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Showing posts with the label #ChristAlmighty

The Five Stupid Teenagers Story.

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Matthew 25.1-13. The Five Stupid Teenagers Story is also called the parable of the virgins, of the maidens, of the bridesmaids; of the wise and foolish virgins, or of the 10 virgins. Usually they’re called virgins ’cause that’s traditionally how people have translated παρθένοις / parthénis : A girl, or unmarried woman, and women back then used to marry mighty young. Like as soon as they attained legal adulthood, so 13 years old. Since they were unmarried, the usual assumption is in that culture they’d be virgins, which is a reasonable assumption. But parthénos was sometimes used in Greek literature to describe young women who weren’t virgins, like in the plays of Sophocles and Aristophanes. Maiden is alternately used to describe them, but maiden historically means the same thing as virgin . And in either case I’m not sure Jesus’s point had anything to do with their virginity nor marital status. More like with their youth. You know how some kids can be wise and clever, and

The Dives and Lazarus Story.

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Luke 16.19-31. This story is often called the story of the rich man and Lazarus—or Lazarus and the rich man, depending on who oughta come first, and since it’s not really about Lazarus, stands to reason the rich man should come fist. Traditionally this man’s been called Dives (usually pronounced 'daɪ.viz instead of like the verb) ’cause that’s what he’s called in verse 19 in the Vulgate ; dives is Latin for “rich.” So I’m gonna call him Dives; it saves time. Every once in a while some literalist insists this isn’t actually a parable. This is the only story where Jesus gives someone a name, so they figure it must mean something. So they claim Jesus was straight-up talking about an actual pauper named Lazarus. Some of ’em even claim this Lazarus is Jesus’s friend Lazarus of Bethany, whom Jesus later raised from the dead Jn 11.1-44 —and this is how Lazarus died. It’s a theory which makes no sense, because Lazarus’s family asked Jesus to come cure him; they didn’t just d

The Shrewd Butler Story. And mammon.

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Luke 16.1-9. As you know, Jesus said you can’t be a slave to both God and Mammon, Mt 6.24 and as a result people tend to think of Mammon as a person. It’s not really. Whenever Jesus and the Pharisees spoke about mammon, they meant money, and they were speaking of it negatively. Exactly like we do whenever we describe money as “lucre.” Nobody ever talks about clean lucre; it’s always filthy lucre; it’s always money used wrong, used for evil. Same deal with mammon, which is why I translated τῷ ἀδίκῳ μαμωνᾷ / to adíko mamoná ( KJV “the unrighteous mammon”) as “filthy lucre.” You come across lucre in this story, it means mammon . Got it? Good. Jesus tells this story right after the Prodigal Son Story, Lk 15.11-32 if that context helps: A man squandered all his money, and when he came home his father threw him an expensive party; and his brother objected to the wastefulness (or to use old-timey English, the prodigality ) of both the wasteful man and his extravaga

The Bigger Barns Story.

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Luke 12.13-21. People wanna be rich. Which I get. I’ve never been rich. My parents are retired and comfortable, but that’s only because their investments paid off: They didn’t have that kind of money while I was growing up. So I experienced food stamps, school lunch subsidies, thrift stores, buses, and free-clinic healthcare. I’ve been poor as an adult too. Not homeless; I nearly got that far. But I definitely learned how to get by on $5 a month. If that. Poverty sucks. And not just because, in a thousand little ways, American society is no help at getting people out of poverty. Really, you can only save money when you have money—when you can afford to buy in bulk, or get the higher-level plan which happens to offer deep discounts, or afford the $100 shoes which last two years instead of the $10 shoes which last a month. (Well, three months with duct tape.) Our culture’s popular myth is “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps,” but y’notice most of the people who say tha

The Two Sons Story.

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Matthew 18.28-32. In the context of this story, Jesus was teaching in temple, and some of the head priests and elders—in other words, people who sat on the Judean senate —came to challenge him. Matthew 18.23 KJV 23 B …and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? “These things” being when he entered Jerusalem on a donkey like a Messiah, the miracles and healings and exorcisms he performed, and of course his teachings—like he was doing right then. Jesus countered them by asking where they thought John the baptist’s authority came from—and since they didn’t care to answer that one, Jesus saw no point in giving them a straight answer. Mt 18.24-27 Instead he resorted to parables. As I’ve said many times before, parables are about God’s kingdom. That includes the parables Jesus had for the senators. When Jesus returns to inaugurate his kingdom, every other government is getting overthrown. Every other government. He’s not gon

The Unforgiving Debtor Story.

