April 27, 2016

We’ve studied Mrs. Eddy’s Glossary definitions for several of Jacob’s sons and their backstories. (These readings may be accessed by typing their names in the blog search bar: Reuben, Levi, Judah, Benjamin, and Gad). Today we are reading about Asher whose definition reminds me of a prayer for those times when we watch and wait with spiritual expectancy for the next step in our human experience. Or as Peter Henniker-Heaton wrote in a poem, “What high reward have all who watch and wait, trusting the law of Love to compensate… (“Watchers,” December 1974 issue of The Christian Science Journal).  There is little information about Asher in the Bible, but here is what was gleaned from the Jewish Encyclopedia:

According to classical rabbinical literature, Asr had informed his brothers about Reuben’s incest with Bilhah, and as a result Asr came to be on bad terms with his brothers, though once Reuben confessed, the brothers realized they had been unjust towards Asr; Asr’s motivation is described, by classical rabbinical sources, as being entirely innocent of evil intent, and always in search of harmony between his brothers…. Asr is regarded as the example of a virtuous man who with singlemindedness strives only for the general good.

Certainly this background about Asher gives some insight into this part of Mrs. Eddy’s definition of Asher: “the ills of the flesh rebuked”  (Science and Health 581:15-16).

The story of the prophetess Anna of the tribe of Asher provides a great example of the steadfast watching and waiting required with “hope and faith,” another part of Asher’s definition.

“Spiritual compensation” is the reward of the shrewd steward (or dishonest manager), which is one of Jesus’ parables described as “enigmatic” in the annotations to the New Revised Standard Version. The notes continue:

The meaning of the story for those hearing Jesus’ teaching is that the dishonest manager was prudent in using the things of this life to ensure the future, so believers should do the same. More generally, however, the probable sense of the story itself is that the steward was dishonest in his squandering his master’s estate. When confronted, he does not necessarily engage in dishonest behavior (in fact he is praised for his actions), but he calls in the debtors and reduces their bills by eliminating his own commission. Thus, he shrewdly uses material goods to win gratitude from his master’s debtors. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, p.1860)

Bible scholar and Christian Scientist Madelon Maupin also addressed this parable in one of her recent newsletters which you may access here:

The comments accompanying the article are also worthwhile, and it made me think of the difference between the old and new covenants according to Paul. The old covenant was compared to a contract that if we obeyed God, we would be compensated with a big house, many children, and so on.  Then Jesus gave us a new covenant based on sacrifice and love for our fellowman which the steward demonstrated by sacrificing his own commission and only collecting the true debt. I suppose he almost had a Zacchaeus moment, and his “spiritual compensation” was his Master’s praise.