Is the kingdom of heaven about God’s initiative or our response in Matt 13?

Having, in previous weeks, pulled out the parables of the sower/soils and of the weeds, together with their interpretations, from the collection of ‘kingdom of heaven’ parables in Matt 13, the lectionary for Trinity 7 in Year A now mops up the remaining, mostly short, parables about the kingdom to complete our reading of the … Continue Reading

Does God respond to nagging?

This Sunday’s lectionary reading from Luke’s gospel (Trinity 18, Year C) is the Parable of the Unjust Judge and the Persistent Widow from Luke 18.1–8. A surface reading, confirmed by most online comments on it, is that basically we need to be nagging God before he will answer our prayer! But a more careful reading, … Continue Reading

Can we read of the Unjust Steward in Luke 16 with irony?

Andrew Talbert writes: Perhaps the oddest of parables of Jesus (at least in its interpretation), is that of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1–13). Commentators and pastors alike squirm through this parable with virtually the same conclusion: Jesus teaches that there are select occasions in which one can be dishonest with money. Not only does this … Continue Reading

What did Jesus have against goats?

The parable of the sheep and the goats in Matt 25.31–46 isn’t actually a parable (since there is no suggestion that ‘the kingdom of heaven is like this’), and isn’t really about sheep and goats (as we shall see). But it is very well known, and is most commonly interpreted as an encouragement for followers … Continue Reading

How should Luke 16.19­–31 shape our view of heaven and hell?

The story of the rich man and Lazarus appears on first reading to depict a detailed ‘map’ of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’, but is this the right way to read it?

First, it is worth noting that the words ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ themselves do not occur in the parable. The NT talks about post-mortem life in a range of ways, not all of them easy to reconcile with one another. Perhaps the most controlling one would be the idea of ‘sleep’ as used by Paul in, for example, 1 Cor 15. ‘Heaven’ in the NT mostly appears to refer to the realm of God’s presence, reign and reality, and the central NT hope is not that we will leave the earth to go to heaven, but that God’s realm will come down to the earth (see Rev 21). (See Tom Wright’s Grove booklet for the most accessible exposition of this.)

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