Sat 9 Oct 2010
1 Comment | Post by Scott Haile under Uncategorized
In renaming the blog in summer 2010, I chose the title Unjust Steward largely because I like the way it sounds, but also because it’s a fascinating parable. (For my take on what the passage is saying see this link.) Seeing as how the steward is the hero of the parable, I don’t mean the title as a reference to myself. But I do think the parable has lessons on multiple levels that relate to this blog.
Why the Unjust Steward for a scripture blog?
- First, because of Jesus’ summation at the end of the story: I say to you, make friends for yourself from unjust wealth, so that when it fails, they will receive you into eternal dwellings. In the most general sense, Jesus is saying that our lives are to be directed beyond ourselves, toward a relationship with God who created us. Any reading of Scripture needs to keep this in mind.
- But second, the parable is also talking about real, concrete, actual Wealth. Our relationship with God is not a disembodied spirituality that tries to escape from the material world to be with God. Rather, living spiritually is completely wrapped up in how we use the things of this world, and more importantly in how we treat people who live in this world.
- Third, and slightly more challenging, Jesus announces with this parable that spiritual people need to learn from the world, even when the world is acting immorally. The striking thing about the parable is that the moral at the end doesn’t really seem to be moral. This has a particular kind of application for biblical studies, because critical Bible scholarship can sometimes be used as a sort of way to debunk the Christian faith through undermining its scriptures; as a Christian, this is not what I want to do. Yet if we show so much “respect” for Scripture that we ignore sound critical readings, we may miss much of the true nature of the text God has given us. While a faithful reading of Scripture really needs to be done by believers in Christian community, it also needs to learn from the insights of (non-Christian) critics who may indeed be unjust stewards of the texts they study.
- The final point is the parable’s description of Wealth as unjust or dishonest. This could be interpreted in different ways, but I like to read it as a reminder that the things of the world tend to deceive us into thinking that they are actually eternal, when in fact they are temporary. Since I live in a society where the vast majority of Christians (including myself) give way too much allegiance to Money, this point is worth bringing up repeatedly. Just like Jesus brought it up repeatedly.
What does this mean for this blog?
Here are some thoughts:
As a Christian, I can only study the Scriptures first in service of God, and whatever I do here is useless if it is not directed toward God. Yet I’m also writing about texts written over many centuries by many people, and so critical study of their historical development is a key part of understanding them. At times this will seem to some people to be poor stewardship of the Scriptures––or even an attack against the text. But my goal is to be loyal first to God, while also serving (and often being corrected by) the church and fellow Christians.
My starting point is the idea that the Scriptures are both divine and human, and that Christians must engage them on both those levels. My hope is that even very conservative readers will find at least some sympathy for the point I’m making here, since Christians don’t generally teach that the Bible was simply transcribed from heavenly plates, like for example the book of Mormon. Instead, individuals wrote the NT in their own voices: Luke says he did research before writing his Gospel (Luke 1:1-4), and Paul’s letters are filled with personal references that explicitly reflect his own personality. These passages remain divine as well, but it would make little sense to say that Luke and Paul were merely writing what God told them to write at those points. One challenge for Christians, then, is to determine how the divine and the human in these texts relate to one another.
Much of what I’m describing here is my approach to exegesis, but the sciptures also need to be applied. A relationship with God always demands morality, and I’ll try to give due attention to how the texts I study should affect the lives of Christians.
Finally, if Wealth can deceive its owner, scholarship can definitely deceive the person engaged in it. Technical study of the Bible (just like any scholarly topic) can turn into an end in itself, basically useless to people outside the field. This is where a blog can remind me why I’m studying, since it forces me to (try to) explain things in terms people can understand even if they’re not Bible scholars. Judging by my first 56 posts, I don’t always succeed.
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