Lectionary Commentaries for September 18, 2022
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Luke 16:1-13

Kendra A. Mohn

It is far easier to comment on this text than to preach on it. A commentary can wrestle with tension and the confusion it produces, without the resolution or clarity commonly associated with a sermon. Still, focusing on the moments of friction in the text can hopefully create new openings for understanding and engagement. 

One possible entry point into this complex text is the question, “To whom is the manager responsible?” The shock value of the text rests on the assumption that the manager has responsibilities to his boss. His dishonesty means the loss of income for the master. This can rightly be seen as dishonesty and betrayal in a just and fair system. 

However, many interpreters have questioned whether the system described here is either just or fair. (For a helpful discussion on economics, debt, and lending in the ancient world, see Barbara Rossing’s 2016 commentary on this site for this same text.) If, in fact, the manager is participating in an exploitative system that benefits only the wealthy at the expense of the rest, perhaps ancient hearers of this story would not have viewed the manager’s choice and master’s loss with pity or solidarity. Where ought contemporary hearers place our focus and sympathy? What kind of system do we know? To whom are we responsible? 

In addition, the manager knows that his job has ended. He recognizes that he needs to do something drastic to secure his future. In a world where there is no financial security except “social” security, it is his relationships that will matter and that drive his next choice. Interpreters differ in whether the manager should be understood to be an enslaved person or a free person. Both interpretations are possible, and have implications the preacher should consider. (For an essential perspective on the implications of understanding the manager as an enslaved person, see Mitzi J. Smith’s 2019 commentary on this site for this same text.) 

In either case, when the manager assesses his options, he knows they are limited. Deciding that he is in no shape for manual labor and has too much pride to beg, he moves ahead quickly with a plan to ingratiate himself. He might have used his position to gain more wealth for his boss in an attempt to reclaim his position or mitigate the damage to his reputation or employment status. But instead, he changes his orientation to his boss’s clients as avenues for his future. His self-preservatory choice to be dishonest benefited not the master but his neighbors.  

One of the problematic but interesting moments in the text comes after the master discovers this action and compliments the manager for it. He calls the manager “shrewd” (other options are wise or prudent). This word is picked up by Jesus, who, contrary to expectation, compliments the children of this age, rather than those who strive to follow him, as having more capacity for shrewdness.  

This surprising perspective has implications for people of faith living in complex times. At times, people of faith are encouraged to disengage from the messiness of this world, staying above the fray to maintain righteousness or purity. And yet, if people of faith withdraw from the public sphere, then important voices for justice, equity, and peace are often missing. Clergy are often criticized for not understanding “how the real world works” because they are insulated in the Church. And yet, even the healthiest local worshiping community is not immune to divisiveness, insecurity, power plays, and tough decisions. It is tempting to think that our only options for living within complex and troubling systems are accommodation or resistance. But the reality for most people, whether in the Roman Empire or the United States in the twenty-first century, is more akin to negotiation, weighing options and choosing who or what to prioritize in the next decision with less-than-ideal options. Perhaps Jesus’ admiration for the shrewdness of this generation has this kind of orientation in view. 

The final verses of this text give a series of admonitions from Jesus. A thread that ties them together is faithfulness or devotion. Questions remain about what it means to be faithful with dishonest wealth (verse 11), or how being faithful with what belongs to another relates to the manager in this story (verse 12). But the final verse is clear, even if the intricacies of life’s choices are not. Devotion to God, faithfulness in stewarding God’s gifts, is the priority for a follower of Jesus. But it is never easy in a world full of negotiation where wealth demands our loyalty. Recognition of this challenge drives us again to our need for Christ to reconcile us to God and to one another, and the response of mercy and forgiveness at the heart of the Gospel.  

So many biblical texts have been tamed by time and repetition. Perhaps this one is still an exception. A sermon on this text may not have the resolution or clarity common to others. Instead, however, it may capture the attention of otherwise disengaged hearers and prompt new energy of discernment. 


First Reading

Commentary on Amos 8:4-7

Kathryn M. Schifferdecker

This is the first of two weeks in which the Old Testament reading is from the prophet Amos.1

It is worth spending a little time, then, talking about Amos in order to understand the context of these readings.

Amos prophesied in the 8th century BCE, probably around 760 BCE, during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel. Amos was from the southern kingdom of Judah but prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel (also called Ephraim, Jacob, Samaria).

