Seeing the world through a theological lens...
Luke 12: 41-48
Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
Thank goodness Luke tends to tie all of the passages in each chapter of the gospel together; that we can look for one story to build on another, and find a common thread tying them together. Without it, today's passage sticks out like a sharp knife that, after reading this passage, one might decide to turn on oneself! My goodness- that, should the slave not do the right thing the "master will chop them to bits?" What kind of a parable is this? And why would Jesus tell it in this way, especially to his disciples? What does it mean for present day disciples? Does our behavior count after all? Will we be judged among the "faithful" or... Take me now Lord!
Remember the words of Meister Eckhart: It is a lie, any talk of God that does not comfort you...
This is admittedly a difficult teaching. And, it's a parable. Which means we must resist the most obvious way of reading and interpreting, namely, making God the angry owner who comes wielding a sword, eager to slice us to bits when we've made a mess of things. We also have to take care to look at the context, the setting, the customs and people, and what their understanding of this parable might have been. Then, and this is the most difficult part, we must turn the mirror on ourselves and see what it might meant to us.
Jesus was speaking to his disciples. He had taken them aside, due to the growing crowds, to talk with them about what to expect, how to lead, and what to look out for. He had warned them not to fall into the same traps as other religious leaders.
Paraphrasing: 'Don't start running this ministry like a business; like any other corporation. Don't make it difficult for the people, burdening them, overpowering them, oppressing them; don't start acting like you are the CEO of a company trying to manage everyone and everything. That will never work out well. Put your priorities straight. Don't be like the guy with the "bigger barns," but know that God will provide everything you need. Don't worry. Stay alert. You have a light inside you that shines out to the world, and take care to keep it lit and full of love. It's easy to let darkness in, our thoughts, our humanness, our greed, and everything the world tells us we need to get by... instead, stick with the teachings, stay with love, and be intentional about it.'
And Peter asks: Jesus, do you mean everybody or just us?
Jesus doesn't directly answer Peter. Instead he gives them a framework for what they knew to be true abut the world. If you do a good job, you'll be rewarded, and if not you'll be fired (cut to bits). If you know what to do and don't do it, it will be worse for you. If you don't know what to do and do the wrong thing, that will also be bad for you.
In the same way, Jesus illustrates through this parable, if we follow the way to peace, we will be rewarded with peace; we will know a world of and a people of peace. If we do not follow the way to peace, it (the world) will not go well for us. We will be broken, angry, violent, and severed from one another. If we know what to do and do not do it, it will be even worse for us, because we knew and did nothing; and that pain will cut us to the quick (to bits). If we don't know, it will still be bad for us; we won't realize peace, but not as bad as those who knew what to do and did not do it, because we won't know what we're missing.
The disciples would be leading a movement. The purpose of the movement is to usher in a world of peace: shalom. Jesus was teaching them the way to do that. He had previously laid out his teachings. He had illustrated what must happen in order for the world to realize peace. 'Do not respond to evil with violence/turn the other cheek. Do not judge/do not be angry. Live with all people in love/forgive. Don't make promises you can't/won't keep. Pray for your 'enemies'/people who are not like you. '
These teachings are the key to the realizing peace on earth, according to Jesus. That we live for more than ourselves. That we turn from that life of one, and embrace a life in service to others. The teachers, leaders, ministers, disciples, were given a huge responsibility. They would get tired. They would feel burned out. They would not be wealthy. They would not be popular. They would be criticized and chastised and crucified.
Yet as we will see in the coming passages, the ones who follow these teachings, even though it may be difficult, will live a better, more fulfilled life than any who worked for themselves.
Would you be willing to meditate on the teachings of Jesus this day? (You will find comfort) How might following those teachings enhance your life? How might you turn from a world of one, to a life of service to others?