Lectionary Commentaries for November 3, 2019
Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Luke 19:1-10

Ira Brent Driggers

As Jesus passes through Jericho, he comes to the end of his journey to Jerusalem. 

Yet while his face is “set toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:53), he is not so preoccupied with his own fate that he cannot take time to notice others.

A number of important Lukan motifs have been compressed into this brief episode.

The simple act of noticing is not insignificant. Jesus has a gift for seeing and affirming what others do not (see Luke 5:27-28; 13:12; 20:1-3). It is unclear, however, if Zacchaeus wants to be noticed. Luke only says that he wants “to see who Jesus was” (verse 3). In contrast to those who directly approach Jesus (e.g., Luke 5:12-16; 9:37-43; 18:35-43), Zacchaeus appears to seek a comfortable distance. At the same time, his actions are extraordinary enough (running and climbing a tree would not have been proper adult behaviors) to suggest—perhaps—a nascent desire for something more. Regardless, Jesus does not need a direct petition to notice someone in need of fellowship. He meets even the most hesitant approach with the same compassion and mercy.

This brings us to the Lukan motif of social outreach and inclusion. In this uniquely Lukan scene, Zacchaeus’ marginalized status stems from his occupation as chief tax collector. Tasked with collecting Roman tariffs on transported goods, tax collectors held a less-than-virtuous reputation in first-century Jewish society. While the mere fact of Roman tariffs could have upset those living under Roman occupation, many tax collectors earned their reputation through over-charging. This seems to be the case with Zacchaeus.

The language of inclusion is particularly strong in the case of Zacchaeus, as Jesus tells him, “hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” The language of “hurry” reciprocates Zacchaeus’ initial excitement in running ahead of the crowd (the same Greek word also describes the shepherds’ “haste” in seeking out the baby Jesus; Luke 2:16). The language of necessity (dei; NRSV: “must”) suggests that Jesus’ fellowship with Zacchaeus flows from the divine will (see also Luke 4:43; 13:16; 15:32; 24:7). This is no random encounter, then, but an integral stage of Jesus’ kingdom mission.

The language of public critique is also strong. The onlookers make the stereotypical association between tax collectors and “sinners,” but Luke describes this specifically as “grumbling” (diagonguzo, verse 7; see also Luke 15:2) Significantly, it is the same term used to describe the Israelites complaining against Moses in the wilderness (see Exodus 15:24; Numbers 14:2; Deuteronomy 1:27). With this scriptural echo Luke reinforces the high social cost that Jesus pays in associating with Zacchaeus. More importantly, he highlights just how radical Jesus’ mission appears to those who have grown comfortable with social stereotypes. As a tax collector—and especially a chief tax collector—Zacchaeus is seen as beyond redemption.

Of course, it would be a mistake to equate “social outsider” and “sinner.” In fact, Zacchaeus’ pronouncement (verse 8) is ambiguous in the Greek and could be construed as a clarification of his present behavior and thus a retort to public accusation. The trend in Luke, however, is to embrace the stereotypical association between tax collectors and sinners (Luke 3:12-13; 5:29-31; 15:1-31; 18:9-14) as a way to highlight the compassion of Jesus. Over the course of the narrative, tax collectors come to symbolize humanity in need of repentance and mercy. Note, for instance, that the well-known parable of the Prodigal Son—the consummate story of repentance and mercy—is prompted by Jesus’ fellowship with tax collectors and sinners (15:1). Jesus’ final affirmation of Zacchaeus echoes the conclusion of that parable: “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost” (verse 10; see Luke 15:31). Thus the story of Zacchaeus, like that of Levi at the beginning of the Gospel (Luke 5:32), personalizes the motif of repentant tax collectors (on repentance, see also Luke 3:8; 17:3-4; 24:27; Acts 2:38; 11:18).

The economic nature of Zacchaeus’ repentance is also distinctively Lukan: “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much” (verse 8). Of all the Gospels, Luke is the most interested in economic justice. Luke’s Jesus condemns the accumulation of wealth and possessions at the expense of the needs of the poor (see Luke 6:24-25; 12:13-34; 16:19-31), while the church endowed with Jesus’ Spirit ensures that none of its members go without (Acts 2:43-47; 4:32-37). It is fitting then, that Jesus’ public ministry concludes on a note of economic justice.

