This week’s Gospel reading from Luke 16 is one of those head-scratcher texts. The kind you read and know immediately that you don’t already have whatever context you probably need to understand the dynamics of. What do we do with Jesus when he says “make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes” ? I had to read several commentaries on the passage to get a start.
I was especially enlightened by Dr. Mitzi J. Smith’s commentary on this passage, which frames it as a slave parable and assumes the character of the “manager” to be an enslaved and oppressed person. She sagely reminds us that “wealth is generally built upon the backs of the enslaved, women, the poor, and the oppressed; that wealth for one usually presumes poverty for many. The larger the wealth gap in favor of a few, the more people are impoverished” (via Working Preacher).
Dr. Barbara Rossing suggests that Jesus is critiquing the capitalistic practice of charging interest on loans in her commentary, pointing out that “Luke is making connections between debt structures, the urgency of impending judgment, and the idol of Mammon [Wealth]” (via Working Preacher).
I’ve incorporated these ideas in this litany, as well as the overall themes in Luke’s gospel regarding wealth, greed, and what keeps us from an authentic spirituality and true discipleship (See last week’s text in which Jesus states: “None of you can become my disciple in you do not give up all your possessions” Luke 14:33). And drawn also from Amos 8 and Matthew 23.
Oh God, give us courage to examine the ways our lifestyles and cultural habits
Exploit the poorest among us.
Give us wisdom to see the ways we are complicit
In “trampling on the needy, and bringing ruin to the poor.”