Archive for the ‘Parable of the Talents’ Tag

Active Faith V   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Talents

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Nahum 1:1-9, 12-15 or Isaiah 66:10-14

Psalm 38:1-4, 9-15, 21-22

1 Corinthians 16:1-9, 13-14, 20-24

Matthew 25:14-30

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A talent was fifteen years’ worth of wages for a laborer.  In the Parable of the Talents all the stewards were honest men, fortunately.  Unfortunately, one gave into fearful inactivity while the other two were active.  The parable, set amid apocalyptic texts in the context of the build up to the crucifixion of Jesus, cautioned against fearful inactivity when action is necessary.

St. Paul the Apostle was certainly active, maintaining a travel schedule, writing to churches and individuals, and raising funds for the church at Jerusalem.

Fearful inactivity is not the only sin that provokes divine wrath.  To that list one can add institutionalized exploitation and violence (read Nahum).  When oppressors refuse to change their ways and to cease oppressing, deliverance for the oppressed is very bad news for the oppressors.  One might think also of the fate of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and the end of the Babylonian Exile.

Back to individual sins, we have Psalm 38, a text by an ill man shunned by alleged friends.  He also has enemies who plot violence against him.  And he is aware of his sins.  The psalmist prays for deliverance.

Confession of sin is a requirement for repentance.  Sin can be active or passive, as well as collective or individual.  May repentance and active faith marked by justice and mercy define us, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY LASCALLES JENNER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/devotion-for-proper-28-year-a-humes/

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Sins of Omission, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Talents

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE EIGHTH SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, you are the author of truth, of beauty, and of goodness:

Inspire all who enrich the lives of the people,

all artists and poets, dramatists and musicians,

that our common life may be made radiant with the beauty of him

in whom your fullness dwelt, even Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

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Amos 5:18-24

Psalm 39

2 Timothy 2:1-13

Matthew 25:14-30

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These four readings, taken together, teach the imperative of individual and collective righteousness, or justice.  (“Righteousness” and “justice” are translations of the same words in the Bible.)  The prophet Amos emphasizes social justice.  The author (not St. Paul the Apostle) of 2 Timothy reminds us of suffering that results from one obeying God.  The author of Psalm 39 reminds us of the brevity of life.  May we use well the time God has given us.

Two readings cry out for unpacking.  The first of these comes from Amos 5.  The Torah orders certain rituals.  They are not the problem; the abuse of them is.  To engage in pious rituals cynically so as to maintain a veneer of holiness, while living in a way that pays no heed to righteousness, is to make a mockery of those rituals, which are far more than what Pietistic heretics dismiss as “externals.”  This is not a case or righteousness or rituals; no, it is a call for both of them.

The other reading to unpack is the Parable of the Talents.  The definition of “talent” in this context is more than fifteen years’ wages of a laborer.  Thus a steward of just one talent is responsible for a large, especially in relative terms, sum of money.  The meaning of the parable is the mandate to take risks for God, not to do nothing when one ought to act.

This is a difficult teaching.  Sins of commission are relatively easy to identify, for one can point to what a person (perhaps oneself) has done wrong.  Sins of omission are more challenging, though.  I suspect that I am guilty of more sins of omission than of commission, but only God knows for sure.  A sin of omission is “safe,” from a certain perspective, but God commands us to take risks for the sake of righteousness.  After all, my life is short; what will I do with the rest of it, however long that will be?  What will you, O reader, do with the rest of your life?

The commandments to live longingly fits neatly into this matter.  Attempting to live thusly does not guarantee that one will succeed, but it is a positive development; at least one knows that one should do that and is trying to obey.  Success is only possible via the power of God, however.  May we seek, find, and use it as effectively as possible, for the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Deeds and Creeds I   1 comment

Archelaus

Above:   Archelaus

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 5:12-14

Psalm 50

Luke 19:11-27

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“Consider this well, you who forget God,

lest I rend you and there be none to deliver you.

Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me;

but to those who keep in my way will I show the salvation of God.”

–Psalm 50:23-24, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The traditional title for the pericope from Luke 19 is the Parable of the Pounds.  That reading is superficially similar to the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), which teaches the imperative of diligence in the work of God.  In the case of Luke 19:11-27, however, the real point is quite different.

Textual context matters.  Immediately prior to the parable we read of our Lord and Savior’s encounter with Zacchaeus, a man who worked as a tax collector for the Roman Empire.  He was a literal tax thief, although, as we read, he changed his ways and made more restitution than the Law of Moses required.  Immediately after the parable Jesus enters Jerusalem at the beginning of that fateful Holy Week.  The story of Zacchaeus explains verse 11a (“As they were listening to this”); the context of the impending Triumphal Entry is crucial to understanding the pericope which Volume IX (1995) of The New Interpreter’s Bible calls “The Parable of the Greedy and Vengeful King.”

The nobleman in the parable resembles members of the Herodian Dynasty, especially Archelaus (reigned 4 B.C.E.-6 C.E.), son of Herod the Great (reigned 47-4 B.C.E.), Governor of Galilee then the client king of the Jews.  Herod the Great, who traveled to Rome to seek the title of king, reigned as one because the Roman Republic then Empire granted him that title.  He was also a cruel man.  Biblical and extra-Biblical sources agree on this point, constituting a collection of stories of his tyranny and cruelty.  In Matthew 2 he ordered the Massacre of the Innocents, for example.  Archelaus, a son of Herod the Great, ruled as the Roman-appointed ethnarch of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria, after traveling to Rome.  Archelaus sought the title of King, which the Emperor Augustus denied him after meeting with a delegation of Jews.  Archelaus, mentioned by name in Matthew 2:22, was also cruel and tyrannical, victimizing Jews and Samaritans alike.  On one day alone he ordered the massacre of 3000 people at the Temple precinct in Jerusalem.  Eventually Augustus deposed him.  Herod Antipas, full brother of Archelaus, ruled on behalf of the Roman Empire as the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E., when he sought the title of King and found himself banished to Gaul instead.  Antipas, a chip off the old block, ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist (Matthew 14:3-10) and sought to kill Jesus, who called the tetrarch “that fox” (Luke 13:32).

A trope in the interpretation of parables of Jesus is that one of the characters represents God.  That does not apply accurately to the parable in Luke 19:11-27.  In fact, the unnamed nobleman, who orders the execution of his political opponents, is an antitype of Jesus, who enters Jerusalem triumphantly in the next pericope and dies on the cross a few days later, at the hands of Roman officials.  The Kingdom of God is quite different from the Roman Empire, built on violence and exploitation.  The kingship of Jesus is quite different from the model that the Roman Empire offers.

Amos 5 condemns those in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah who profess to follow Yahweh, yet oppose the establishment of justice, especially for the needy.  There is nothing wrong with religious rituals themselves, but engaging in them while perpetuating injustice makes a mockery of them.  God is unimpressed, we read.

God, in Psalm 50, addresses those who recite divine statutes yet do not keep them, who think wrongly that God is like them.  They will not find deliverance in God, we read.  That Psalm fits well with Amos 5, of course.  Then there are the evildoers who do not even pretend to honor God and do not change their ways.  Their path is doomed in the long run also.

One must reject the false dichotomy of deeds versus creeds.  In actuality, I argue, deeds reveal creeds.  One might detect a dichotomy between deeds and words, but, barring accidents, no dichotomy between deeds and creeds exists.

What do your deeds reveal about your creeds, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-26-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Jeremiah and Matthew, Part VIII: Vindication By God   1 comment

parable_of_talents

Above:  The Parable of the Talents

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 23:1-20

Psalm 19 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening)

Matthew 25:14-30

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Some Related Posts:

Jeremiah 23:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-18/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/proper-11-year-b/

Matthew 25:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/week-of-proper-16-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/week-of-proper-16-saturday-year-2/

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See, a time is coming–declares the LORD–when I will raise up a true branch of David’s line.  He shall reign as king and prosper and he shall do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah shall be delivered and Israel shall dwell secure.  And this is the name by which he shall be called:

The LORD is our Vindicator.