Finally, there is the theme of table fellowship. We can infer that Zacchaeus “welcoming” (verse 6) Jesus into his home implies social solidarity, solidarity set in motion by Jesus and consummated by the breaking of bread. This too is a strong Lukan theme, tying together the threads of social inclusion (Luke 14:1-14), repentance (Luke 5:29-32; 15:1-31), and even messianic banquet (Luke 14:15-23; 24:28-35). So when Jesus tells the disgruntled onlookers, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham” (verse 9), he is not referring only to Zacchaeus’ vow of repentance. Yes, there is a correlation between Zacchaeus’ repentance and his salvation. But it is Jesus who “has come to this house.” Jesus notices the distant outcast, enters into friendship with him, and, through that friendship, shapes him into a true son of Abraham.

There is a beautiful 1924 children’s book by Joan G. Thomas, titled If Jesus Came to My House.1 It is neither about Zacchaeus nor repentance. But it is a touching depiction of friendship with Jesus—not just receiving Jesus but giving oneself to Jesus.2 The book holds great potential for exploring what it means to “welcome” Jesus intimately and to live in light of that fellowship.


  1. Joan G. Thomas, “If Jesus Came to My House.” Full text and pictures at http://www.collectiblechildrensbooks.com/2009/04/if-jesus-came-to-my-house.html.

  2. Watch oral performance of this work at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Uq6BMPCJdo.

First Reading

Commentary on Isaiah 1:10-18

Corrine Carvalho

When I come to church, I do not usually imagine God covering the divine eyes out of disgust for my worship, but this is the exact image this passage places before its readers.1

The poem examines the interplay of sin and sacrifice, asserting that one can negate the efficacy of the other. This is not a new theme in Israelite prophetic literature; Amos 5:21-24 makes a similar assertion. Social injustice nullifies sacrificial good.

It is interesting that this message is part of the opening of the book of Isaiah. The first 39 chapters of the book reflect the devastating invasion of the Assyrian army into the Levant in the eighth century BCE. The Assyrians had built a powerful military force and sought to control the whole Fertile Crescent. First they fought with Babylon for control of Mesopotamia, then set their sights westward, hoping eventually to conquer Egypt. Nations like Israel and Judah stood in their way. The prophecies in the first part of the book contain oracles and later material that address the widespread devastation wrought by the Assyrians. The larger nation of Israel fell to this army in 722, and Jerusalem itself was besieged, teetering on the brink of disaster. The verses immediately preceding this passage reference this siege.

Although the book of Isaiah is often associated with its amazing poems of hope, for a utopian world, much more frequent are poems such as this one that not only reflect the devastation of the invasion, but present the invasion as God’s punishment for their sins. What is important to notice here, however, is that the people are described as appropriately pious. They are making sacrifices, they are attending to their religious obligations. These verses do not accuse them of worshiping other gods. They are law-abiding worshipers of Yahweh … or at least they think they are.

This section contrasts the care that they give to liturgical practice with their disregard for the poor and marginalized within their own community. It may not be obvious to a contemporary audience, but the sacrificial system was hugely expensive. The daily sacrifices referenced in this passage consisted in what are called “whole burnt offerings,” meaning that edible food, in the form of meat, vegetables, and grains were placed on the altar and completely burned as a way to send them up to God. The amount of food was increased on Sabbaths, and even more on the New Moon. The “festivals” referenced in Isaiah 1:14 were probably the three major festivals in Israel’s liturgical calendar, when the amount of food burned was enormous.

What is important to notice is the way in which the passage contrasts these sacrifices with the fate of the oppressed, the orphan, and the widow. These were the very groups that would have had the least access to good food. In fact, few Israelites would have eaten meat on a regular basis, and for the poorest in the community their own access to meat might have been only on festival days like the ones listed here. The passage, therefore, contrasts the extravagance of the sacrificial system with the destitution of large numbers in their own community.

