U SE your CVS member card and get coupons for future purchases. Buy enough at Drowsy Poet and get a free drink. Bring home all A’s on your report card and get some treat. Pay off a credit card and you get to go out to dinner to celebrate. I like reward systems. Rewards depend on my behavior, my actions, my commitment.
To hear this parable, you might think that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is like a reward system. We hear “talent” and think of abilities that you have been given. Singing, dancing. Playing chess. Running fast. This is a parable about money and making money.
A “talent” is a lot of money. Five talents are comparable to 100 years’ labor. The servant who gets the least amount of money to care for is given roughly 20 years’ wages. Even the least given is still an extravagant amount of money. Using current average wages in the U.S. we’re talking $800,000 to $4 million is given to the servants to manage.
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BUT I’M NOT SURE this parable is about what the “Kingdom of Heaven” is like. It starts out good enough. “The Kingdom of Heaven” is like a landowner who lavishly gifts servants with more than they can expect or comprehend. But after that, it falls apart.
Is the Kingdom of Heaven about earning rewards? You get five talents, you earn five more, and you get to go to heaven. You get two talents, you double that, and you are rewarded with angel wings. It is very structured, very predictable. You do this, you get that. A reward program. The rewards match the deeds; the merits match the achievements.
While we very well might like that kind of reward system for entry into God’s kingdom, that is not the way the Scriptures tell us it works.
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IS THAT REALLY what the “Kingdom of Heaven” is like? This landowner looks more like a Wall Street banker than a loving creator and redeemer. Do what you must to double my investment.
The “under-achiever” is tossed out and punished. The servant who gets one fortune, does nothing with it for fear of losing a great deal of money. That servant fails to live up to the master’s requirements. The “worthless” servant has everything taken away.
This is more than “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” You are cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
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THAT DOESN’T SOUND much like the God revealed to us in Matthew.
Chapter 5 Of Matthew doesn’t sound much like the God who demands achievements and doles out rewards. Here, God blesses the poor in spirit. God blesses those grieving. Blesses the meek. Blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Does the king described “as a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed” sound like the God who feeds and clothes the birds of the air?
Is the landowner like the God who gives good things to those who ask like any parent does with a child?
Does this parable describe a God who cares so much about each one of us as to keep track of the hair on our head? Or the God who seeks us out like a shepherd seeking one lost sheep because it is not God’s will that “one of these little ones should be lost.”
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THIS LANDOWNER character does not sound very much like the God of Matthew, revealed to us in Jesus! Nor does the idea of a kingdom that operates based on merit and rewards sound much like the kingdom Jesus talks about.
■ In the Jesus-kingdom, there is nothing to earn — no merits or rewards to rack up.
■ In the Jesus-kingdom, everybody gets the same gift — God’s full and free acceptance.
■ In the Jesus-kingdom, the religious “under-achievers” gain entry ahead of those who think they have racked up more spiritual points.
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THE JESUS-KINGDOM contradicts this parable of the talents. It is a kingdom that works completely contrary to the way things work in our world.
More importantly, if whether we “make it” or not in a spiritual sense is determined by a strict system of merit and reward, then the plain truth is that we are all under-achievers. On our own, none of us can ever earn approval. On our own, we are all cast into darkness.
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I THINK THAT’S Jesus’ point — the “Kingdom of Heaven” works completely differently from this parable of the “Talents.”
■ In the Kingdom of Heaven, there are no rewards. Everything is a gift.
■ In this Kingdom everything depends on God’s love, which never fails.
■ In the Kingdom of Heaven, everything depends on God’s grace, which always seeks us out.
■ In the Kingdom of Heaven, everything depends on God’s mercy, God’s grace, which embraces us all completely.
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I got much of this from: https://thewakingdreamer.blogspot.com/2011/11/