Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
1 Timothy 2:1-7
The aspect of history that fascinates me most is seeing how leaders react and change while in the leadership role. There are as many reasons for taking a leadership role as there are leaders, but history teaches us that the power of position often changes the perspective and motivation of the leader. Power has a way of infecting even the most noble person. The passages for today recognize this and deliver blunt warnings to those who would take advantage of their position whether it be a merchant or the king.
Amos calls out the merchants for greed driven practices that are expressed by resentment of holy days that restricted commerce. Rather than approaching the days in thankful worship for the good things they have, Amos’s audience bemoaned the days dedicated to worship mourning the lost profits they could have. These merchants were not satisfied with the profits that came naturally in the buying-selling process, they inflated their gain through inaccurate scales and manipulating the currency. Greed governed their every thought. Such dishonesty did not go unnoticed by God who sent Amos with the message to remind them of his expectation and the promise of judgment for “trample(ing) on the needy and bring(ing) to ruin the poor.”
In Timothy the faithful are reminded to pray for everyone with special mention to all in leadership levels including the king. Those prayers include prayers for salvation because of God’s desire to have all be saved. Paul drives home that Christ came for everyone regardless of social status. The prayers for the leaders included remembering the responsibility those in positions of power have for the quality of life of the people. Paul reminded the people that leaders of faith would increase the chance that “we (the people) may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” The people of the time knew well what it was like to live under leaders who not only rejected God, but banned the worship practice of the Jews and Christians. The ability of leaders to make the right decisions with all the people in mind brought peace and prosperity to Israel throughout history. Leaders who focused on only some of the people led to war and social unrest. Paul, who knew the history of the Jewish people as well or better than anyone in his time, and then as minister to the Gentiles knew how important it is for leaders to govern for all people.
Jesus delivers one of his most scathing critiques of his ministry while addressing the character of the people. A dishonest man, upon being caught, becomes even more dishonest to preserve his status. Instead of facing greater consequences for the increased dishonesty (theft) he receives praise for acting shrewdly in the situation. The entire standard of right and wrong had been turned on end. However, when it comes to God’s plan we do not have the option to change the rules. Jesus focuses on the character of the participants: faithfulness and honesty either exist in a person’s life or they do not. This passage in Luke, as do so many other passages, reminds us that being faithful is an all-or-nothing proposition. We cannot only be faithful on Sunday and abandon it in all other aspects of our life. Jesus gives us no other option but to be in or out.
The lessons for leaders hold equally true for those not in leadership. We treat people with respect regardless of social status or we don’t. We make decisions that take into consideration the impact on all people or we don’t. We live all aspects of our lives faithfully or we don’t. Leaders draw attention because their actions affect so many people but none of us are exempt. Leaders are responsible for the ways their actions impact everyone under their authority. We all are responsible for the way our actions impact everyone we encounter. God set the standard: we are compelled to uphold it.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org