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Reflections on the Sunday lectionary readings

Stuck in the middle

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 and Psalm 79:1-9  •  Amos 8:4-7 and Psalm 113  •  1 Timothy 2:1-7  •  Luke 16:1-13

 

    Today's story from Luke is at once a little complicated and very common. It's about a rich man, his upper management, and the people they were 'serving' or using, depending on how you look at it. What they had set up, apparently, was a way to get around the Jewish law which forbade loaning money at interest. So, instead, they loaned material goods: oil and wheat. The rich man got angry with his manager for some reason and threatened to fire him. The manager, concerned about how he would live without his job, made deals with all those who had borrowed, reducing the amounts of wheat or oil owed on the paperwork. For the story's purpose, this is the clever part: by keeping up the façade of the material goods borrowed, the manager had used a technicality to avoid any challenges based on Jewish law. In the end, the rich man was happy about what he had done, praising the approach, which kept the ruse of 'legal' loaning in place. And the borrowers were happy too, because now they owed less.

 

    Although this could have been another parable about the excesses of Jewish legal requirements and how it had become an end in itself, Jesus takes the whole story much further. Pointing out that the manager had at least made friends with everyone, he recommends that all of us begin to pay more attention to our relationships. The manager, in essence, faced a problem we all recognize: stuck in the middle, trying to please two others who were pressuring him from very different perspectives. Whatever the details, he solved the problem, becoming more responsive to them all while at the same time, holding onto a principle of staying within the law, albeit a corrupted version of it. In the end, both the rich man and the borrowers were pleased, and he had found a way out of his plight.

 

    Although the story has unfamiliar details in it, the problem is universal. All of us as human beings have trouble remembering the perspectives of others. It is easy to join too much with one side or another. It is easy to forget about relationships when under pressure to perform or simply when tired. The hard work of keeping a separate position for oneself while attending to all sides of each situation is ongoing. The good news here is that Jesus is aware of what we are up against!

 

For reflection:

Morning: Where might I have trouble seeing different perspectives today?

Evening: How was it useful to look for other points of view?

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