Monday, March 14, 2016


For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light (Lk 16:8).

1. Some Trump supporters, including some professing believers, excuse their choice by claiming that we're electing a a President-in-Chief, not a "Pastor-in-Chief". Unfortunately, there are Christians who play into that otherworldly caricature. I'm going to begin with some comments on the parable, then illustrate the problem with a couple of examples. 

2. Many commentators are confused by this parable (Lk 16:1-13). They don't know what to make of the overt cynicism. Some try to read it straight by making it about usury, but that's implausible. 

In my opinion, this parable is in the trickster genre of slave literature, viz. Uncle Remus, Brer Rabbit, Reynard the Fox. Satirical. 

The steward is the trickster, while his boss plays the stooge. His boss is such a dupe that he allows the steward to defraud him twice over. He even praises the steward for cheating him.

Sure, that's unrealistic, but the parable depicts the rich man as a blithering idiot. I think lower class members in Jesus' audience would have no difficulty getting the point. 

This also trades on a certain type of villain. There are different kinds of villains. There's the man you love to hate. The audience is spoiling to see him finally get his comeuppance.

But then there's the villain who, like a cat, always lands on his feet. He hoodwinks everyone, and the audience is expected to have a sneaking admiration for his cunning. Yes, he's a scoundrel, but he's such a clever scoundrel.

I think Christ's main point is to make an a fortiori argument: if even this unscrupulous steward can act so prudently in a time of crisis, how much more should Christians be able to improve on his example. Surely we should be at least as adept as a small-time crook. Indeed, we should be able to do better. Shaming believers who lack common sense.

I say that to say this: 

3. Recently, Doug Wilson did a post on Trump with this illustration:

A number of Christian commenters got hung up on the illustration. They felt it was inappropriate. But that reflects a lack of judgment on their part. A failure of priorities. 

i) To begin with, although the illustration was provocative, it wasn't pornographic. 

ii) In addition: "a picture's worth a thousand words". The photo nice captures Trump's venality, worldliness, and insatiable need to project an image. A rich man with trashy values. Ironically, the ostentatious wealth make is all the tackier. The gold leaf. The trophy wife, with her studied, superior glare. The fancy piano as a prop.

4. A second example is Christians who felt Rubio's "little hands" remark was inappropriate. Over at his blog, Denny Burk harped on that in two different posts. And some of his commenters agree. Perhaps not coincidentally, it's the female commenters who tend to agree. It was "sinful"! "An offense to God"! 

But one reason Trump got this far is because his opponents were too timid. Yes, it's a pity that Rubio has to be that crass, but let's not confuse decorum with morality. What Rubio did was in bad taste, but a breach of etiquette is not a breach of ethics. Trump is a stink bomb. Someone has to remove the stink bomb.

That's far too much riding on the race to make decorum a priority. And with a candidate like Trump, there's no nice way to take him out of action.

Certainly there should be substantive attacks. But, unfortunately, that's not enough.

In addition, this didn't begin with Rubio. This goes back to an ancient feud, when Trump was called a "short-fingered vulgarian" in Spy magazine. Trump is so vain that he could never get over it. 

In addition, you have Trump's patronizing epithet for Rubio: "little Marco". BTW, isn't that an ethnic stereotype?

Rubio's comment about "hands" was riffing off of all that. A very clever segue from Trump's notorious hypersensitivity about his stubby digits to mocking his manhood. 

Rubio was pushing Trump's buttons. As well as pushing the media's buttons. And it worked!

5. Unfortunately, you have Christians with a made-up speech code that is far more schoolmarmish than Scripture. I've discussed this before:

But let's take some additional examples:

I myself will lift up your skirts over your face, and your shame will be seen (Jer 13:26) 
Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at your nakedness and kingdoms at your shame (Nahum 3:5). 

By definition, that's an obscene image. Intentionally obscene. 

To be sure, it's not a picture. Rather, it's picture language. A visual description. Not pornographic, since it's not meant to sexually arouse the reader, but to evoke disgust. 

Rubio didn't say anything within light years of that. 

Or take God commanding Ezekiel to use human excrement as fuel (Ezk 4:12). That's deliberately offensive.

Or take Paul's statement that the Judaizers should suffer a penectomy (Gal 5:12). 

The point is not that we ought to make a habit of using graphic language or graphic illustrations. This is fairly exceptional in Scripture. But it's there. It's not inherently sinful to do that. 

6. I'd like to make a final point. In some of these discussions there's the suggestion that a man shouldn't say or do anything that would make a woman uncomfortable. Like saying, never watch a movie you wouldn't take your wife to. 

Well, that depends. There are movies that are mutually enjoyable for couples. On the other hand, there's material some women like that normal men can't stand. Take Amish romance novels. Or Hallmark channel fare. Or Disney Princess flicks. 

Conversely, you have sports films and war films that resonate with men, but many women would find disagreeable. There's nothing inherently wrong with a father taking his sons to see a movie he wouldn't take his daughter to see. 

Men and women aren't interchangeable. Masculine taste is not the standard for women, and feminine taste is not the standard for men. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Yes, it's a pity that Rubio has to be that crass, but let's not confuse decorum with morality.

    After giving his speech at the American Conservative Union Rubio was interviewed and asked about the "hands" comment and Rubio rightly responded that sometimes bullies need to be punched back.

    Here's the already cued up video:

    5. Unfortunately, you have Christians with a made-up speech code that is far more schoolmarmish than Scripture.

    Exactly. For example:

    and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses.- Ezek. 23:20 ESV (The NET's translation, while more of a paraphrase, is not only more graphic but better conveys the meaning of the passage)

    Scripture refers to men as those who "pisseth against a wall" in the KJV (1 Sam. 25:22 KJV; 1 Kings 14:10 KJV; 16:11 KJV; 21:21 KJV; 2 Kings 9:8 KJV).

    And Rehoboam boasted that "My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins" (1 Kings 12:10 KJV; 2 Chron. 10:10 KJV).

    We are all like one who is unclean, all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight.- Isa. 64:6 NET

    Examples could be multiplied, but that's enough to make the point.

    Men and women aren't interchangeable. Masculine taste is not the standard for women, and feminine taste is not the standard for men.

    Exactly, there are times when it's appropriate to say the old saying (tongue-in-cheek) "Hide the women and children." For example, when watching boxing or MMA (which many guys like myself enjoy). BTW, congratulations to Nate Diaz for humbling the arrogant and cocky Conor McGregor.

    1. Speaking of punching, John Bugay's recent post has a video of the Pope on his way to Philippines saying there are times when you have to punch back. Speaking of Philippines and punching, I'm Filipino and it's amazing to read all the vitriolic language against Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao because of his comments about homosexuals (which he retracted) and his continued Christian stand against gay marriage and homosexuality as sinful.

  3. This is one of the better treatments of Luke 16:1-13. Is this original to you, or have come across similar commentary in the past?

    Very thought provoking and well contextualized.

    1. My treatment overlaps with James Edwards and R. T. France, in their commentaries on Luke, along with Craig Blomberg's Interpreting the Parables (2nd ed.). However, I've added some observations of my own.