Amos was not a professional prophet nor was he part of the wealthy class. He was a farmer. “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’” (Amos 7:14-15).

The time in which Amos prophesied was one of peace and prosperity in Israel. The empires of Assyria to the east and Egypt to the southwest were relatively weak and were not threatening smaller nations like Israel and Judah. Indeed, under Jeroboam II, Israel expanded its territory (see 2 Kings 14:25).

This prosperity, however, was built on the backs of the poor. Amos speaks often of the wealthy oppressing the poor: “Therefore, because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine” (Amos 5:11).

Amos, to use the old trope, does not comfort the afflicted so much as he afflicts the comfortable. He is the quintessential prophet described by Abraham Joshua Heschel in his classic book, The Prophets:

What manner of man is the prophet? A student of philosophy who turns…to the orations of the prophets may feel as if he were going from the realm of the sublime to an area of trivialities. Instead of dealing with the timeless issues of being and becoming, of matter and form, of definitions and demonstrations, he is thrown into orations about widows and orphans, about the corruption of judges and affairs of the market place … To us a single act of injustice—cheating in business, exploitation of the poor—is slight; to the prophets, a disaster. To us injustice is injurious to the welfare of the people; to the prophets it is a deathblow to existence: to us, an episode; to them, catastrophe, a threat to the world.2

The prophet is hypersensitive to injustice, to evil, and does not ignore what to most of us might seem trivial, just the way the world works. The passage for this week illustrates this point. Amos announces God’s judgment on the wealthy who oppress the poor in the marketplace. He uses their own imagined words against them:

When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.

The wealthy, those who control the marketplace, have no real regard for religious observance. The weekly Sabbath, the day when everyone—including slaves—gets to rest, is simply an interruption in the ceaseless quest to make more money. Likewise the monthly celebration of the beginning of a new month. Once these inconvenient festivals are over, the merchants can get back to business as usual, making the ephah (a unit of measurement for grain) small and the shekel (a weight used to measure out silver or gold) heavy. In other words, they will sell less grain for more money than it’s actually worth. In fact, they will even mix chaff and grain that has fallen to the ground in amongst the good grain.

The biblical legal code warns against such practices. “You shall have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:36; see also Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

Those who profess to follow the LORD, the God of Israel, are to reflect God’s own character, which is one of justice and of mercy for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner. Sabbath rest is for everyone; not just wealthy landowners or heads of household, but for the slave, the foreigner, the children, the poor (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). Simply observing the day of Sabbath is not enough if the justice and mercy exemplified by the Sabbath does not shape everyday life—one’s behavior in the marketplace, on the street, and at the gate of the city.

Amos, then, is building on the tradition of Israelite law to chastise those who may observe the letter of the law (refraining from work on the Sabbath) but ignore the spirit of the law (justice and mercy for the oppressed). These wealthy Israelites have no real regard for the poor and the needy; they will sell them into slavery over a debt as paltry as the price of a pair of sandals. Human lives are to these people just another commodity to be bought and sold. To them, the judgment of the LORD is a word of warning: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.”

Having said all that, it is important to note one more thing about this passage. For all of his chastising of the wealthy, Amos does not condemn the practice of buying and selling itself; neither does the law of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Both Amos and the law assume that such commerce is necessary for daily life. What they condemn is dishonest commerce, and commerce that disregards human lives.

A sermon on this passage should be clear about this. Commerce in itself, business in itself, is not evil. Too often, sermons on money or business seem to imply otherwise. Rich Karlgaard, the publisher of Forbes magazine, puts it this way:

How should people who call themselves Christians conduct their lives in the secular world? This is a good question and a very serious matter for people of any faith. Most pastors, priests, rabbis and imams who speak about faith and work make a terrible hash of it. Listening to them is like hearing a eunuch lecture on sex: He may have studied the topic but really knows little about the mechanics.3

Business in itself is not evil. In fact, it is necessary for daily life and it can be and should be one arena in which one’s faith is lived out. This passage from Amos gives us guidelines for how to live our faith in the marketplace—by dealing honestly, buying and selling for fair prices, and always being careful to protect those most vulnerable to exploitation. Dealing justly, generously, and honestly with others in our business life is one important way to reflect the character of the God of justice who speaks through the prophets.


