Text study for Matthew 25:14-30
Lectionary texts for November 13, 2011
This Sunday’s text is a popular parable for use during stewardship campaigns in congregations. There are several core messages that come from this story:
You reap what you sow.
God rewards those who give back or use their talents.
You get more if you give more.
This text is preceded by stories about readiness, watchfulness and the consequences of being foolish and unprepared. Now, we are presented with a story about judgment on those who were entrusted with gifts.
The master clearly wanted the servants to use and grow the talents he had given them. From this perspective, the story gives us the inspiration to work hard for the sake of our obedience to the one who entrusted us with great gifts and calls us to live trusting in the abundance of God.
But there is another way to think about this parable.
I wonder if the first two slaves understood God as a generous giver who does not punish. Or are they also afraid of the master, just as the third slave was?
The third slave did not take any risk because of his fear of punishment, which paralyzed him. Those fears were realized when the master punished him for not obtaining any gain.
Rather than using this parable to encourage trust and hard work, we can use this text as a description of an unjust society not so different from the one that we live in. What if the master in this parable were not God but a banker or investor, motivated to maximize profit and with no tolerance for zero return?
The parable may then reveal a truth that is difficult to talk about in the current economic crisis where the poor become poorer and the rich gain even more. The poor are trapped in a cycle of fear of losing what little they have while the masters celebrate those who have more and make more.
From this perspective, the text becomes one of justice in community. We are urged not to make more money but to keep working for justice for those who are trapped in the cycle of poverty.
We are urged not to let human greed overcome the generosity of God.
The way we respond to God is shaped by who we imagine God is. What is your image of God when it comes to stewardship of life and resources? How does this way of knowing God impact how you make financial decisions?
How should we as Christians respond to greed, such as corporations and institutions taking from those who are already poor and needy? How are you called to speak out on behalf of those whose voices are silenced by fear?
What hinders you from living life to its fullest, using all the gifts and talents God entrusted to you for the sake of the world?