–Jeremiah 23:5-6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:18-25:7) had been the last King of Judah.  He had rebelled against his Chaldean overlords and paid the stiff, brutal price for doing so.  Thus it is appropriate that, in the prophecy of Jeremiah, the name of the good, future leader from the Davidic line is, in Hebrew, a play on the name “Zedekiah,” only reversed.  That name in English is:

  • “Yahweh-is-our-Saving-Justice” (The New Jerusalem Bible);
  • “The LORD is our Vindicator” (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures); and
  • “The LORD is our Righteousness” (The Revised English Bible).

That name, transliterated from Hebrew, is YHVH Tzidkenu, according to page 972 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004).  The Hebrew word means both “righteousness” and “deliverance,” as in vindication or salvation.

I find the intersection of lectionaries fascinating, for, as I write through them, one cross-fertilizes he other in my brain.  Vindication as redemption came up in material I covered in the previous post (http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/proper-27-year-c/), one based on the Revised Common Lectionary.  As I reported there, one definition of “vindicate” is:

To justify or prove the worth of, especially in the light of later developments.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3d. Ed. (1996)

Given the repeated pronouncements of impending doom in the Book of Jeremiah through Chapter 22, one might wonder what the new development is.  Perhaps the development just seems new from a human perspective.  Yes, judgment and doom will ensue, but mercy will follow.

The Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth constituted one form of mercy.  Yet with it came an element of judgment also.  Both exist in the Parable of the Talents.  A talent was a large sum of money–as much as a day laborer would earn in fifteen years.  The rich man gave the three servants no instructions to invest, so the servant with only one talent did not violate any formal rule when he stored it in the ground.  Yet he missed the point, which was to do something which increased value.

This parable exists in the shadow of the Second Coming of Jesus, at least in subsequent interpretation.  (I know of at least one relatively orthodox New Testament scholar who insists that YHWH, not Jesus, returns in the parable.)  The point remains unaffected, however:  What have we done for God?  We are supposed to hear then do; that is the call of discipleship.  If we do that, God will vindicate us–redeem us–deliver us–save us–be our righteousness.  If we do not, judgment will follow.  But, after that, there is mercy for many, especially descendants.  The promise of Jeremiah 23:5-6 is that there will be vindication–redemption–deliverance–salvation.

Why not act for God now?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/devotion-for-november-10-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The Imperative of Responsible Action   1 comment

Above:  Parable of the Talents Woodcut, 1712

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Take  yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called:  how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families?  No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen–those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.  The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom.  As scripture says:

if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.

Psalm 33:12-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

12 Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD!

happy the people he has chosen to be his own!

13 The LORD looks down from heaven,

and beholds all the people in the world.

14 From where he sits enthroned he turns his gaze

on all who dwell on the earth.

15 He fashions all the hearts of them

and understands all their works.

16 There is no king that can be saved by a mighty army;

a strong man is not delivered by his great strength.

17 The horse is a vain hope for deliverance;

for all its strength it cannot save.

18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon those who fear him,

on those who wait upon his love,

19 To pluck their lives from death,

and to feed them in time of famine.

20 Our soul waits for the LORD;

he is our help and our shield.

21 Indeed, our heart rejoices in him,

for in his holy name we put our trust.

22 Let your loving-kindness, O LORD, be upon us,

as we have put our trust in you.

Matthew 25:14-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

It [the kingdom of heaven] is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to a third one; each in proportion to his ability.  Then he set out.  The man who had received five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more.  The man who had received two made two more in the same way.  But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.  Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them.  The man who had received five talents came forward bringing five more.

Sir,

he said,

you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more I have made.