  1. Commentary first published on this site on Sept. 22, 2019.
  2. Abraham Joshua Heschel. The Prophets. Harper Perennial Classics ed. (New York: Perennial, 2001), 3-4.
  3. Rich Karlgaard, “Godly Work,” Forbes, April 13, 2007. At https://www.forbes.com/global/2007/0423/018.html#3b0de82d1a32

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Jeremiah 8:18—9:1

Steed Davidson

The book of Jeremiah provides readers with broad insights into the traumas that disrupted the Judean state. This national crisis resounded for several decades after the Babylonian takeover of Jerusalem. Jeremiah is one of the few biblical books that reveal the emotional turmoil that rippled through those years. The book presents as a mix of judgment speeches, oracles of damnation, historical narratives, and surprisingly emotionally laden passages. To be clear, the book of Jeremiah does not wear the national heart on its sleeves. At best we get glimpses into this heart that beats with the pain of loss. The portions of Jeremiah 8 in this lection invite us into this experience of bewildering loss.

The passage opens with an unmistakable announcement of grief. In the Hebrew text, short staccato words follow the opening word maḇlig̱ı̂ṯi, a complex word that marks the absence of joy. This word sets the stage for the experience of loss in this passage. The word also sets the focus on the personalized experience. Four out of the six words in the verse are marked as first person singular. In fact, only verse 20a proverbial sayingcontains no first-person reference. The deeply personal nature of the passage in the context of prophetic literature raises the question as to whose experience this represents. The ready answer would be the prophet’s experience. Given the prophet’s representative role, is the “I” personal, communal, or divine? This question haunts the passage since multiple voices in the first person emerge that lack the clear identifying marks used in contemporary writing. Separating these voices proves critical to interpreting key aspects of the passage as well as what to make of the scene where people, prophet, and deity all sit together with the trauma. Precisely how interpretation constructs the circle of pain shapes the meaning-making outcomes.

As usual for the book of Jeremiah, chapters contain an assortment of themes, concerns, and outcomes. This chapter, like several others, jumps around from harsh judgment to searing scenes of suffering. The chapter also includes a collection of indictments that are mostly targeted at high officials (8:1-13) such as priests, prophets (8:10-12), as well as scribes (8:8-9). While these indictments lay the blame at elite sections of the society, disaster doesn’t discriminate. Disasters though reveal social inequities and the different abilities to cope with a national crisis. No doubt, those counseling hiding out in fortified cities (8:14) possess the means to travel there as well as to be included in those cities. The question of whose voice dominates in these painful notes in the passage asks how well biblical texts tell the story of those in need of most help. How well do biblical texts capture the deep pain of the people or does it reveal those with access to the sources of production to get their voices heard and their pain represented? The question of the ancient text is also one for contemporary sources, as media continue to be selective in the portrayal of pain. Not all pain is the same and neither is all pain depicted in the same way.

People, in fact, “my poor people” (8:19, 21, 22; 9:1) occurs repeatedly in this passage. This tender expression contrasts with the earlier dismissive “this people” (8:5) and a near attempt at endearment of “my people” (8:11). The Hebrew text reads as “daughter of my people,” a phrasing that the New Revised Standard Version adopts. Though more accurate, “daughter of my people” does not convey the pathos of the speaker whether that be the prophet or deity. That this term might be shared language between them both makes sense since to some extent they are the same voice. More than likely, of the four occurrences in this passage, three of them belong to God’s speech. 

The scene of this passage reflects a recognition of the consequences of disaster and destruction. The blustery announcements of doom by the prophet do not always account for the actual impacts and scale of destruction upon people. This passage slows down the rationalization of violence based upon a superior moral code, to peer into the dust that settles over the city. Real people die from overly zealous adherence to standards of righteousness. Actual harm occurs that sticks to the fabric of society when calls for divine violence are seen as the only viable solution. Now the source of the violence and the one who announces it sit uncomfortably with the results of their work. Yet sympathy for their discomfort should not be the focus of preaching.

