an awkward text, though theparable
is familiar enough to us
Kingdom of heaven is like a man who called in his
slaves and gave them varying sums of money.
The first was given about $10 million (6000 days'
wages); the second received $5 million; the third
was entrusted with $1 million (Matthew
25:14-30). They all got a chunk of change
- and had to decide if and how
they would invest
Jesus tells the parable, the master returns and
calls the slaves to give account. The first had
doubled the money, as had the second. The third
had simply buried the money, for fear of
losing it and incurring the master's wrath. The
Master commends the first two and condemns the
third slave, describing him as a "wicked,
lazy slave" (v.26) and a "worthless slave" (v.30).
Indeed, the master orders the last slave
be "cast into outer darkness"
is how the Kingdom
parable is problematic. In our
performance-oriented church culture, we often
interpret the story in terms of gifts and
abilities - "use it or lose it," "don't waste what
God has given you," "those who work the hardest in
the Kingdom will get the most," "exercise your
spiritual gifts and earn the Father's
confuse the monetary term "talent" for our own
capacities and abilities, then twist the story
into decidely un-gospel
we read the story best from a different angle. The
real issue is not the performance of the
slaves, but their perspective of the
first two slaves seemed to understand that if they
risked it all and failed, they would be forgiven.
The last slave feared retribution, so risked
nothing. The first two slaves responded to a
generous master. The third slave presumed he had a
other words, their view of the master's character
determined their actions.
of us embrace a faith based on fear - anxious that
we'll fail the Father; fearful that we'll
underperform; worried that we'll achieve too
little for His pleasure. Such fear always limits -
and even paralyzes - us. But when our faith is
grounded in His faithfulness to forgive, we can
reluctance to take risks for God reflects
adversely on His character, and is thus "wicked."
He does not condemn failure but failure to try.
Our utter conservatism frequently reduces us to
inaction, and thus might be called "lazy" or
"idle." And our "play it safe" attitude renders us
"useless" or "worthless" to a God who is
recklessly seeking to reconcile the world to
not about our performance but about our
perspective. The Master's joy - into which the
first two slaves enter - is not grounded in their
success, but in their correct assessment of His
our assessment of His character? And how does it
shape our decisions and actions?
we see more than the demanding Accountant.
(Thanks to my son,
Matthew, who threw light on this parable for