His master said to him,

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown that you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.

Next the man with two talents came forward.

Sir,

he said,

you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.

His master said to him,

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.

Last came forward the man who had the one talent.

Sir,

said he,

I had heard that you were a hard man, reaping where you had not sown and gathering where you had not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground.  Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.

But his master answered him,

You wicked and lazy servant!  So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered?  Well then, you should deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest.  So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents.  For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 16:  Saturday, Year 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/week-of-proper-16-saturday-year-1/

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I have covered the Parable of the Talents in the Year 1 counterpart to this post.  What follows will duplicate much of that content, but I refer you, O reader, to that post, for my full comments on that parable.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, in Volume VIII, on page 453, places the Parable of the Talents in the context not only of Chapter 25 but within the whole of the Gospel of Matthew.  (For the full analysis, consult that page in Volume VIII.)  Said commentary ends on this note:  It speaks of

the reality of judgment and the necessity of decisions and responsible action.

The rich man in the parable was quite wealthy.  A talent was the equivalent of fifteen years of wages for a day laborer.  So the servant who received just one talent was relatively wealthy, at least for a time.  He was an honest man, for he returned the money, down the last denarius, to his master.  Yet the two servants who showed initiative and doubled the money won praise; the overly cautious man received condemnation.  And one of the dutiful servants received more responsibility, based on his track record.

Grace begins with God and requires to act upon it.  Thus grace is free, not cheap.  This brings me to the reading from 1 Corinthians.  There God is the original actor, and

no human may glory before God.  (verse 29, The Anchor Bible)

Each servant in the Parable of the Talents had reason to glory in the trust of his master, and two of them behaved commendably.  Here, as in many other places in the Bible, money and judgment coexist.

If we take an inventory of our talents (not the monetary measure), we will recognize how much we have on trust from God.  Will we even try to make the most of them?  True, other people can help or hinder our efforts; they are responsible for their deeds.  And we are are accountable for ours.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCIS ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, DEACON

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/week-of-proper-16-saturday-year-2/

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Posted May 4, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 1, Matthew 25, Psalm 33

Tagged with

Sins of Omission, Part I   1 comment

Above:  Parable of the Talents Woodcut, 1712

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1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (The Jerusalem Bible):

As for loving our brothers, there is no need for anyone to write to you about that, since you have learnt from God yourselves to love one another, and in fact that is what you are doing with all the brothers throughout the whole of Macedonia.  However, we do urge you, brothers, to go on making even greater progress and to make a point of living quietly, attending to our own business and earning your living, just as we told you to, so that you are seen to be respectable by those outside the Church, though you do not have to depend on them.

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

3 The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

4 He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

8 Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

9 Let the rivers clap their hands,

and the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

Matthew 25:14-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

It [the kingdom of heaven] is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to a third one; each in proportion to his ability.  Then he set out.  The man who had received five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more.  The man who had received two made two more in the same way.  But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.  Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them.  The man who had received five talents came forward bringing five more.

Sir,

he said,

you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more I have made.

His master said to him,

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown that you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.

Next the man with two talents came forward.

Sir,

he said,

you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.

His master said to him,

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.

Last came forward the man who had the one talent.

Sir,

said he,

I had heard that you were a hard man, reaping where you had not sown and gathering where you had not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground.  Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.

But his master answered him,

You wicked and lazy servant!  So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered?  Well then, you should deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest.  So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents.  For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

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Matthew 25 is a chapter about the Second Coming of Jesus.  It has three distinct and related sections.  The first consists of verses 1-13, the Parable of the Bridesmaids.  Some were prepared, others were not.  Then follows this day’s reading, the Parable of the Talents.  I will return to that in a moment.  The final part of Chapter 25 is the familiar discourse about the final judgment.  Jesus will interview people.  He will inform many of them that they fed him when he was hungry, clothed him when he was naked, and visited him when he was in prison.  Surprised, they will ask when they did this.  And Jesus will say that they did this for him when they did it for others.  Conversely, Jesus will inform others that they did none of these things.  Shocked, they will ask when they did not.  As it turns out, they did not help others in these ways.

These three sections of Matthew 25, taken together, focus on actions, inactions, and their consequences.  Those who act righteously, even if they have little or no idea how righteously they are behaving, will reap what they sow.  Those who act unrighteously, even if they have little or no idea how unrighteously they are acting, will reap what they sow.  And not doing something when that is appropriate and one has the opportunity to do so is a sin of omission.  God frowns on those, as well as sins of commission.

And all of this occurs in the shadow of Golgotha.

So, with preliminaries out of the way, let us explore the Parable of the Talents.

It is a simple story.  A very wealthy landowner entrusts his property to three servants before he goes abroad for a long time.  A talent, according to The New Interpreter’s Bible, was “a large sum of money, equal to the wages of a day laborer for fifteen years” (Volume VIII, page 453).  So each servant, whether he received one, two, or five talents, held a large amount of wealth, especially by the economic standards of most people of that time and place.  The servants entrusted with two and five talents invested it wisely and doubled their amounts.  Their master was pleased with them when he returned.  But one servant buried the talent in the ground.  It was common to bury something valuable in the ground for safe keeping.  This servant was honest; he did not abscond the wealth and flee the area.  But he did nothing.  Neither did he disobey instructions, for there are none in the parable.  But he displeased the master by not even depositing the talent in a local bank.  The servant had nothing to show, for he did nothing.

William R. Herzog II, in Parables as Subversive Speech: Jesus as Pedagogue of the Oppressed (1994), interprets this story in a way unlike I have read anywhere else.  He treats the servant with one talent as the hero of story.  According to Herzog (pages 150-168), the point of the parable is to identify with the vulnerable whistle-blower who, by his inaction, calls attention to the unjust means by which his master accumulates wealth.  As much as I identify with Herzog’s notions of economic justice and injustice, I conclude that he twists more than one parable, including this one, to fit his preconceived ideas.  I skimmed his chapter on the parable before typing the parable word-for-word into this post.  So both are fresh in my mind.  Herzog’s interpretation makes no sense within the textual context of Matthew 25.

The Biblical texts are what the are, and they say what they say.  Sometimes I argue with them.  Other times I agree with them.   But I try first to identify what they say.  And Matthew 25:14-30 does not say what Herzog wants it to say.

The anticipated Second Coming of Jesus also figures into today’s excerpt from 1 Thessalonians.  Some members of the Thessalonian congregation had dropped out of the work force so they could devote themselves to preparing themselves for the great event.  So Paul wrote that they should resume their lives as productive members of society.  Matters of prophecy will tend to themselves, but we have work to do.  May we not be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good.

Reading the Bible according to a lectionary is the best method, for it facilitates the recognition of connections between passages.  The readings from Matthew and 1 Thessalonians are especially appropriate to read together, for a common thread runs through them.  My synthesis of these lessons follows:  Some of us have more to offer to God than others, but all of it comes from God.  We have the option of seeking the safest course in life, which is not to take risks or rock the boat.  But that is not what God calls us to do.  No, God calls us to take risks–even the chance of losing everything without trying to accomplish that end.  But, if we do this faithfully, at least we have been faithful.  Jesus did not “play it safe,” and neither should we who claim to follow him.  What each of has is time, in various quantities.  May we make the most of it, for the glory of God.  As Mother Teresa said, God has calls us to be faithful, not successful.

Too much of religion consists of “playing it safe.”  But I prefer a riskier spiritual route, one I have heard described as “doing a daring dance with God.”  The tango sounds like fun; God will lead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD, FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF ST. JOHN OF GOD

THE FEAST OF SAINT FELIX OF DUNWICH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on March 8, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/week-of-proper-16-saturday-year-1/

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Posted October 11, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 1 Thessalonians 4, Matthew 25, Psalm 98

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