The prophetic voice appears to open the passage. The persona of Jeremiah, as one who weeps as a result of the content of his messages, reflects the sentiment of verse 18. The verse represents a personalized response to the scenes of carnage described in almost any part of the book. The words might capture the experience of a broad cross-section of sufferers, but here they seem consistent with a prophet that struggles to serve as the voice for violence. No delight comes from seeing those who get their just desserts. Even more, the grief that washes over the body overtakes life with a deadening sickness. Internalized trauma requires suitable outlets. Therefore, the prophetic voice cries out to become simply a fountain of tears (9:1). Assigning these verses to the prophetic voice reveals how uncontrolled violence generates more pain than it solves. The prophet stands as a witness to the consequences of his words that bring disaster to a people. No one should sign up to cheerlead destruction or the use of deadly violence. Sadly, too many remain eager supporters of violence and the export of violent weapons as the solution to complex and even simple matters in our world.

If 8:18 and 9:1 belong to the prophet, then the rest of the passage, therefore, involves a back and forth before God and the people. Rather than a direct conversation, God and the people speak past each other. They speak in rhetorical questions and slogans that capture both deep pain and denial. The divine voice calls attention to the cry of the people in the first section of verse 19. Those cries appear in the second section of verse 19 and ask in plaintive tones about the absence of a deity. Only a city whose god has deserted it will lie in such ruins. And yet the divine response in the third section of verse 19 seems defensive: the people experience such disaster because their sin brought it upon them. The people respond in verse 20 to this obvious “blame the victim” reaction with a proverbial saying that implies that the season for destruction has long since passed. The enormity of the disaster gains divine recognition in verse 21. Now God joins the circle of pain as a fellow mourner. Again, the urgency of the people’s plight leads to another proverbial saying in the first half of verse 22. To which the divine voice responds with bafflement in the second part of verse 22, that healing has not come to the people. The circle now feels like a circle where the back and forth does not always result in progress.

To sit in the circle of pain opens up the possibilities to feel the burden and possibility of communal trauma. The people consistently voice their pain and need for help (8:19b, 20, 22a). They rely on well tested wisdom sayings that press against divine inaction. These sayings implicitly challenge theological formulations that would limit any form of divine response to further chastisement and punishment. They function as a rejoinder to the theologies of retribution that can make religious spaces both too smug and detached from the consequences of sanctified violence. Though God defends the use of violence, the circle shows movement towards change. In the solidarity with the people, God weeps and the divine tears search incompetently for a solution (8:22b). To place God in the midst of the suffering means dethroning the violent God whose omnipotence is singularly focused upon destruction. The vulnerable God in the circle of pain lacks the power of the violent God. By resituating God as one with the people in mourning, regret, and impacted by trauma, preachers can point to the God whose focus is no longer to harm people. In this passage, no clear solutions emerge. Instead, what emerges is God asking for the pathway to restore the health of the people. Also, a prophet so bereft with weeping who sits alongside suffering people. New possibilities appear when God sits in the circle of pain.


Commentary on Psalm 113

Kelly J. Murphy

If we open a commentary on the Psalms, we might learn that Psalm 113 is a “hymn of praise,” beginning (verse 1) and ending (verse 9) with the Hebrew imperative halelu yah: “Praise Yah(weh)!”1

Like many of the hymns of praise found in the Psalter, the call to praise (verses 1-4) is followed by the reasons for praise (verses 5-9). As commentators regularly note, Psalm 113 paints a portrait of God who should be praised for both God’s transcendence and immanence. The psalmist asks, “Who could possibly compare to the Lord our God? God rules from on high; he has to come down to even see heaven and earth!” (CEB Psalm 113:5-6). In what follows, the psalmist then describes how this God is also a dynamic presence in this world: “God lifts up the poor from the dirt and raises up the needy from the garbage pile to seat them with leaders—with the leaders of his own people! God nests the once barren woman at home—now a joyful mother with children!” (Psalm 113:7-9).

The ancient Israelites, we might read, would likely have used such a psalm in communal worship. If we move forward from the world of ancient Israel, we find that Psalm 113 has continued to be used in communal worship. For example, our commentaries will tell us that in Judaism this psalm is the first of the six psalms (Psalms 113-118) comprising the Hallel, recited during many Jewish holidays. Together these psalms tell a story that expresses delight and gratitude for God’s past, present, and future acts in the history of Israel. As the presence of Psalm 113 in the Revised Common Lectionary attests, the psalm continues to be used in Christian communal worship, too. It is read both in the Season After Pentecost and during Easter, often in connection with the story of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10) and the story of Mary (Luke 1:39-57). In 1 Samuel 2:1-10, we read about a God who listens to Hannah’s prayer for a child, intervening to make a barren woman conceive. Here again, we see a concerned God, a God who acts in history.

