“So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.” (Matthew 25.15)
This week, I’m not going to write to you for long. I want to focus on a single parable told by Jesus and then some quotations that I believe are relevant.
First, I believe a conventional, domesticated reading of the so-called parable of the talents misses a lot. Let me see if I can explain. There are two things to keep in mind as you read this parable. (1) Jesus wasn’t talking about his second coming yet here. The disciples still didn’t even get that he was leaving , much less would they have had the capacity to understand if he had begun talking about coming back. He was speaking much more about the establishment of his own Kingdom right then, at that point in history. The coming of “the Son of Man,” as used by Jesus, was a direct reference by Jesus to his own understanding of Daniel 7.13–14 and the establishment of his Kingdom through his life, death, and resurrection. (See Matthew 25.13; 26.45, 64; Mark 14.41; John 4.23; 5.25; 12.23, 27; 16.32; 17.1) (2) The story is not so much about using your “talents” (that’s the domesticated way to read the story) as it is about taking risks, risking everything, for the Kingdom.
Two ways are contrasted: the way of circling the wagons, protecting that which remains, and safeguarding the parameters versus the way of taking chances and risking everything for Jesus’ Kingdom to be established. What was it that Jesus was asking them to risk in following Him? Jesus was asking them to risk their most cherished hopes of Israel being restored some day. Jesus was asking them to risk their precious eschatological understandings. Jesus was asking them to leap off a cliff with him into the space of actually loving their enemies, including the Romans, the Seleucids, the Babylonians, and the Egyptians. They were genuinely afraid that if they followed this nonviolent, enemy-forgiving, enemy-embracing, enemy-loving Messiah (instead of holding out for a militaristic Messiah at some point in the future), it would only embolden the Romans to abuse them even more. They were afraid that if they followed this Jesus, they would <I>never</I> see Israel restored. Yet, Jesus was giving them, in all actuality, a way to heal the world, but they doubted it would really work. They doubted it would awaken the sympathy and compassion of Rome and its citizens. It was, for them, far too risky a move. It was in this context that Jesus told the following parable:
“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves [the nations, cf. Amos 9.7] and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
“After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
“Then the one who had received the one talent [Israel, cf. Amos 9.7] also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matthew 25.14–30, emphasis added.)
What Jesus is looking for are not those who are brave, intelligent, beautiful, or charismatic, but those who are actually just crazy enough to risk it all with him, to go for it with him, to take the leap with him.
What is it that Jesus is asking you to risk this week by entering the narrow gate and embracing the narrow path of enemy-love? We all have “Romans” in our lives. Enemy-embracing love may not turn out as bad as you’re afraid it will. It might just set in motion the healing of the world.
Here are a few comments from Thomas Merton’s Seeds that I felt were appropriate to Jesus’ parable about taking the risk of loving one’s enemies this week.
“Do not be too quick to assume your enemy is a savage just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy because he thinks you are savage. Or perhaps he is afraid of you because he feels that you are afraid of him. And perhaps if he believed you were capable of loving him he would no longer be your enemy.”
“”Do not be too quick to assume that your enemy is an enemy of God just because he is your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy precisely because he can find nothing in you that gives glory to God. Perhaps he fears you because he can find nothing in you of God’s love and God’s kindness and God’s patience and mercy and understanding of the weaknesses of men.”
“Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God, for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice, your mediocrity and materialism, your sensuality and selfishness that have killed his faith.”
Much to ponder.
Remember, Jesus didn’t come to change God’s mind about us. He came to change our minds about God and about one another.
1. This week, I want you to think of five genuine fears you presently have, fears that keep you holding Jesus’ teachings on enemy-forgiveness at arm’s length, preventing you from fully embracing Jesus’ way of nonviolent enemy-love. Five, if you can.
2. I want you to go through an exercise with me. I want you to sit down with Jesus, in your prayer time, and present each one of these five (or however many you can come up with) to Jesus, one at a time, not all together, but one at a time. Once you present each fear, stop, pause, listen, and watch. Listen! What is he saying to you about that specific fear? Watch! What do you see Jesus doing with each of those fears?
3. Share what Jesus shows you this week with your HeartGroup.
Till the only world that remains is a world where Christ’s love reigns, keep living in love and loving like Christ.
I love you guys.
See you next week.