Scripture readings for 10/6
The readings for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost emphasize that faith is the foundation of the Christian life. When we struggle to understand God’s plan, the answer is faith. When we struggle to endure suffering, the answer is faith. When we struggle in Christian living, the answer is faith. Faith is trusting our Lord, rather than ourselves, to know and do what is best.
- In the Gospel reading, the disciples asked for increased faith as the power source for Christian living. But even more important than the amount of faith is the exercise of faith. Even the use of a little goes a long way.
- In the Old Testament reading, Habakkuk calls for increased faith in our daily walk through life that God knows what he’s doing.
- In the New Testament reading, St. Paul encourages Timothy and us to live by faith in the promises of Jesus when we are enduring suffering.
The Gospel reading:
Horrible offenses (also translated as ‘temptations’ or ‘stumbling blocks’ or, generically, ‘things that cause people to sin’) occur in this world, offenses potentially damning to the doer and potentially destructive to the faith of those who witness them (vv.1–2). In the presence of these offenses, Christians need the courage to correct the offenders and the even more difficult art of forgiving them (vv.3–4). Aware of the challenge, the disciples appropriately request, “Increase our faith” (v.5). This request is an acknowledgement that the power to correct and to forgive is through God’s gift of faith to us.
Jesus’ response to the disciples’ request demonstrates that faith is indeed a power, but what’s more important than the amount of faith is the exercise of faith (v.6). Even the use of a little goes a long way. Aware of the wonders God-given faith achieves, the disciples are to take no credit for themselves for faith’s accomplishments, but to remember that they are only doing what God expects of them and equips them for (vv.7–10).
Because of the broken world, offenses are inevitable. Even so, the doers of offenses are in deep trouble. Their actions are potentially damning; they are flirting with hell. Jesus said, “Woe to anyone through whom offenses come.” However, this also means woe to Jesus, through whom our offenses went. Like a spear, our offenses have pierced through Jesus and he suffered the woe of execution and damnation. Our offenses went through him rather than through us. The millstone was hung around his neck rather than ours. We have been spared!
The Old Testament reading:
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
In this book, the prophet struggles to believe that God is good when he can see so much tragedy and evil in the world. Habakkuk lived in the final decades of Israel’s southern kingdom. It was a time of injustice and idolatry, and he knew about the rising threat of the nation of Babylon. Unlike the other Hebrew prophets, Habakkuk doesn’t accuse Israel or speak to the people on God’s behalf. Instead, all of his words are addressed to God. He is known as “The Questioning Prophet” because chapters 1 and 2 are framed as a back-and-forth argument between Habakkuk and God. The prophet lodges two complaints, to which God offers two responses. This reading is composed of his first complaint and God’s second response.
Habakkuk first complained that life in Israel was horrible, full of injustice and idolatry. He had been asking God to do something about, but nothing was changing. God’s first response is to say that he is aware of the problem and that he has summoned Babylon to bring down justice on rebellious Israel.
What?! Habakkuk then complained that was going to be an even worse situation than what was happening in Israel! How can a holy, good, and just God possibly use such corrupt people as the Babylonians as his instruments? He demands an answer and pictures himself as a watchman on the city walls, awaiting God’s response.
God then told Habakkuk to get some tablets and write down a vision about an appointed time in the future that may seem slow in coming, but that will come. God will one day bring Babylon down too. The fact that he may, for a time, use a corrupt nation like Babylon doesn’t mean he endorses everything they do. They must also be held accountable to his justice. Since this future isn’t seen, the righteous must live by faith while they wait.
This is the key theme of the book of Habakkuk and the most-quoted verse in the New Testament. In the end, the prophet sees only two ways of looking at life: in faith or in unbelief. The righteous will live by faith, no matter what comes. At the end of the book, Habakkuk’s outward circumstances are no different. What has changed is his perspective. Having poured out his pain to God, Habakkuk is now confident that God loves him and is working out his divine purposes.
The New Testament reading:
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Unlike Habakkuk, St. Paul was personally suffering injustice, not just observing it. This is his final letter, written during the middle of his last court trial and he knew it wasn’t going well. But he endured because of his hope (faith) in the promise of life in Christ Jesus and he encouraged Timothy to endure suffering too. Although we now have Christ’s eternal life already, we cannot see it or feel it within. Instead, like Habakkuk, St. Paul focused on God’s promise, living by faith.
You may read what appear to be opposite translations of the second half of verse 12: either “I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” or “I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” Those are very different things, but neither understanding is contradictory to the rest of Scripture.
What God has entrusted to St. Paul is the preaching of the gospel, and it is God who guards that message and ultimately sees to it that his Word is proclaimed to the world. What St. Paul has entrusted to God is his life, that while he is suffering and expects death on the one hand, God is guarding his eternal life will give him triumph over death in the end.