The passage is clearly addressed to the elites, in particular the royalty. Kings were the ones who furnished much of the food for the sacrificial feasts. They were also the ones in charge of the judiciary system for non-landowners, i.e., orphans (poor or disenfranchised males) and widows (women not attached to a landowning male). The activity that Isaiah 1:17 exhorts would play out within the judicial system.

The passage also engages traditions about the city of Sodom, addressing the elite as “the rulers of Sodom.” In Genesis 18-19, Sodom is destroyed because of the widespread injustice in the city. While that lack of social duties is illustrated by the violent sexual abuse of male guests in chapter 19, none of the other eighteen references to Sodom in the Old Testament make reference to the incident at Lot’s house. Instead, Sodom is simply the wickedest city imaginable; Ezekiel 16:49 states that the people of Sodom were destroyed for their “excess of food, and prosperous ease, but (they) did not aid the poor and needy.”

The temple plays a central role in the book of Isaiah, and many scholars view chapter 1 as an introduction to the whole book. Isaiah’s call in chapter 6 takes place in the temple. The poem that opens the second part of the book in chapter 40 contains a satirical condemnation of the Babylonian temple ideology. But it is the third part of the book (chapters 56-66) that is framed by passages about the temple, this time, the second temple, rebuilt after the return of the exiles from Babylon. Chapter 56 opens with the end of our passage, urging the new community to “maintain justice.” It then goes on to describe a worshiping community that includes all of those left out in the system used during the monarchy. The book ends with a vision of the whole world that has become God’s temple, a universal temple no longer in need of animal sacrifice. Our verses from Isaiah 1 seem to anticipate the book’s end.

This passage from Isaiah challenges contemporary communities of faith to align their practices with the ethics embodied in their liturgical rituals. It reminds us that liturgy creates an ethical worldview, and for the book of Isaiah this is an ethic of inclusivity. Who are the Isaiah’s of today’s world? Perhaps they are those who are refusing to come to our institutional churches, the “nones,” because they too see a conflict between what is preached and what is practiced. Perhaps the self-imposed exile of so many of our younger members is really the voice of Isaiah reminding us that God does not listen if our religious life is only defined by our liturgical practice.


  1. Commentary first published on this site on Oct. 30, 2016.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4

Casey Thornburgh Sigmon

If you are scanning ahead to select a focus text for your sermon this week, drop everything and pick up this oft overlooked poetry from Habakkuk (I mean, how many sermons have we heard on Zacchaeus already?).

From the start, Habakkuk’s pleas are relatable to us in our media saturated culture:

Why do you make me see wrongdoing
    and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
    and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
    therefore judgment comes forth perverted. (1:3-4)

I know I have cried to God in similar ways in the face of unending injustice. And what about you? What about your congregation?

The problem of evil

This book addresses the problem of evil in general, and is composed of liturgical pieces featuring what Walter Brueggemann describes as “cries of need that are ultimately resolved in a hymn of triumph.”1

Concrete pieces of the crisis are unclear, though Brueggemann argues that the conflict is not internal but rather an international affair, likely the rising Babylonian power.2 This lack of historical specificity leads to theological roominess for the preacher and her people to wander around in for the sake of their own particular sufferings and questions to God about international affairs that seem out of God’s control. Is it any wonder that this little book finds its way into references in the New Testament (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11 for example)? The lack of context and specificity about Habakkuk as a historical person does not distract from the theological gift of this text.

Habakkuk begins with complaints in the form of questions to Yahweh, our first portion of the pericope for today. These cries mirror other prophets (Jer 12:1-4) and the Book of Psalms. At the heart of the complaint is a cry familiar to those who work many years for justice: “how long?” The righteous prophet complains about Yahweh’s delay in exercising justice and so confronts the perceived injustice of God.3

What is edited out of the pericope is Yahweh’s first response to Habakkuk: escalation of violence in order to end injustice in Judean society. Habakkuk is not pleased, and rather than walking on eggshells with Yahweh, he tells Yahweh as much, that this solution is more unjust than the original problem (Habakkuk 1:11-17).4

Yahweh’s ways are not justified in this oracle from Habakkuk. This is not the, “I suppose righteous people deserve this in some way” of Joel and other prophets.

