There’s the long sequence in Matthew where Jesus is trying to give the disciples metaphors and information that they will need later, after Jesus has been killed. The parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30, is pretty confusing. My pastor preached that one way to look at it, is the master that goes away is Jesus/God and he is good, despite the harsh words to the slave with 1 talent. Or another way is to say that the master that goes away is the world/a bad boss, and the slave with 1 talent is being brave and bold and speaking truth to power — and getting killed for it. Who is who here?
I wrote him my thoughts — I spent a month nearly day working this parable. I think there’s a third way. He was quite liked it. So here goes:
In living with this parable, I came to think that Jesus was trying to prepare the disciples for when he would be gone; and one of the big things, one of the things that the disciples could not seem to be learning, was that Jesus wasn’t offering a political, worldly, warrior-type revolution. He was trying to teach a completely new thing, I think, and among other messages “God is not “you” writ large.” No one is evil in their own sight. Every villain in fiction (and real life I suspect) is doing it for a reason, however misguided it clearly is to audience. So we can take what are merely our motivations and turn that into God’s will.
So to “enter into the joy of the master” — to have God’s will truly on Earth as it is in Heaven — is what we should seek: community, fellowship, but even more so. Christ in us. And this is only possible by understanding that God has already given us this gift (represented by the gift of the talents), each in our own way (“according to their abilities”) (through Grace and the cross).
So the slave with 1 talent buried it in the ground — he did nothing because he was afraid of harsh judgment. Yet the master he sees is himself — himself writ large. The master is “harsh”, judgmental (says this slave); yet the slave is being harsh and judgmental himself. The master doesn’t grow his own profit. The slave buried a coin in the ground — a coin does not grow into a tree or a crop. The slave, too, had nothing to reap or to gather. The slave was blinded to the possibility of “entering into the joy” of the master because he had created a self-fulfilling belief of what the world was like.
(Note the slave “went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid…” and describes it nearly exactly that way to the master “I went and hid your talent in the ground”. The slave describes the master as both reaping what he did not sow and as gathering what he did not plant. These doubles must be an emphasis, I think, a pointer to look carefully. And both doubles are from the slave with 1 talent, who cannot break free of who he is long enough to see clearly the Master and the possibility of a new story entirely — a world with abundance and joy and communion.)
In fact, a God that is God (not “me”): the awe of that is amazing and terrifying and hope. Jesus lets us get a glimpse of that while giving us the hand of a human person to hold. And the Holy Spirit was there was first of all, giving us gifts to treasure before we even knew we needed them.
In fact, I think the weeping and gnashing of teeth is actually God’s broken heart that someone is “cast into the outer darkness” and there is no way seemingly to break into that darkness and free that person…..? This may be a bit too far (after all the story says “As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness…but what point of view are we in at that point? It may still be the master talking but is it the view point of the slave who is listening?).
In terms of my life, it is lovely and a blessing to slowly slowly, maybe, be entering a phase of life where things don’t feel quite so delicately balanced, not yet enough to test the weight, but enough to hope for a future where “fear not” makes sense….and to wonder if perhaps at least some of ones fears have been merely a prison of one’s own making? Since my life has presently given me a glimmer of hope and blessings, am I indeed merely interpreting the parable of the 10 talents from “me-ness” and not from “God”?
Perhaps the parable works in many ways, and that is all good too?
whew! Your thoughts welcome!