Author | Steve
A Parable about “Talents”
I heard the Parable of the Talents again yesterday (Matthew 25:14-30). I can’t remember how many times I’ve read this section of the Gospels, heard sermons on it, read about it in books…it’s been a lot.
When I was young, it was hard for me to imagine the parable outside the realm of finances – after all, each of the three servants receives a number of “talents,” a significant amount of money. For quite a while now, I have approached it from more of a wholistic gifting – everything I’ve been given.
A Kingdom Parable
Yesterday, I had a new thought about this. What if this applies more to the kingdom I’ve been given? This is a kingdom parable. You might miss it. Jesus begins, “Again, it will be like…” What is “it?” If you go back to the beginning of chapter twenty-five, Jesus says, “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like…”
Maybe this has been obvious to you for a long time, but to me, it was a new way of seeing what Jesus was teaching. And it slapped me upside the head!
What if the parable isn’t just about the kingdom and what the kingdom is like? What if the talents in the parable are more wholistically viewed – all the blessings I’ve been freely given in this life, including the gracious gift of the kingdom? Now I’m asking the question, “Have I risked all of that gift to make more of it, or have I buried that gift to protect it?”
“Have I risked all of that gift to make more of it, or have I buried that gift to protect it?”
In my theological tribe (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod), this is a key question before us as we head into our synodical convention in June. Our way of thinking about God and His gifts was born out of great struggle against terrible abuses of God’s Word used to keep people in bondage to the very Church that was supposed to free them with the good news of Jesus. I am so thankful for the courageous people of faith who stood strong (and wobbly-kneed) on that pure gospel. They risked the gift with everything they had.
For decades now, I have seen a tug-of-war between protectionism of that gospel and a desire to risk that gospel. It’s not nearly as clean cut as that. It is much more complicated, I know. God forgive us for how complicated we make His gifts!
So here’s what slapped me yesterday: I’m tired of burying stuff – especially the gift of God’s kingdom – believing He is some harsh tyrant expecting us to get all our doctrinal ducks in a row to be worthy of His presence. God doesn’t need His gifts protected. He’s the protector! I’m also tired of marketing and selling God and His Kingdom as if the gospel needs dressing up with all my good ideas. Jesus has given the Father’s gifts to us to bless us, that we would be a conduit for His love to others, thus multiplying the “talents” He’s given. It’s pure gift that we can’t possibly squander, unless we bury it.
I’m tired of burying stuff – especially the gift of God’s kingdom –
believing He is some harsh tyrant…
Why Are We So Afraid?
So why are we so afraid? What do we fear will happen? What if people have wrong ideas about who Jesus is as they sit down to His meal? Surely they’d be in good company with His own disciples! Surely Jesus is exactly who we need to sit with when we have wrong ideas about Him, ourselves and our world! Where else should we be?
Really, why are we so afraid in the LC-MS…in the church at large in the United States? We’ve buried the treasure because we have a false view of our Father! We’ve buried the gifts of God below a laundry list of theological rules or un-ending church programming busyness so deep that they’re virtually inaccessible to broken, sin-fraught people who show up in our midst, including ourselves!
Surely Jesus is exactly who we need to sit with when we have wrong ideas about Him, ourselves and our world! Where else should we be?
But what if the kingdom of heaven is like a Man going on a journey, who called His servants and entrusted His property to them. And what if that Man loved to give away the property of His kingdom freely and lavishly to anyone – to the most undeserving, theologically unschooled group of rabble He could find? What if that is what the King and the kingdom of heaven is like? What would you do with that?
Through out time church leaders have had the believe that God’s word needed protecting from misinterpretation, from corruption and other threats. Karen and I have always felt that God’s word stands on it’s own. Why would God trust His word to sinners except to give them a hope and a future. Let’s face it, we don’t have all the right answers or all the correct interpretations but we trust that God’s word gives us all we need to connect with Him. That’s why it is so important for each of us to be in the word so God can speak to us individually. I constantly battle the devil’s premise that because I’m old and have study God’s word for years I no longer need to be in the word. But while God’s word stays constant His message to us changes based on where He leads us or what we need to hear. Word alone – faith alone – grace alone! To God be the glory.
Thanks for instilling this in me Dad.
I am reading Brennan Manning’s “The Ragamuffin Gospel” again, and in the first chapter he quotes Hans Kung: “It [the church] deserves neither God’s mercy nor men’s trust. The church must constantly be aware that its faith is weak, its knowledge dim, its profession of faith halting, that there is not a single sin or failing which it has not in one way or another been guilty of. And though it is true that the church must always dissociate itself from sin, it can never have any excuse for keeping any sinners at a distance.” ~ from “On Being a Christian” by Hans Kung.
That’s an impossible line to walk without Jesus and His Spirit!
Oh, Steve, I love this. I’ve asked similar questions so many times! For example, why are we so afraid of witnessing in the public square – so afraid that someone might think we are “just like” the other sinners standing up to pray with us? That would be just terrible, wouldn’t it? Far better to stay isolated and hope that someone might by accident wander in to our little clan. Blessings on your reflections! Thanks.
Kris…fear sucks! Sucks the life right out of us. But perfect love drives out fear! I am by nature a fearful creature, bent over in sin and worry. Thank God Jesus shows up, and lifts my gaze from all that fuels my fear, and shows me the kingdom of light! Peace…and courage, my friend!