Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 7 2013 - Matthew 25:1-30 – The parable of the talents

Jesus is telling a series of parables which illustrate something of the kingdom (Matthew 25:1f, 14f). In the parable of the talents, three servants are entrusted with sums of money while their master is away on a journey. Two of the servants make good use of the money entrusted to them and have a profit to show their master on his return. They are commended as good and faithful servants. The third, buries his master's money in the ground so that it will not be lost. On his master's return he gives back what was entrusted to him. This servant is declared to be wicked and lazy and is thrown out "into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (25:30).

What is Jesus teaching through this parable? Some have read the parable as a charter for capitalism – a system in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? It is difficult to justify such a reading in the context of Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom. Rather we should read it against the context of first century Judaism and the controversies between Jesus and the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They had been concerned to preserve the revelation given them by God through Moses. They had kept it safe by burying it in a mass of their own traditions – traditions intended to act as a hedge around the law and prevent it being violated. They were concerned that the law should be kept intact. The third servant's description of his master may even be designed to reflect their twisted view of God.

This preoccupation with preservation is condemned by Jesus. He had intended that his people should be a light to the nations; a people through whom the world might come to know the goodness and generosity of the God of Abraham. Preservation of what had been entrusted to them was a denial of their mission and an act of terrible unfaithfulness.

They had become like the Dead Sea. The living water of the Jordon flowed continually into that sea but found no outlet. The Sea became increasingly salty and dead as it held on to the water that was given to it rather than releasing it as refreshing streams into the surrounding desert.

And how is it with us? What have we understood of the character of our God? We have been entrusted with the gospel of the kingdom. Are we more concerned with preservation than propagation? Are we more concerned to preserve what has been delivered to us by careful theological definition and qualification than we are to live out the message and show and tell the kingdom to a needy world? The church is not to become the Gospel Preservation Society. Like the Manna given in the desert, when the gifts of God are preserved rather than used they become rotten and full of worms. The refreshing streams of God’s goodness and grace are not to be bottled up in our lives or contained safely within the walls of our churches, or kept safely wrapped up in the black leather of our Bibles; they are to flow out into the dry and thirsty land around us bringing life and healing.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace, mercy and forgiveness that flows to me from the Lord Jesus and his death and resurrection. By your Spirit, you flood my life with your light and peace and fill me with songs of joy. May this river of life flow from me today. Through me, may it touch the lives of others bringing healing and transformation that together we may praise you for your great love and goodness. For the sake of the world, help us to share the gospel rather than simply preserving it.

Peter Misselbrook