Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Talents

Matthew 25:14-30 (ESV)
"For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. [15] To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. [16] He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. [17] So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. [18] But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. [19] Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. [20] And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.' [21] His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.' [22] And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.' [23] His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.' [24] He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, [25] so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' [26] But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed and gather where I scattered no seed? [27] Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. [28] So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. [29] For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. [30] And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

The parable of the talents. Two invest there money and make more. One hides his in the ground, and in the end it is taken from him and given to others. I always think that this is one of the more scandalous of the parables, at least as the original audience heard it. Here Jesus uses very immoral people to illustrate grace. It is the moral one, seemingly following God’s law that is condemned. Of course it loses it scandal today. Everyone loans money if they have money to loan, and sometimes if they don’t, and they all take interest. We throw it in savings accounts, where at a minimum we get 3%. We buy C.D.s we invest in 401ks, we buy stock. And we all borrow money on interest too, hoping that somehow someday, we can turn it around and pay it back, we buy our houses and cars on credit if nothing else. Most of us have credit cards to boot. All of this is immoral activity in the Old Testament. In fact it was considered immoral activity in the Christian society up until quite recently. Now we might hear a sermon about not borrowing money, we might hear a sermon on not using credit cards, or that we should pay them back, equating a loan to slavery. But we don’t hear sermons against usury. It isn’t even mentioned. Though Even Aristotle, a rank pagan, who lived in a society that loaned and borrowed money at will, thought that money should not be used to make more money. In the Old Testament, there were ways of loaning money or investing it, and using it to make a profit. But the idea of just loaning money to a person for the sake of then making them pay you back with interest was anathema. There was a sense that you could only rightly ask back what you had originally loaned. That money was to be made by hard work, honest work, not flipping houses.
I’ll leave that alone for now. The fact is, these guys were not concerned about all that with the money they had been given. Two made the most of what they had been given, it doubled. One out of fear hid it. He is condemned.
There are lessons here. Jesus has given us life, given us faith. Make the most of it. Too often for various reasons we want to hide it. Perhaps we bury our own life, by refusing to even live it publicly. The only people we talk about our faith with is fellow “believers”. Then we get around and talk about how strong our faith is with each other, how great it is to believe in jesus with each other. But we let fear of losing faith rule the rest of our lives, refusing to associate with anyone that might be a sinner.
The two commended in this parable, risked their gift. They weren’t worried about losing it, though that was perhaps a possibility, they threw caution to the wind, and used what had been given to them to its fullest. They were given more. The other one, he let fear rule. In the end he lost even what little he had. Maybe don’t need to be so worried about what might happen to you. Live life in Christ and let it go, he gave you the faith, in the end he is the only one that can take it from you.

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