While there is no explanation for the devastation, nor timeline given to the prophet for restoration, there is a holy dialogue with Yahweh. Process, not produce. The dialogical act between a prophet and Yahweh in and of itself is hope-filled. When Habakkuk is not satisfied with Yahweh’s answer, he does not walk away from his Lord. He challenges Yahweh. And Yahweh keeps the relationship going by responding.

Habakkuk displays faith in a divine power that will hear and handle our cries without crushing us further. As with other lamentations in scripture, hope is not in an answer but in the act—one crying out to God implies that God exists and is able to end the suffering. The timing is out of our control. And Habakkuk is not punished for his earnest plea and challenge to Yahweh.

Liturgically speaking, embrace the drama of the text by casting characters to read as Habakkuk and Yahweh in the congregation. Insert pauses, for no one knows how long Habakkuk sat at his watch post anticipating an answer from Yahweh.

An invitation to lamentation

This text opens up a door for lament in your own community this Sunday, which for many will connect to All Saints/Souls Day. It is a chance to be honest in our cries of need, to name the ways in which evil allows the law of God to go slack. Be sure to define that law for yourself and your people, so that you balance lamentation with imagination—envisioning the world as it could be when God’s law is followed by all. We need both in order to keep our congregation from apathy and paralysis in the face of evil. “Write the vision,” when it comes to you prophets. Yahweh says, “make it plain…so that a runner may read it” (Habakkuk 2:2).

But do not rush in your sermon or service to the space of restoration. Habakkuk waits for Yahweh’s vision, and doesn’t rely upon himself for a lesser but easier to grasp picture.

Until we live in a world where elements cooperate in such a way that the law of Love is not defeated and the righteous are not conquered by evil—until the evil reap what they sow—we live by faith as we join Habakkuk on the rampart, watching and waiting for God to fulfill a promise (Habakkuk 3:17-18) and cast a vision (2:2-4; 3:16).

O Lord, I have heard of your renown,
    and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work.
In our own time revive it;
    in our own time make it known;
    in wrath may you remember mercy (Habakkuk 3:2).


  1. Walter Brueggemann. An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 240.
  2. Brueggemann, 241.
  3. Philip Whitehead. “Habakkuk and the Problem of Suffering,” in Journal of Theological Interpretation 10.2 (2016), 268.
  4. J. J. M. Roberts. “Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: A Commentary” in The Old Testament Library (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1991), 81.


Commentary on Psalm 32:1-7

Walter C. Bouzard

Although Psalm 32 is one of seven identified by the early church as penitential psalms (also Psalms 6, 38, 51, 102, 130,143), it is actually a psalm of individual thanksgiving.1

The psalmist looks back on a time of distress, precipitated by his sin, and recounts how the LORD’s forgiveness restored him not only to a right relationship with God but also to his faith community.

The psalm begins with two beatitudes describing people who are happy/blessed (’asrey) because the LORD has forgiven them and judged them innocent. The NRSV’s translation of verse 1, “whose transgression is forgiven” is certainly correct. The phrasing, however, conceals the passive participle derived from ns’, to lift, carry, or take. A person is indeed blessed when the burden of transgression is lifted and when sin is “covered” (kasah). In this context, the latter verb means that God covers over sin or puts it out of God’s own sight. 2

That sort of concealment is quite different from the drive to hide one’s sin in silence and secrecy. “While I kept silence,” the psalmist admits, “my body wasted away.” The suffering itself was not quiet; his sickness was punctuated by loud, groaning cries of distress (s’anah; see Psalm 22:2; Job 3:24). No, the silence of Psalm 32:3 refers to the isolation that sin produces. Dietrich Bonhoeffer described that deathly power:

“Sin demands to have a man [sic] by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person.”3

In the case of the psalmist, sin infected his whole being. “My body wasted away,” the psalmist reports, “my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” It may be that secret guilt sickened him. A more likely interpretation, however, is the ancient connection between guilt, sin, and sickness. For example, Isaiah said of Zion and its residents, “And no inhabitant will say, “I am sick”; the people who live there will be forgiven their iniquity” (Isaiah 33:24). New Testament examples of this thinking appear in Mark 2:8-9; John 9:2; James 5:15. The association of disease with iniquity is an assumption that, unfortunately, persists in some circles even today.

