Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kingdom parables and the poor: Chiastic help

A helpful section on chiasm from a longer David R. Bickle article on the KingdomL

The parables that complement the parables surrounding the discourse on anxiety expand on the idea that seeking the treasure of the kingdom leads to sharing with the poor (Luke 12:31-33). The parables of Luke 10:25-18:14 are arranged as a chiasmus (ABC...CBA), so that the first parable is parallel to the last parable, the second to the next-to-last, etc. This structure can be seen by listing each group of parallels with the same degree of indention and color:

The good Samaritan (10:25-37)
____The friend at midnight (11:5-8)
________The good Father, beginning with "Who of you...?" (11:11-13)
____________The rich fool (12:13-21)
________________The demands of stewardship (12:35-48)
____________________Three warnings to repent (13:1-9)
________________________The mustard seed and yeast (13:18-22)
____________________________The lower place at the banquet (14:7-10)
________________________________The proud will be humbled (14:11a)
________________________________The humble will be exalted (14:11b)
____________________________The banquet invitations (14:15-24)
________________________Considering the cost of discipleship (14:25-33)
____________________Three parables of the lost coming to repentance (15:1-32)
________________The dishonest steward (16:1-13)
____________The rich man and Lazarus (16:19-31)
________The unworthy slaves, beginning with "Who of you...?" (17:7-10)
____The persistent widow (18:1-8)
The Pharisee and the tax collector (18:9-14).

Thus, the parables just before and just after the discourse on anxiety (12:22-34), the parable of the rich fool and the parables of stewardship demands, complement the parable of the dishonest steward and the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The parallel stewardship parables illustrate different truths: that servants of the Son of Man must be found faithful when he returns (12:35-48) and that they must shrewdly distribute their unrighteous money to others if they are to have true, eternal wealth since the use of money reveals whether they serve it or God (16:1-13). The implication is that using one's wealth to help the poor is necessary to being found faithful at the coming of the Son of Man. In both the parable of the rich fool and the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, a rich man loses everything when he dies. Reading the parables together, failure to be "rich toward God" is manifested in failure to give generously to the poor. Those who are overly concerned about providing for themselves in this life do not tend to think they can afford to provide much for others. Between the parable of the dishonest steward and the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a brief exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees (16:14-15). In loving money to the point of scoffing at Jesus' parable of the dishonest steward and in their self-justification before men, they embodied seeking treasure on earth, like the nations of the world, rather than seeking the kingdom of God (12:30-33; 22:23-30). Jesus contrasted the worldly values of men with the values of God, who knows the heart: "what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God" (16:15). The conclusion of the chiasmus of parables (18:14) also condemns the self-righteousness of the Pharisees, echoing the center of the chiasmus (14:11): "every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." In other words, those who proudly seek earthly wealth or recognition will eventually lose everything, but those who humbly seek the kingdom of God will enter it when the Son of Man comes in his glory....
-David R. Bickle

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