Yeah. That time Jesus told us to be evil.
For real. He did.
Is there a catch? Though I’ve barely written ten words, you’re probably suspecting that there’s a catch. There’s no way I would believe that Jesus told us to do evil, would I?
Except that this is what he Jesus said: “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves…”. You can read the whole context if you want at Luke 16:1-15.
What Jesus is doing in this section is normal enough for him. He is teaching his disciples. Some Pharisees are there too, Luke tells us. Though not mentioned specifically, we suspect the large crowds that have been following him in this phase of his ministry are still there too, hoping to catch him healing or say something offensive to the Pharisees.
Go ahead and click on the scripture link above and read the section. There’s a very interesting parable, and the teaching I mentioned. Does Jesus really tell people to use their money to make friends? Yes, but can he mean that? Is there more to the story?
I did some digging this week and found that scholars are conflicted about this section. Kenneth Bailey, in his work Poet & Peasant, says that “many commentators affirm that this parable is the most difficult of all the synoptic [material in Matthew, Mark and Luke] parables.” He goes on to quote C. C. Torrey as writing:
This passage brings before us a new Jesus, one seems inclined to compromise with evil. He approves a program of canny self-interest, recommending to his disciples a standard of life which is generally recognized as inferior: ‘I say to you, gain friends by means of money.’ This is not the worst of it; he bases the teaching on the story of a shrewd scoundrel who feathered his own nest at the expense of the man who had trusted him; and then [Jesus] appears to say to his disciples, ‘Let this be your model!’
Huh? What gives? Is Jesus compromising with evil? Why is no one talking about this?
Bailey tells us that people have talked about this: “The seeming incongruity of a story that praises a scoundrel has been an embarrassment to the Church at least since Julian the Apostate used the parable to assert the inferiority of the Christian faith and its founder.”
Have you heard of this before? I hadn’t.
So what should we do?
Join us at Faith Church this coming Sunday morning, and you’ll find out.