Monday, November 14, 2005

A Second Pass at Matthew 25:14-30

Now that my fingers are somewhat more acclimated to this keyboard, a few thoughts on this coming Sunday's Bible lesson, Matthew 25:14-30, including the commentary of Brian Stoffregen, to which I referred in my earlier post.

Perhaps the most provocative and interesting idea Stoffregen introduces in his commentary, among several, is that the Master's decision to give (paradidomi in the Greek) the various talents to his slaves should perhaps not be seen as the assignment of a stewardship. Stewardship is the concept of caring for that which doesn't belong to us. Stoffregen is suggesting that the Master flat out gives the talents to the three slaves. He makes this suggestion on the strength of paradidomi, a verb that most literally is to be translated as give over. (The only subsequent claims the Master makes on the talents he gives away are from the last slave who failed to take any risks in using it or making it grow. This implies that the other two slaves kept the Master's earlier gifts plus what they made.)

The implications of Stoffregen's keying in on paradidomi are subtle, but interesting. It first implies that God is gracious in giving skills, earning power, intellectual capacity, and the like to everybody. As Stoffregen points out, the Master was gracious even to the slave to whom he gave one talent. (A talent being the equivalent of between 15 to 20 years of wages for a day laborer.)

But He distributes them on the basis of our abilities. These gracious gifts aren't to be confused with salvation, which as Stoffregen points out, God makes equally accessible to all simply for their faith in Jesus Christ. The point is that while we are all equally important in God's eyes, we all are made differently.

Bill Gates, for example, has shown considerably greater acumen at making money--my son tells me that Gates is "worth" about $60-billion right now--than I have. Given Gates' abilities, it would be silly to install me as CEO of Microsoft in place of him. Conversely, it might be just as ridiculous to replace me with Gates as pastor of Friendship Church.

Surely one of the points that must be derived from this parable then, is that for us to pine for the gifts others have received. Barring the intervention of malicious or indifferent people who may in some ways steal our gifts from God (for example, developed nations soaking up unconscionably large percentages of the world's food and other resources instead of sharing them), God assigns to us precisely what we need to fulfill the missions and provide us with the necessities of our lives.

If Stoffregen is right about the implications of pardidomi, it adds a certain power to this parable. It's what I was getting at when I kept writing down two words in the notebook in which I jot down my own ideas about the passages on which I preach each Sunday. The two words:

  • Confidence
  • Faith
Respecting God's gifts, I think, entails having sufficient confidence in God to risk spending every last gift He gives to us in maximizing them. It also means being bold in our faith.

The bottom line is that faith isn't faith until it is lived. It's lived through our everyday interactions, in the charity we exhibit with our attitudes and our checkbooks, in the service we render, in the willingness to run our financial gas tanks down to E in order to love God and love neighbor.

These are all scary thoughts to me. All too often, I live an, "I'm getting ready to" faith, all preparartion and no execution, all blow and no show. Jesus is saying to risk blowing everything we've been given in order to fulfill our God-given purposes in life. I feel that I have much more in common with the third slave than with the first two. For me to imply anything different when I speak about this on Sunday would make me a huge hypocrite.

[Here's the first pass at this text.]

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