The psalm pivots in Psalm 32:5. The reappearance of the vocabulary of the beatitudes of verses 1 and 2 informs us that the psalmist’s own experience provided the foundation for the confident opening affirmations:4

Happy are those whose transgression (pesa‘) is forgiven (ns’), whose sin (?a?a’ah) is covered (kasah).
Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity (‘on) , and in whose spirit there is no deceit (Psalm 32:1-2).

Then I acknowledged my sin (?a?a’ah) to you, and I did not hide (kasah) my iniquity (‘on);
I said, “I will confess my transgressions (pesa‘) to the LORD,” and you forgave (ns’) the guilt (‘on) of my sin (?a?a’ah)” (Psalm 32:5).

The psalmist knows the blessings described in Psalm 32:1-2 precisely and only because God graciously forgave sin and guilt. No one can earn such happiness, of course. The preacher of this text should not suppose a causal relationship between the confession of verse 5 and the LORD’s forgiveness. Grace remains always grace, ever unearned even by devoted acts of piety. The Apostle Paul makes that clear when he cites verses 1 and 2 of this psalm in Romans:

But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin” (Romans 4:5-8).

God is not obliged to forgive, and yet God promises to do so for the sake of the crucified Christ. That is the promise upon which we rely whenever we hear the words of absolution in corporate or private confession. That is gospel.

Nevertheless, still more good news wells up.

In Psalm 32:6, the psalmist summons the faithful to pray not so that the LORD would deliver in times of distress but because acts of loving rescue are what this God does. From the first chapter of the Bible God controls the forces of chaos, represented as water. In the psalms, ‘mighty waters’ commonly signals dire, life threatening distress (Psalms 42:7; 69:1-2, 14-15; 144:7). Christians affirm that even today God directs water to God’s purposes. Water, together with God’s promise, buries believers in a death like Christ’s in order to make us alive and free (Romans 6:1-7). Those mighty waters do reach us—thanks be to God!—and they do so precisely so we might live in the promise of resurrection.

Finally, there is the astonishing Gospel declaration at the end of Psalm 32:7. “You surround me with glad cries (ron) of deliverance.” Cries of deliverance replace groaning (verse 3). The isolation and silence of sin is broken. Community is restored. The Lord surrounds the forgiven person with a joyful, loud, shouting community voicing their glad cries. The psalmist experienced the very thing Bonhoeffer prescribed for the church: “In confession the break-through to community takes place… In confession the light of the Gospel breaks into the darkness and seclusion of the heart.”5 Likewise, verse 11 affirms the joy present in the company of the broken, forgiven, community of God who celebrate with shouts (ranan, the root of “cries,” ron, in verse 7). The LORD alone makes God’s people righteous. For that, we shout our joyful thanks.


1 A.A. Anderson, Psalms (1-72), The New Century Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1995), 254. Anderson correctly notes the wisdom influences in the psalm, including the beatitudes of verses 1 and 2 as well as the sapiential instruction—delivered as a diving oracle—in verses 8 and 9.

A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 491.

3 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, trans. by John W. Doberstein (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1954), 112.

4 For clarity’s sake the author has omitted the object suffixes provides the lexical form of the following nouns and verbs.

5 Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 112.

Second Reading

Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

Jin Young Choi

While the authorship of 2 Thessalonians is questioned by many scholars, interpreting the letter in light of Paul’s thought world, particularly in relation to 1 Thessalonians, is necessary for the purpose of preaching.

The opening salutation of 2 Thessalonians (sender, recipient, and greeting) is almost identical to that of 1 Thessalonians. 2 Thessalonians follows the language and form of 1 Thessalonians, including a prayer of extended thanksgiving.

