The Holy Gospel: September 19, 2010 (Year C)

(I will not be posting this Friday and Saturday, so this category is presented a bit early this week)

Reading;  Luke 16:1-13

Meditation:  “Behind the Scenes”

After using the manager’s actions to illustrate ingenuity, Jesus turns to expose the thing that made him a “dishonest” manager in the first place.  Simply put—he could not be trusted to act properly in relation to “the little things” of life.

We share the propensity to this day.  We face the temptation to succumb to the same thing the dishonest manager did—the temptation to skip over the “little things” and get caught up in the pursuit of the “big things”—the things that allegedly “really matter.”  Most people do well at center stage; it’s behind the scenes where we falter, fail, and fall. 

The manager was dishonest in ways that might never have been detected.  He may have even had the authority to “discount” the bills.  But he used his power inappropriately, and Jesus does not fail to make this point while making the other one about his worldly cleverness.  At the end of the day, ingenuity can never be affirmed when it is practiced at the expense of integrity.

In historic Christianity this is called duplicity.  It essentially means looking good in public while living bad in private.  Jesus leaves no doubt—this kind of living is wrong.  God’s way is the way of congruence—the way where the seen and the unseen are part of a seamless whole and flow from the same center. 

Jesus wants us to be faithful in the “little things” because that’s where we spend the vast majority of our lives, and consequently, that’s where the largest amount of our character is formed.  Virtue is private before it goes public, or else the observable aspects of our lives have no foundation to rest upon.  God “makes” us in relation to how we live when no one else is there to see what we are doing.  Our lives are ultimately defined by what goes on “backstage,” not what happens in the spotlight.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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