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Matthew 18.23-35. Mammonists are fond of saying Jesus teaches about money more often than a surprising number of subjects. More often than heaven and hell combined! And that part’s true, ’cause Jesus teaches very little about heaven and hell. (Unless you think “the kingdom of heaven” actually means heaven. You’d be wrong.) His lessons are primarily about following God now , not the afterlife, nor after the world ends. Jesus teaches most subjects more than heaven and hell combined. Though Jesus brings up money a lot, not all his lessons are actually about money. Money’s in them. Much like wheat and vineyards are in a number of his parables: They’re not about wheat and winegrapes, but about his kingdom. He uses them to make a point. They’re MacGuffins—a movie term for the valuable object which motivates the characters and drives the story. What the MacGuffin is, doesn’t matter; you can often swap it out for something else. In fact Jesus does just that when he speaks of

The Dinner Party Story.

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Luke 14.15-24. Jesus has two very similar parables in the gospels: The Wedding Party Story in Matthew , and the Dinner Party Story in Luke . Christians tend to lump ’em together, iron out the differences, and claim they’re about precisely the same thing. They’re actually not. The differences are big enough to where we gotta look at the variant parables individually, not together. In the Wedding Party Story, Jesus compares his kingdom to a king holding a wedding for his son. That’s not a mere social function; it’s political. People’s response to that wedding was a political statement; it wasn’t merely some friends revealing how they’re not really friends. Whereas what we see in the Dinner Party Story is an act of hospitality, generosity, and love on the homeowner’s part… and the invitees blow him off because they’d rather do anything than spend time with him. The rebellion and sedition we detect in the Wedding Party Story isn’t in this story. These are just people being dick

The Equal-Pay Vineyard Story.

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Matthew 20.1-16. Jesus tells more than one parable about vineyards, and sometimes Christians mix ’em up. Whenever I refer to “the parable of the vineyard,” people sometimes assume I mean the two sons sent to work in the vineyard, or the tenant farmers who murder the vineyard owner’s son. I’ve tried to call this the Generous Employer Story, but if you don’t put “vineyard” in the title people don’t know what you mean—“Wait, is this a new parable?” No it’s not. So I call it the Equal-Pay Vineyard Story. Because everybody gets paid a denarius at the end of the story, even though some of ’em didn’t work all that hard. The punchline is about how the landowner does this because he’s generous, so maybe it oughta be called the Generous Equal-Pay Vineyard Story. But instead of making the title longer and longer, till it winds up telling the story for us, Jesus may as well tell the story, right? Matthew 20.1-16 KWL 1 “For heaven’s kingdom is like a person, a landowner, who come

The Dragnet Story.

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Matthew 13.47-50. You’d be surprised how many people don’t know what a dragnet is, and think it has to do with cop shows, or police putting up roadblocks in order to catch a suspect. Police have certainly borrowed the term, but properly a dragnet is a fishing net. There are many kinds of dragnets. The type most commonly used today is a seine (a word descended from the ancient Greek word for dragnet, σαγήνη / sayíni ), a fishing net with floats on the top and weights on the bottom, pulled behind a boat, which catches everything swimming in the top part of a body of water. Another is the kind which sinks to the bottom of the lake or sea, and pulls up everything from the floor. And since it catches everything , it might catch garbage… or endangered fish or marine mammals, like dolphins. It’s an efficient way to catch fish, but it’s not popular with environmentalists. Jesus’s base of operations was Kfar Nahum (Greek Καφαρναοὺμ / Kafarnaúm , KJV Capernaum), a fishing village

The Major Finds Story. (Treasure in a Field, Pearl of Great Price.)

