Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Lent Bible Challenge | Day 34
April 3
Luke 16:1-18

I think this first parable is hard. Our reading of it is illuminated when we discover (as archeologists and historians recently have) that the average "poor" Israelite in Jesus' day was being taxed at nearly 50% of the income by the Romans and the Jewish Religious authorities, and that most then were in debt and had to pay more. Often land-owners (as in this first parable) lived far away, so they were absent from the suffering and travails of normal everyday life. They demanded more and more from people that had less and less. Jesus then tells the parable, lifting up the "shrewd manager" who knows how to "stick-it-to-the-man" when needed in order to gain friends among the "poor" (his people) who can help him in the future. It seems counter-gospel, yet it's about knowing who is right in terms of economic justice. Jesus reveals himself as a marxist, populist revolutionary in this parable.

The second teaching, 10-18, expands upon the teaching of the parable of 1-9 - it's not just about economic revolution, it's about holistic transformation of society and us individually as people. Are we consistent? Are we integrous in the way we live our life, work, faith and relationships? Do we walk what we talk? That's the challenge for us that I hear: God has a preferential option for the poor, siding with those that are oppressed, excluded and forgotten - and we are called through discipleship to be authentic, organic in the way we live and to live what we profess to believe - and to do so with integrity.

I want to do this - yet am far from it. I'm selfish, often bitter, slow to let go of preconceptions, quick to judge and thirsty for vengeance (or at least to see those that have worked me over get theirs). It's a call to conversion, to turn around and live in a different direction: fighting for God's justice and living from God's radical and grace-full compassion.

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