Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Good and Wicked Servants, by Christine Hides

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. Luke 12:42–46

Reflection: Am I the only one who would prefer a parable about seeds? We’ve been working through some challenging texts in Luke 12.

The third of a cluster of parables on stewardship, faithfulness, and preparedness is no easier than the first two. In the first we, the readers, were slaves, then homeowners, and now we are middle managers, high ranking slaves in charge of others while the master is away. The middle managers likely represent church leaders. Perhaps it is a comfort to know that the church leaders we see in the news who have misused their power will be held accountable.

With this comfort comes a challenge: reconciling the God of love, the good shepherd, the God who gathers us underwing like a mother hen, with this master who punishes harshly. Questions emerge where our image of God conflicts with our hope for accountability. Harsh accountability seems desirable for others, but surely God isn’t holding us to the same standard?

Amy-Jill Levine cautions against “domesticating” the parables. She argues they are meant to challenge. “What makes the parables mysterious, or difficult, is that they challenge us to look into the hidden aspects of our own values, our own lives. They bring to the surface unasked questions, and they reveal the answers we have always known, but refuse to acknowledge.”

In this case, we may be left with more questions than answers.

Prayer: 
Hold us, O Christ, in the mystery and challenge of faith. Amen.

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