What’s Fair in the Kingdom
Today’s Gospel lection is taken from Matthew, chapter 25, verses 14-30 – we know these verses as “The Parable of the Talents.” A wealthy landowner gives three of his slaves money, talents, to safeguard for him while he goes on a journey. To one of the slaves he gives five talents, to the second, two talents, and the third receives a single talent. The first slave doubles the five to ten by his trading, as does the second – doubling his talents to four. The third slave, however, takes the single talent and buries it the ground. When the landowner returns, he rewards the first two slaves for their efforts by entrusting them with more responsibilities and gives them his favor. The last slave, however, states that he knows the landowner is dishonest and makes his living off the toil of others, ‘reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed.’ The slave’s fear of the master prompted him to hide the money and then return it to him.
“Well done, good and trustworthy slave!”
Was it? Was it well done?
Two thoughts came to mind as I read this scripture.
This is a parable about God entrusting to his children of the Kingdom the task of evangelism, of building His church by taking a community of five and growing it to ten, of taking a group of two and making it four, so that the Good News is shared and sent to other communities where it can be heard, marked, and inwardly digested.
This is a parable about the wealthy increasing their wealth and the poor having what little they already have taken away, a cautionary tale about choosing what side to play on, what principles to put priority on, what kind of life that we live.
Or, it can be both: we take the mustard seed and plant it, giving God the credit for our efforts, for it is God in Christ that inspires the words with which we proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven in our midst and watch as five grows to ten, two becomes four, and so on. We fail miserably if we take that one coin and hold it in our hands, be fearful of God and hide it away so that it won’t be stolen, and do nothing with it, sort of like, “I’m not religious, but spiritual; I don’t need to attend a church to believe in God or a higher power.”
Yes and no.
Some of the greatest theologians in the Christian Church were contemplatives, spritual people, who in their solitude and quiet, connected with God and gave us some of the most beautiful Christian thought; and yet, everything Jesus did was in a community – yes, he had solitary moments, but all of his miracles, all of his teaching, and his ignominous death were public – shared by the community. You can have your prayerful moments, but the real work in expanding the Kingdom comes when we do it as a community with like interests and goals. Again, Jesus of Nazareth didn’t proclaim the Gospel alone; he had twelve men that we know of in his inner circle, and many more women and men to follow his teaching and way of life, to take a movement and turn it into a force for love and good.
Like my Anglican faith, I am ‘via media’ – the middle road. I am both contemplative and a person of right action and use each of these charisms separately or in combination depending on the situation or work that needs to be done.
In any event, what we are required to do, what is mandated, is that we proclaim the Word that is Christ in our actions and our word; we are called to love one another as we love ourselves and more importantly, as we love God. We have been given the coinage of the realm, the Gospe,l to increase in the hearts of the faithful, and it is our responsibility to make sure those who have an abundance are prevented from taking away the ‘nothing’ from those who already have nothing and are less fortunate in their circumstance.
The Kingdom of Heaven is where equality is the norm. It is a place where all are good and faithful servants for they take what is given to them and see that it is increased for the good the community, and protect what little some have.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,