In some contemporary printed Bibles, we might find a title added to Psalm 113 that is not found in ancient manuscripts: “God the Helper of the Needy” (see, for example, the HarperCollins Study Bible). The Protestant reformer John Calvin (1509-1564 C.E.) likewise focused on Psalm 113 as evidence of a God who helps those in need, writing, “In this psalm the providence of God furnishes matter for praising him, because, though his excellency is far above the heavens, nevertheless, he deigns to cast his eyes upon the earth to take notice of mankind.”2 Calvin then continues, “And as not a few are disconcerted by the vicissitudes which they behold occurring in the world, the prophet takes occasion, from these sudden and unlooked for changes, to warn us to attend expressly to God’s providence, that we may entertain no doubt that all things are governed according to his will and pleasure.”3

Calvin thus draws our attention to a question that those who recite or sing this hymn of praise might find themselves asking: even as Psalm 113 honors a God who rules from on high but nevertheless is also active in our world, how do we make sense of the psalmist’s claims if we find ourselves “disconcerted by the vicissitudes” around us? What do we do when we look around and it seems as if God is nowhere active in the lives of the poor, the needy, the barren? How do we praise God for “lift[ing] up the poor from the dirt,” “rais[ing] up the needy from the garbage pile,” and making a once barren woman “a joyful mother with children” in a world that tells a different story? If we read or sing this psalm in the United States, we might remember that recent reports note some 40 million people live in poverty in our country alone. Or we might think of the images from our evening news that continue to show us children seeking asylum in the U.S., sitting locked in cages, without adequate food and water, often separated from their parents. We ourselves might know food insecurity, debt, or yearn for a child that does not come.

Psalm 113 can always provide hope that God did act in history and will continue to act in history, as the active verbs attest (“God rules … lifts up … raises up … nests …”). But if we nevertheless remain disturbed by the disconnect between the psalmist’s claims and the realities of the world around us, what do we do with this particular hymn?

Reading the psalm with the early Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo (354 C.E.-430 C.E.) provides another possible way to employ it in our lives. In his reflection on Psalm 113:7, which exclaims that “God lifts up the poor from the dirt and raises up the needy from the garbage pile to seat them with leaders—with the leaders of his own people!”, Augustine warns readers, “Let not the heads of those exalted ones disdain to bow down under the Lord’s hand.”4 In other words, no matter how wealthy, respected, or high-ranking we might find ourselves, we must remain humble before God. After all, he continues, “Even though a faithful steward of his Lord’s wealth be given a place with the princes of God’s people, even though such a person be found worthy to sit among the twelve thrones and even to judge angels, nonetheless he or she is a needy person when raised from the earth, a pauper when exalted from the dungheap. Can you deny that they were lifted up from a dungheap, those who used to be enslaved to all sorts of desires and pleasures?”5 All humans, Augustine prompts us to remember, come from humble origins in comparison with the divine.

What lesson might we learn from reading with Augustine? If we are reading or singing Psalm 113 from a place of privilege, perhaps we can pause and reflect on how we might not always be in such a place. And, so, should the tables turn, and should we become someone in need of help, what would we want from those who were? Augustine provides one way we might engage this psalm outside of our liturgical lives and in our day-to-day lives. Hymns of praise do not absolve us from the work that we need to do alongside any divine activity present in our world. While the psalm does not explicitly command anything beyond praising God for God’s acts, perhaps we can, in the act of reciting a psalm that celebrates God’s work in the world, also remind ourselves of how we can do such work, too. Psalm 113 can prompt us to remember our own humble origins, to live with humility, and to serve other always, especially in moments when God’s presence in the world might be less explicitly manifest than we might want.


  1. Commentary first published on this site on Sept. 22, 2019.
  2. Calvin, John. Commentary on the Psalms. Vol. 4. Trans. James Anderson (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1963), 295.
  3. Calvin, 295.
  4. Augustine. Expositions of the Psalms 99-120. Vol. 5. Trans. Maria Boulding (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2003), 301.
  5. Augustine, 301-302.

Second Reading

Commentary on 1 Timothy 2:1-7

Sunggu Yang

There are three key historical reference points that can be very helpful in understanding this week’s passage concerning prayerful life: prayer life in the ancient Jewish context, the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, and the influence of Gnosticism. 

