain friends in heaven.
    In the rest of Jesus teaching I would see this as using wealth to alleviate poverty, support the widows, and look after the fatherless, ie those with no status in society, such as the refugees.
    b) beware of the temptation to serve two masters, ie God and money and
    c) do not be like the Pharisees with their great shows of piety and attention to the minutiae in the interpretation of the law.

    I do not think it is a coincidence that the parable is closely followed by the story of the rich man and Lazarus which ends with what, for me, are some of the most poignant words in scripture when Abraham says

    ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead’.

    John Sampson

    • Thanks John,
      I think the parable as Jesus told it, probably does end at v. 9,but this is not to deny that the sayings following are from Jesus too.
      Each gospel writer has ordered the material differently, giving a different emphasis, and as Luke records it, there is clearly a block of teaching including next Sundays ; not to be blind to what is in front of our eyes ,as well as the obvious reference to resurrection.
      Scholars wrt parables ,often speak of the “sitz im leben” (place in life), ie the situation into which Jesus may have spoken (unless fairly clear, a bit of a guess ),how it is used in the particular gospel , and it’s place in our situation now as we hear it.
      I remember a former professor answering a question on inspiration, saying something like ,we often find in tje writings of ordinary poets and authors, truths and meanings, which could not have been in their mind when writing.
      And note how crime dramas have sub plots, or parallel plots.
      One of the richness of the scriptures is that they can often speak to us differently , and we ourselves often see new things .
      (from the preacher).

  2. Vincent Michael Hodge

    A big thanks to Gilbert for his clear no nonsense teaching. Thanks also to John for his thoughts that also elicited some more wonderful comments from Gilbert. All in all a very fruitful dialogue.
    I take up Gilbert’s point: “……….I remember a former professor answering a question on inspiration, saying something like ,we often find in the writings of ordinary poets and authors, truths and meanings, which could not have been in their mind when writing………..”. A great point to ponder. It lead me to notice how much Luke’s story of the Two Sons and their Father and the story of the Rich Man and Unrighteous Steward play off one another. Although the similarities may not be that unplanned by Luke. Who knows? Anyway I found it fascinating. In an oral culture of Luke’s time anything that was repetitious or a reminder acted to deepen the lived experience of the listener. So having heard about a father trying to accomodate two opposing sons we then have a story warning us not to try and serve God while contemporaneously trusting in its opposite. One a story about trying to unite the two opposing forces; the other a story about the futility of trying to hold two discordant things as if one. In the Greek this is more obvious as the same word is used to describe the squandering activity of the younger son and the squandering by the steward – both equally capable of the description “riotous living”. One story whereby the younger son ‘comes to himself’ and sees the path he must follow to reposition his life; the other a story of the steward who realises what he must do to re-position his life. One a story about a father who will give all to heal his sons; the other a Master who is prepared to admit that his betraying steward has acted wisely within his own terms. Finally Luke brings it all together by addressing the Forgiving Father to the gathered tax collectors and sinners while in chapter 16(14) the Greek uses the same words to align the Pharisees ( possessing a love of silver = covetous) with the Steward ( using his master’s discretionary powers to squander for his own benefit). Thanks John Thanks Gilbert. You stimulate the mind and heart .

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