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Saturday, July 16, 2016
Today’s Reading | Matthew 25:14–27
“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves 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 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.’” (NRSV)
In life we are told so many conflicting stories, given so many interpretations of what happened and why. The same is true of the biblical stories. How do we sort through them all and strengthen our own sense of morality and justice, even as we maintain our humility, knowing we can misjudge things at every turn?
This story in Matthew’s Gospel tells us that three servants are given an amount of money according to their “ability.” The one with the least ability is given the least amount of money and acts to protect it rather than risk losing it altogether. Then this slave is punished for their lack of ability and for failure to make a profit for the “harsh master.”
This sounds like what we would expect from a harsh master. But it’s not what I expect from Jesus, and it’s not what I expect from God. I don’t think the harsh master is supposed to be a metaphor for God in this story. If harsh consequences happen as a result of this story, I think they come in the next section of Matthew’s Gospel.
There Jesus describes the Son of Man, the king, (himself) separating the sheep from the goats based on their kindness and generosity. “I assure you,” the king will say, “that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” How would the harsh master be judged on these terms?
As a spiritual practice, we can ask ourselves how and when do we act like the harsh master, judging people based on their levels and kinds of abilities, rather than treating them with kindness and generosity based on their inherent value as a child of God, created in the image of God.
Dear God, help me to see the beauty and value in each person I meet. If I fail to see it at first, help me to look more deeply, to act as a friend, and to show sincere interest in each person’s story. Guide me in the way of kindness and generosity. Amen.
Written by Nanette Sawyer, Minister for Congregational Life
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