Eternal Purses

By Annette Brownlee

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 12:32-48 

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night or near dawn and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 45 But if that slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 That slave who knew what his master wanted but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required, and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”


How much is enough? What lasts? What is the purse that does not wear out? What is the treasure that does not fail, that cannot be taken away from us? A world dependent on a consumer economy does not want us to ask such questions — ever. Jesus, in telling us to provide for ourselves such purses and treasures leads us to ask just such questions. Again and again.

We can do so rightly only in the light of the Church’s hope in Christ’s return and in resurrected life with Christ beyond this mortal life. St. Paul writes, “If we have hope in Christ for this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). That is why the two parables about servants watching for their master’s unexpected return follow Christ’s teaching on discerning true treasure.
So what lasts? What cannot be taken away from us by time, corruption, or death? Only that which is of God and bound to God. Only that which is joined to and springs from God’s eternal love for the world. Which is joined to Christ’s resurrected life, which we have received through the Holy Spirit in baptism. The things of this world — our fears, greed, and resentments — our disregard for neighbors, our unwillingness to forgive, our focus on unimportant stuff: all this is of this world, not of God, and cannot last or endure beyond our mortal lives.

So, Christ tells us, don’t waste your lives on them. They aren’t worth it. Fashion for yourselves purses of faith, hope, and love. These three, he tells us, abide (1 Cor. 13:13). They are God’s gifts to us, our inheritance in Christ, and worthy of the precious life God has given us.

The Rev. Dr. Annette Brownlee is chaplain, director of field education, and professor of pastoral theology at Wycliffe College, Toronto. She also assists and preaches at St. Paul’s L’Amoreaux in Scarborough.

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