This coming weekend is the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time. In yesterday’s post we considered the steward who is neither faithful or prudent – and the associated culpability for failing to do the right. The disciples of Jesus are to be ready to open to the Master “immediately when he comes.” The answer to Peter’s question (v. 41) directs the discourse toward the Christian leaders especially.
The overriding image of authority in this text is one of service. Something that Jesus applies in a special way to the Twelve as leaders of a restored Israel. Where the servants are to stand in readiness for the return of the master, the stewards are responsible for their own work as well as that of the community as a whole. The care of what has been entrusted foreshadows the parable of the sums of money (19:11–27). The sayings on the distribution of responsibilities or gifts in the concluding verse of the section are clearly pertinent for those in authority, but they have a wider application for all on whom spiritual and temporal gifts have been bestowed.
There is no inconsistency here among responsibility, mercy, and punishment. God’s mercy makes allowances for those who do not know what is expected of them. But the most severe punishment is reserved for persons who are entrusted with great responsibilities and who then high-handedly and irresponsibly mistreat others and fail the trust given to them by their Lord. In a time of permissiveness and daily reminders of the pervasiveness of immorality even within the church, these parables can still serve to remind, exhort, and warn Christians of the seriousness of their moral commitments. If much has changed since the first century, some things have hardly changed at all. [Culpepper, 265]
Allen Culpepper Luke, vol. 9 in New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN.: Abington, 1995)
The wise and the foolish virgin, Painted by Jan Adam Kruseman (1804-1862), CC: Public Domain, Credit: Museum Jan Cunen