One of the chief reasons that the authenticity of 2 Thessalonians is challenged is because of the inconsistency between its account of the end-time and that of 1 Thessalonians. For example, unlike 1 Thessalonians (4:13—5:3), 2 Thessalonians seems to entail a schedule of end-time events (2:1-12). Since our lection selects only 1:1-4 and verses 11-12 but does not include the content in the middle, which illustrates the final judgment “on that day” of Christ’s coming (1:10), preachers may not feel a need to address the difficult topic of eschatology. Yet, the affirmative tone of thanksgiving arises from the situation of suffering of the Christian believers, which Paul (along with Silvanus and Timothy) relates to their salvation on the day of the judgment. 

Observing the following structure helps us see how these themes (thanksgiving—suffering—end times) are related.

  • 2 Thessalonians 1:3 We must (opheilomen) always give thanks to God for you brothers and sisters… (because of your faith and love in the midst of suffering).
  • 1:5-12 The judgment at Christ’s coming
  • 1:11-12 … we always pray for you, asking that God will … fulfill work of faith…
  • 2:1-12 The time before the end
  • 2:13 We must always give thanks to God for you brothers and sisters… (because God chose you for salvation).

Paul does not express the obligation of thanksgiving in any other letters. This derives from the Thessalonians growing faith and increasing love, which stems from their response to persecutions and afflictions.

In his extended thanksgiving and prayers in 1 Thessalonians, Paul remembers their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3). While 1 Thessalonians explicitly indicates the hope for Christ’s coming (parousia, 2:19; 5:8), the term “hope” is missing from the usual triad of faith, love, and hope in 2 Thessalonians 1:3.

However, “hope” is not only dispersed throughout the eschatological discourse (2 Thessalonians 1:5-12; 2:1-12; see also 2:16), it can also be seen as interchangeable with “steadfastness” or “endurance” (hypomone) as found in 1:4 and elsewhere in Paul’s other letters (Romans 5:3-4; 8:25; 2 Corinthians 1:6; 6:4). These passages often describe the conditions of affliction, tribulation, and suffering in which Paul puts together faith-love-hope, endurance, comfort, and salvation, which also appear in the following and other passages of 2 Thessalonians: 

  • 1:4 Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.
  • 2:6 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope.
  • 3:5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

So how does this apply to preaching this text?

  • First, the source of faith, love, and hope is God and Jesus Christ.
  • Second, faith, love, and hope are not abstract or inward dispositions but manifest in the everyday life of believers through their “work,” “labor,” and “endurance” of suffering, which work together, for example, in the form of “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).
  • Third, the practice of faith, love, and hope is not personal but communal, as Paul boasts of the believers in Thessalonica among the churches of God. Accordingly, suffering is their collective experience.
  • Last, although our text seems to limit “the love of every one” to “one another,” as is required in the extreme circumstance of persecutions and afflictions (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4), Paul prayed in his previous letter, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

Preachers may find it difficult to apply these messages in the context of today’s church, especially when it is not directly experiencing persecution or suffering. Yet, we are reminded of the exclusion, hatred, and persecutions that certain members of the church of God have to endure today not only because of their faith but also because of their minority positions in their society.

Suffering of the oppressed must not be justified for any reason, because God is a God of justice, who will punish oppressors and comfort the afflicted (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9). The imagined future of God’s justice in the face of the persistence of evil can be seen as going beyond the persecution of believers to broader experiences of oppression and evil.

If your church consists of mostly privileged members, you may reflect on what God’s calling is. It is God who makes “you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering” (2 Thessalonians 1:5) and who will make “you worthy of God’s call and will fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by God’s power” (1:11). Paul goes on to say, God “called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2:14). Likewise, preachers can proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ for those who suffer today and call on the believers to do work of faith and labor of love in solidarity with the afflicted.

Only those who see the reality of suffering of our neighbors and creation and take part in the suffering are able to hope for redemption (Romans 8:18-25). Despite the imagery of the final judgment and apocalyptic scenarios that seems predominant in 2 Thessalonians, the future of God’s justice and glory invites us to embody the hope of salvation so that the glory of Christ manifest in us—in our work of faith and our labor of love which are fulfilled by God (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).