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Matthew 13.44-46. Jesus has two quick one-liner parables in Matthew which are about the very same thing. I don’t know whether he told these stories separately, and Matthew bunched ’em together, or whether he told them together so the repeated idea might sink in all the better. Regardless, Christians have historically called ’em by separate names. One’s the Hidden Treasure, or Treasure in the Field, or Secret Treasure, or Clever Treasure Hunter, or whatever you wanna emphasize most in the story. The other’s the Hidden Pearl, Valuable Pearl, Pearl of Great Price, or Clever Pearl Merchant—again, whatever you wanna emphasize most. Me, I bunch ’em together. Like I said, they’re about the very same thing, and they repeat the idea of finding something major, and selling all you have to get it. So I call them collectively the Major Finds Story. Heaven’s kingdom is like a major find. Really, heaven’s kingdom is a major find. Take it away, Jesus: Matthew 13.44-46 KWL 44 “

The Good Samaritan Story.

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Luke 10.25-37. This is probably Jesus’s best-known story, almost universally called the Good Samaritan. Which… is a problematic name, ’cause I’m not sure how many people realize the reason he’s called the good Samaritan, is because the usual Jewish and gentile presumption is he wouldn’t be good; he’d either be apathetic or outright evil. The story begins with a νομικός / nomikós , a person who specialized in the Law of Moses and its many, many Pharisee loopholes. The KJV translates nomikós as “lawyer,” and yeah, today’s lawyers are often just as expert at manipulating our laws so their clients come out on top. So I’ll go with that translation. Luke 10.25-29 KWL 25 Look, a certain lawyer stood up to examine Jesus , and said, “Teacher, if I’m to inherit life in the age to come , what am I doing? 26 Jesus told him, “What’s written in the Law? How do you read it? 27 In reply the lawyer said, “You’ll love your Lord God, with all your mind , all your soul, all

Eventually everyone will understand Jesus’s parables.

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Mark 4.21-25. When Jesus explained to his students how parables work and why he uses them, he told them this. Mark 4.21-23 KWL 21 Jesus told them, “Does the light come in so it can be put under a basket or under the couch? Not so it can be put on the lampstand? 22 It’s not secret except that it may later be revealed. It doesn’t become hidden unless it may later be known. 23 If anyone has hearing ears, hear this.” Too often Christians quote this passage as if it applies to every secret: Everything we say in secret is gonna eventually come out in public. And y’know, Jesus did say something like that, in Matthew and Luke . But he did so in a different context. There, it was part of his Olivet Discourse, his last talk to his students before his arrest and death. At the time he spoke about when people persecute Christians for proclaiming the gospel, and how their evil would become public, in time. And all Jesus’s other, private teachings would also become publ

The Fruitless Fig Tree Story.

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Luke 13.1-9. Two stories before Jesus presented the Mustard Seed Story in Luke , he told the Fruitless Fig Tree Story in response to then-current events. Let’s start with the events, since they’re relevant. Luke 13.1 KWL Some were present among Jesus’s listeners at that time, who brought news of the Galileans whose blood Pontius Pilate mixed with the sacrifices. We don’t know the actual story behind this. We just have guesses. Most of ’em presume Pilate put down an uprising, and in so doing killed some Galileans in the temple area, either close enough to the ritual sacrifices to splatter blood on ’em… or at least close enough for the Israelis to object it was just as bad, and hyperbolically claim he may as well have splattered their blood on their sacrifices. You know how people can get. But again: We don’t know this is what happened. The Romans are pretty good at keeping records about such things, and we have no record of such an uprising. It’s certainly staying i

Jesus’s list of works of the flesh.

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Mark 7.17-23, Matthew 15.15-20. Every so often I bring up a fruit of the Spirit like grace , or a work of the flesh like gracelessness. And no, these aren’t among the fruits and fleshly works Paul listed in Galatians 5 . Because, in I said in my article on the topic, it’s not a comprehensive list. Wasn’t meant to be. Because it’s not in Paul’s list, I’ll get pushback from time to time from a Christian who has the Galatians lists memorized, and has it in their head the lists are comprehensive. “Waitaminnit, that’s not one of the fruits.” And then I have to explain how this particular attitude and behavior has its clear origin in a Spirit-led lifestyle, or Spirit-defying human depravity. Grace should be one of the more obvious ones, ’cause grace is obviously a God thing. But you know how literalists can be. The scriptures gotta literally say it’s a fruit, and if they don’t it’s not. Sometimes it’s not even about literalism: It’s because they want it to be a comprehen