The Curmudgeon


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Bad Theology

Text for today: Luke 16 i-xiii

Jesus tells a parable about a wealthy man who hears rumours that his steward is losing him money. On the basis of this hearsay, the man orders the steward to turn in his accounts, as he is no longer worthy of his meat. Unable to perform manual labour, and too proud to live like a disciple of Jesus, the steward ingratiates himself with his master's debtors by illicitly altering the records of their debts. When the master hears of it, he commends the steward for his shrewdness.

Jesus notes that worldly people are more skilled at dealing with their own kind than are "the sons of light." Hence the unjust master, who sacks his steward without bothering to investigate whether the rumours are true, can at least recognise and praise his former servant's intelligence. By contrast, the light of the world despises worldly wisdom and finds worth only in the penitent. As His parables of the labourers and the prodigal son make clear, the arbitrary nature of God's favour means that virtue and hard work are largely worthless; and in order to gain the Saviour's approbation, rather than putting his talent to work the steward should have turned the other cheek, gone the extra mile, grovelled at his master's feet and begged for a harsher punishment.

Having related the parable, Jesus recommends that His disciples make friends for themselves among the wealthy, which is certainly a shrewd and worldly move if one wishes to spare oneself the trouble of taking thought for the morrow. Nevertheless, Jesus warns that, in order to be tolerable to God, such worldly friendships must be opportunistic and hypocritical: nobody can serve two masters, and the elect must therefore take care to love and despise shrewdly.


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