Joshua 18:1-19:9; Luke 16:1-15

Originally published 8/14/2014. Revised and updated 8/10/2018.

Psalm 96: Published in the previous reflection also published today.

Joshua 18:1-19:9: Seven tribes have not yet had their territories apportioned. We would think that upon finally arriving at the Promised Land that everyone would be eager to claim their portion of the land, settle down and begin life anew.  Yet, there seems that having arrived, the people are just “hanging out.” We hear frustration in Joshua’s voice when he asks, How long will you be slack about going in and taking possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?” (18:3) So Joshua takes matters into his own hands, assigns three men from each tribe to lay out the remaining portions of land, which they do.

So, why were they being slack about taking possession of the land? There could be many reasons, but one of them, I think, was that as far as they were concerned they’d reached the Promised Land and that in itself was sufficient. Just as we come into the Kingdom when we’re baptized but then just “hang out,” expecting others to to the hard work. We choose churches based on how much we like the quality of their preaching and music. We “church shop” for the programs that suit us, behaving exactly as the consumers of other products. But then, like the Israelites, we we refuse to actually work and contribute to the building of the Kingdom. Joshua’s words about “how long we will be slack” is not a historical artifact; they are completely appropriate for us today.

Luke 16:1-15: This is one of those parables that upon first reading make me go “Huh?!?” Is Jesus really endorsing dishonesty? Jesus says the lesson of the parable is, “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.” (9) He goes on to say, “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much.” (10) Now, this sounds more like the Jesus we know (or think we know).

On closer examination, Jesus is endorsing stewardship and faithfulness. We are all dishonest managers and we have been given wealth that in the end and despite what we think is assuredly not our own; it is God’s. How we use that wealth is the point here. Do we use it as a means to invite others into the Kingdom just as the manager used his master’s wealth to ensure he would be welcome into other’s homes after he lost his job?

Wealth is a means, not an end. We can have wealth, but if we focus on it, thinking it’s our own then it becomes our master. But if we use it as a means to build the Kingdom, then we are serving God, not the other master.

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