Be Crafty With Righteousness in Piety!

Pentecost 18 Sunday

Luke 16:1

Yet Christ said to his disciples: There was a rich man who had a manager who was said to have stolen his possessions.

We leave this parable in its simple meaning and do not want to seek much subtlety as Jerome has done; for it is not necessary to seek such subtle understanding here; let us remain with the milk instead (see 1 Corinthians 3:2). Let the parable by itself remain that the manager stole his master’s possession and craftily, fraudulently, and falsely uses these possessions. For it is not right that he who first defrauded his master should now deal with it most fraudulently in order to have good days for the rest of his life. Let us leave it at that. For the Lord simply draws this conclusion from the parable: the unjust manager acted in a wily way. He does not praise that it is good, but rebukes him that he first stole the master’s possessions and then craftily set himself up for success. Yet what the Lord does praise is that he has not forgotten himself; he praises his craftiness alone. Just as when I see a prostitute who attracts the whole world and say: That is one crafty prostitute; she knows how it’s done! Now, from this the Lord concludes furthermore that just as the manager here is crafty in his actions, so we too should be crafty when it comes to winning eternal life. In order to understand this, consider this verse from St. Paul: Adam is a type of Christ, Romans 5:14. Why is it that the apostle compares Adam to Christ, since Adam brought sin and death on us while Christ brought us righteousness and life? The point of comparison between the Lord Christ and Adam here is their being origin and source, not what they produce and do. For just as Adam is an origin and head of all sinners, so Christ is an origin and head of all saints. For we have inherited no more from Adam than sin and condemnation and being cursed forever. Yet from Christ we have obtained righteousness and blessedness. Now, these two do not agree; for sin is punishable but righteousness is praiseworthy. Yet Paul compares them in view of their being origins–just as sin and death invaded all people by means of Adam, so righteousness and life invaded by means of Christ. In the same way he compares here the unrighteous and the righteous: Just as the unrighteous acts craftily in unrighteousness and knavery, so we should act craftily with righteousness in piety. Let the parable stand and be understood in this way; for this is what the Lord says: The children of this world are craftier than the children of the light. Thus, let the children of the light learn craftiness from the children of darkness or the world: Just as these are crafty in their doings, so the children of the light should also be crafty in their own doings.

St. Louis ed., 11:1448-1449.

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