First, what did the 1st century Jewish prayer lifewith which Paul, Timothy, and other early Jewish church members might have been familiar and which they were very likely to adopt and adapt for the Christian prayer lifelook like? According to the Jewish prayer book (the Siddur) and the tradition, which Jews still practice, prayer (meaning “service of the heart”) was offered three times a day; morning (Shacharit), afternoon (Mincha), and evening (Arvit). Some scholars believe that this ternary practice of prayer is based on the examples from King David (Psalm 55:17, “Evening and morning and at noon I utter … ”) and prophetic Daniel (Daniel 6:10; “ … to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God … ”). During the Babylonian exile and onward, the prayer practice was more formalized as a substitute of the temple worship, along with the development of various communal prayer books. Communal prayer—praying together—has been preferred to individual prayer seeking personal gains from God.

The fall of Jerusalem (70 CE) and its temple (the Second Temple), was a pivotal moment for the Jewish prayer life. Jews went into diaspora all around the Mediterranean Sea, with no central, national worship site, namely the Temple. Admittedly, there had been Jewish Diasporas even before the fall of Jerusalem, but this time things were radically different, at least in two ways. The temple, as well as the nation itself, was completely destroyed, with a massive number of Jews leaving or fleeing from the capital. In the stead of the temple, now regional text-based synagogues would provide religious services. Above all, Jews no longer had their own nation or king or any national legal entities like the Sanhedrin. They would now live under the mercy of regional kings, proconsuls, magistrates, or the Roman emperor at the top. 

During this early development of the church (70 CE and onward), Gnosticism (meaning “having knowledge”) emerged as one of the most influential heretical streams of the Christian faith. Among others, Gnosticism’s denial of the full humanity of Jesus, stark dualistic understanding of the spiritual and the material (or of God and the world), and rejection of the Trinitarian understanding of God were major threats to the orthodox formulation of Christianity. Biblical scholars agree that the New Testament writers, even though influenced by gnostic thoughts to the extent that those thoughts might have been integrated in their writings, were well aware of the dangers of Gnosticism and left their opposition to it here and there in the New Testament, implicitly or explicitly. 

The aforementioned historical reference points shed significant illumination on understanding the given passage. At the beginning the author says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” This is a very practical matter to the readers, both the diaspora Jews and the Greek Christians, yet especially for the Jews who have lost their own national sovereignty and associated securities (for example, the military or police system). The kings and others in high political positions are the real ones who provide social stability, legal protection, and safeguarding from frequent foreign invasions, local pirates, and regional insurgences. Therefore, the diaspora Jews were in their daily life expected to keep fine collaboration with those governing entities. Again, this is a very practical matter for everyone. Thus, why not offer supplications, prayers, and intercessions for them as well as for the welfare of the community? 

When the author states, “ … there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human … ,” he seems to have Gnosticism in mind, gradually penetrating Christian communities around the Mediterranean Sea. In this short statement, any dualistic understanding of God and the world (humankind) is refuted, while Jesus’ full humanity, along with his divinity (“one mediator between God and humankind”), is upheld again. In this passage, it is very interesting to see that the author urges his readers to invoke (the name of) Jesus, the mediator, in prayers for probably—this is very likely—unbelieving gentile Greek kings and those in high political positions. Simply put: prayers for the sake of unbelievers! This seems to be a high-level, sophisticated repeal of any kind of dualistic understanding of faith and the world or even belief and unbelief; belief is not an exclusion of unbelief and vice versa. Under God’s dominion, the author seems to teach us that all things are entangled in a complex web, which we ought to be able to see and live through with “godliness and dignity” in this world (verse 2). 

All this does not mean outright adoption of the world (or the unbelieving culture) into the formulation of Christian faith. As Gnosticism—false (secular) teachings—are refuted and denied, not all of this world will go with the Christian faith. Still, the author argues for the monotheistic idea of God, “one God” in verse 5, which flies in the face of the prevailing Greco-Roman polytheistic religious ethos, not least of which is represented by the emperor himself claiming to be the son of gods and thus to be worshiped. Another example is found later in 1 Timothy 6 where the love of money is discussed as “a root of all kinds of evil” (verse 10). Thus, as a whole, 1 Timothy seems to be a statement of fine balance between mistaken dualistic ideas about the world and swift wholesale adoption of the world. The author seems to encourage the readers to see the best example of this balance in Christ Jesus, the only mediator between God and humankind.