Oink!

Matthew 20:1-16 – The 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, September 21, 2014

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard…” (Matthew 20:1)

What’s your favorite Bible passage?

My childhood response was Proverbs 14:34. Look it up, if you want. I’d found it on the inside page of a Bible at my grandparents’ house and memorized the words. Whenever I quoted that verse as “my favorite” in Sunday school classes, teachers looked befuddled. Why hadn’t I chosen the popular John 3:16 (like other kids did), instead of an obscure Old Testament verse? As a kid, I didn’t know what the Proverbs passage meant, but I enjoyed the odd reactions.

vinography_desktop_brief_respite-thumb-600x398-3389I’d bet few claim Matthew 20:1-16’s story about a landowner hiring workers as a “favorite.” In the parable, a landowner was desperate to harvest his Zinfandel and kept driving his dented Ford F-150 to the nearby town. He needed workers, lots of workers, because a good Zin waits for no one. Any card-carrying union workers? Bring ‘em. Any undocumented workers? Bring ‘em. Any slow, fast, inexperienced, and veteran vine dressers? Bring ‘em. Back and forth on the dusty roads, with newly hired hands crowding the truck’s bed, the landowner tried to meet his grape need.

The workers were hired early and often. The workers were promised payment. For some, “the usual daily wage.” For others, “whatever is right.” For a few, there were no promises other than work. Continue reading →

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A Flawed, Curious, Hopeful, Forgiving Human

Luke 16:1-13  – The 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time  – for Sunday, September 22, 2013

“There was a rich man who had a manager…” (Luke 16:1)

There is one parable

More than any of Jesus’ stories

That befuddles

Intrigues and frightens me.

I don’t know why it troubles me so

(And yet I do)

Go ahead, those more wise, experienced and confident than me, tell me what this parable only found at Luke 16:1-9 means . . .

Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. (2) So he summoned him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.” (3) Then the manager said to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. (4) I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.” (5) So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” (6) He answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.” He said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.” (7) Then he asked another, “And how much do you owe?” He replied, “A hundred containers of wheat.” He said to him, “Take your bill and make it eighty.” (8) And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. (9) And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

BreechBefore I answer what I possibly think believe the parable means, let me explain a few interpretive decisions regarding this irksome and enlightened tale.

  • I posted this parable. I usually assume you can look up the Biblical chapters and sentences on your own, but I wanted easy access to Luke’s words.
  • However, I only included part of the parable. If you wish to read the absent verses (10-13 in Luke’s 16th chapter), feel free! For me, those verses were add-ons inspired by the early Christian community’s efforts to sugarcoat Jesus’ story. It’s as if they were tsk-tsking, wagging a finger and urging followers to serve God rather than gold. How simplistic and misleading.
  • When I began posting weekly reflections in June ‘07, I privately vowed to avoid reading the scholarly tomes about the Bible that crowd my bookshelves. I also vowed to avoid other like-minded blogs by Internet colleagues, whether ne’er-do-wells like me or respected theologians. I didn’t want others to influence my musings or to unknowingly “steal” ideas. Weird, eh? But I’ve occasionally ignored my silly vow . . . like now. I read again James Breech’s chapter on Luke 16:1-13 in his extraordinary The Silence of Jesus, published way, way, way back in 1983. Much of my thoughts regarding this parable can be attributed to Breech. Like me, he may also be wrong about everything. But his insights on Jesus’ parables transformed my faith.

*           *           *

This is what is frequently suggested for comprehending Jesus’ tale: be shrewd and decisive in your faith like the manager!

Oh, you mean the conniving, cheating, self-serving, it’s-not-my-fault manager? Nope, not me, please.

Breech suggested this . . .

“…the narrative focuses on the issue of trust: the rich man is not primarily concerned about his possessions, but about the steward whom he has entrusted to be responsible for them.”

And this . . . Continue reading →

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