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Ninth Sunday after Trinity

The Rev. Canon Dr. Robert Crouse


His master praised the unrighteous steward, because he had acted with prudence: for the children of this age are in their generation more prudent than the children of light..

The Epistle and Gospel lessons for these Sundays after Trinity emphasize two things.  First, they impress upon us the inestimable blessing which is ours by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, the high privilege of our calling as children of God and citizens of his kingdom.  As last week's Epistle lesson put it, "As many as are led by the Spirit of god, they are the sons of God.  For you have not received a spirit of servitude again unto fear; you have received a spirit of sonship, in which we cry aloud, Abba, Father; the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: and if children then heirs; heirs of God, and fellow-heirs with Christ."  That is a point made over and over again in these lessons: the glory of our calling as children of God, redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ and given a new spiritual life, nourished with heavenly food unto life eternal.


That is the first point, a point in which we must ever rejoice, but a point which we must never for one moment forget; from it follows the second point: the challenge to live in accordance with that calling.  As last Sunday's Gospel lesson expressed it, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven./"  Over and over again, these lessons emphasize the urgency of fulfilling in our lives what we profess with our lips, and the deadly peril of taking these things thoughtlessly for granted.  "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire," said Jesus, in last Sunday's Gospel.


Now the lessons for this Ninth Sunday after Trinity continue to develop that same teaching; the glory of our calling, and the challenge of living in accord with it.  Thus in the Epistle lesson, St. Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians of the spiritual privileges of the Hebrews: "They drank of that spiritual rock"; and how in spite of those privileges, they were overthrown in the wilderness through various temptations.  "Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."  Not that we are necessarily victims of those temptations--we can resist them, and escape from their power.  "There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.  Wherefore," says St. Paul, "my beloved brethren flee from idolatry."  That is to say, do not put yourselves in subjection to worldly things, as though they were gods.  "I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say."  We who receive the body and blood of Christ, are we to be the slaves of worldly things?


"I speak as to wise men," says St. Paul.  This is a matter of prudence, a matter of good practical sense--and that's what today's Gospel lesson is all about.  Sometimes people find this parable of the unrighteous steward very puzzling, because it seems to them to be recommending shady business practices.  But that, of course, is not the point at all.  The point is simply this: worldly people, such as the unrighteous steward, have a certain practical wisdom in the pursuit of worldly ends.  The unrighteous steward wasted no time when the crisis came, and used all his worldly skill to save himself from disaster, and prepare a comfortable place for himself.


The lesson Jesus is teaching in telling this parable is simply this: As worldly people -- "the children of this age" -- are prudent in doing what is necessary to attain their worldly ends, so should "the children of light" be prudent in doing what is necessary to attain "everlasting habitations".  The unrighteous steward used worldly goods -- "the mammon of unrighteousness" -- to provide himself with a worldly refuge.  The children of light must use their worldly goods, which must finally fail, in such a way as to prepare for their everlasting habitation.  The lesson is this -- Christian wisdom, Christian prudence, will use this world's goods for everlasting spiritual ends.


These Scripture lessons appointed for today remind us urgently that our Christian calling, our spiritual life, must not be some vague, unrealistic dream, but must rather be a matter of decisive, practical action day by day; that the children of light must be prudent--that is to say, practically wise--in their quest for the "everlasting habitations" to which they are called.  All this is summed up in the Collect for today, when we pray for "the spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful; that we, who cannot do anything that is good without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord."