The Parable of the Talents… feel guilty?

We are all familiar with Jesus parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14-30. A man gives ten talents to one person, five to another and one to the third person. The persons with ten and five talents invest theirs and reap returns causing the master to say “well done thou good and faithful servant.” The last person buries theirs in the ground and gets a tongue lashing and then is cast into darkness.

At first glance this parable appears to be a teaching on what will happen to those who don’t invest the gifts God has given them, who waste resources, or who don’t work really hard for the kingdom.

But is that really what Jesus had in mind? Was He really teaching that if you don’t work really hard at it you will be tossed aside? Is He teaching that if you aren’t faithful to work furiously to invest what He has given you that He will reject you?

Many pastors and teachers have used this parable as a stick to beat people over the head about a wide range of topics from giving to obedience to working for the kingdom. And while it is not wrong to give, be obedient and to work for the kingdom of God, I don’t think that is the central teaching of this text.

Jesus is meek and lowly of heart. His yoke is easy and His burden light (Matt 11:30). He is gracious and His ministry was about anything but works.

In fact His harshest words were for those working at it really hard.

Those who not only worked at it really hard, but ridiculed those who didn’t work at it as hard. Those who not only worked at it really hard, ridiculed those who didn’t work at it as hard, but didn’t do so hot with it themselves at the same time as ridiculing others. The Pharisees worked harder at it than anyone else. They made the big “kingdom investments” of the day. And Jesus called them snakes and worse (Matt 23 – read it sometime).

So is it correct to say that Jesus will cast people aside who don’t work really hard at it, or could there be more to this parable than we’ve all been taught?

In order to understand what is going on here, you have to remember that Jesus is saying this to a generation of people who lived under the harsh demands of the law. Demands made even harsher by Pharisees and religious leaders who added to the law to where no one could keep it. There were thousands of little things added to the law of Moses – and the law of Moses itself couldn’t be perfectly kept. These people were oppressed. And Jesus of course, came to set the oppressed free (John 8:32). So, does it make sense that He would teach oppressed people that were working hard to keep the law that they should work harder at it?

I don’t think so.

You see this parable says more about the Pharisees than it does about the people they oppressed. This parable was incredibly offensive to the religious leaders. The servants with the ten and the five talents were the Pharisees and religious leaders. And what they were doing was represented by the master’s treatment of the person who buried the talent. The person who buried the talent did so because he was scared. The people in Jesus time were scared too. Scared of the Pharisees and scared of God because they thought God was like the Pharisees.

Jesus was teaching:

1.  It is impossible to serve a hard master and do anything but dig holes to protect your stuff (Matt 25:24-25)

The servant in this parable who buried the talent, “perceived” the master to be a hard master. The fact was the master was not a hard master. What is your perception of Jesus? Do you think Him to be a hard master?

2. It is impossible to dig holes and dance with Jesus at the same time (Matt 25:25)

You can’t dance the dance of grace with Jesus when you are spending all of your time looking at your feet. In order to dance the dance of grace with Jesus you must look at Him, not your dancing ability.

3. It is impossible to to live a full life loving Jesus above all else without risk (Matt 25:27)

When you know you are forgiven, and you know you are loved and will be loved even if you screw up, you will be free to risk. If you are scared to trust Jesus you will be sacred of everything else too.

So, though we should be obedient and make investments in the kingdom and we should work hard to spread the kingdom, we must look at our perception of Jesus and our motivation. Are we doing what we do out of fear? Are we doing what we do out of joy?

Where are you in this area today?

Sanctified By Grace

“When God is your Father, He never stops being your Father. To put it in theological language, not only is your justification (being saved) by grace, your sanctification (becoming more like Christ) is by grace too. The trouble is that most Christians think they’re saved by grace but grow by sweat. Many of us believe that when we were saved, God took our slate filled with sin and rebellion and wiped it clean. That’s a lie… Listen! God took our slate and He broke it in pieces and threw it away. He does not deal with His family by keeping track on a slate of how we are doing. The slate is irrelevant because of the blood of Christ.”

Steve Brown, When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough

Failure, Performance and the Christian Life

“The main thing we learn from a serious attempt to practice the Christian virtues is that we fail.  If there was any idea that God had set us a sort of exam and that we might get good marks by deserving them, that has to be wiped out.  If there was any idea of a sort of bargain—any idea that we could perform our side of the contract and thus put God in our debts so that it was up to Him to perform His side—that has to be wiped out….everyone has the idea of an exam or of a bargain; the first result of real Christianity is to blow that to bits.”   CS Lewis

Fast Track to Executive Pharisee

Want to become a Pharisee in record time?

Here’s how:

  • Make up a lot of rules outside of those in Scripture.
  • Push yourself very hard to keep the rules you made up.
  • Ridicule yourself when you don’t keep your rules.
  • Become proud when you do keep your rules.
  • Impose the rules you have invented on others – do this often.
  • Shame and manipulate others into keeping your rules.
  • Make fun of those who fail to keep your rules.
  • Develop the right method of serving God.
  • Rebuke others who do not use your method of serving God.
  • Appoint yourself judge over other people in every area of their lives.
  • Use your judgeship to pronounce sentence on others for failure to keep your rules or use your methods.
  • Get angry with people who have different rules than yours.
  • Exclude people with different rules from being part of your posse (or serving in your ministry or church).
  • Make the rule breakers feel guilty every chance you get.
  • Pat yourself on the back for policing and enforcing the rules.
  • And finally:

    Fool yourself into believing you are doing all of the above ‘for the sake of the purity of the church’.

    And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17

    Covered and Protected

    Charles Spurgeon is today’s guest post author. In his lifetime, Spurgeon preached to around 10,000,000 people, often up to 10 times each week at different places. Spurgeon was a British Particular Baptist preacher who remains highly influential among Christians of different denominations, among whom he is still known as the “Prince of Preachers”. He was born June 19, 1834 and died January 31, 1892. Thousands of his sermons and devotional writings are still in print today.

    “He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His Truth shall be thy shield and buckler” (Psalm 91:4).

    A condescending simile indeed! Just as a hen protects her brood and allows them to nestle under her wings, so will the LORD defend His people and permit them to hide away in Him. Have we not seen the little chicks peeping out from under the mother’s feathers? Have we not heard their little cry of contented joy? In this way let us shelter ourselves in our God and feel overflowing peace in knowing that He is guarding us.

    While the LORD covers us, we trust. It would be strange if we did not. How can we distrust when Jehovah Himself becomes house and home, refuge and rest to us?

    This done, we go out to war in His name and enjoy the same guardian care. We need shield and buckler, and when we implicitly trust God, even as the chick trusts the hen, we find His truth arming us from head to foot. The LORD cannot lie; He must be faithful to His people; His promise must stand. This sure truth is all the shield we need. Behind it we defy the fiery darts of the enemy. Come, my soul, hide under those great wings, lose thyself among those soft feathers! How happy thou art!