The Sunday readings only use the prophet Amos three times; this and next Sunday are two of those. Amos was a country man used to living a simple life: a herdsman tending sycamore trees. Somehow he came to be a prophet of God in the city of Bethel, though he wouldn’t claim the title of prophet and was different from most of them. Such a man coming from the country to the big and prosperous city just had to speak what he thought in order to deliver a ‘scolding’ from the Lord, for the hiking of prices, lowering of measures and fixing of scales (Amos 8:4-7). His natural reactions to the corruption that he saw is described as visions from God, and they are nearly always expressed with an impressive literary style: matching couplets and triplets. Yet it is the language of wrath and condemnation, though elsewhere Amos does tell of a remnant few who will be spared and at the end of the book there is a very positive prophecy though this ‘epilogue’ may have been added later to end on an upbeat note of hopefulness.
The second reading, as last week, is from the first letter to Timothy (2:1-8). In this second chapter the writer is urging the Christian communities to which it is addressed to be sensible and prayerful citizens. Prayers are of different kinds: asking for what we want, praising and thanking God and interceding for others who perhaps wouldn’t pray themselves. God wants everyone to be saved; the rulers and non-believers could easily be looked down on by enthusiastic Christians, and there were some, believing that only the Christians were pleasing to God, who regarded what they would call pagan society as evil; the writer wants to oppose this early mistaken view. The last sentence of our reading about praying with hands held high is gender specific; only men prayed in this way (which was common among other religious groups at the time as well).
The parable that is at the beginning of the gospel reading is only found in Luke. He was writing later than Matthew and Mark and addressing a wider background – Gentiles who were or were interested in Christianity. Luke, like Paul, was utterly in favour of non-Jews also accepting Jesus’ teaching. The parable itself ends in verse 8 and is followed by other and various sayings that can distract from this unique parable.
The parable makes me think of God as an ‘overlord’ of some enterprise (this is all just my view). Under him is a steward who actually does all the ‘managing’ of the business – one manager representative of a whole body of them. The business is beset with a lot of problems and so the manager is threatened with ‘retirement.’ So the manager must do what he can to persuade the workforce to improve, and is relatively successful.
I like to think that the application of this parable to life is as follows. God is the creator of the whole universe and so for our bit of it – earth. The Jews first and Christians later are ought to be responsible for this creation. Both groups (like many other religious faiths) thought that they were privileged and proud of it, neglecting or even condemning others. But God really wanted (and still wants) all to care for others and for all of His creation. People will be failing if they don’t try to make all proud and feel blessed by the world they are responsible for.
We are these stewards of God’s work and must promote its good to the utmost of our ability. We must not be like some of the Jews and many of the Christians who image that we are ok but others are not! We will have to give an account of our stewardship and will be praised when we make others happy and caring of the whole of creation. If we do then it will be the case, as the parable ends “The master commended the dishonest steward, because he had acted prudently.”
See Jeffs Jottings – Amos