This story is a mystery to me. I’m not sure why it was used as a parable, and I’m uncertain as to its message. I looked it up in Luke, as well, and there are slight differences in that story vs. the Matthew account. One key difference I noted is that in the Lukan parable the master tells his slaves to take the talents and “do business” with them. In Matthew, he does not, he simply “entrusts” the money to them.
When he returns home, he rewards and praises the slaves who made more money with their talents, and admonishes harshly the one who buried it out of fear. Where is the grace in this situation? How can you punish someone who honestly shares that they are afraid of your unpredictable, well-noted, harsh behavior with others, and based on that fear, didn’t gamble with your money?
If this parable had been used a lesson in understanding, honoring different perceptions of one another, and grace, then it would make sense to me. The master would be a metaphor for how one should not act. However, my impression of this story is that the master is sending a global message to his servants, and all of humanity through Jesus, and that message is supposed to be positive.
Was Jesus saying he was the “master,” and the time was coming when he’d entrust his ideas and ministry to his followers, and that they should share and enrich the jewels of spirituality with which he plans to leave them? If a follower takes the knowledge and growth to his grave, or “buries” it, I could see how that might cause frustration or sadness on Jesus’s part. However, this is not made very clear, at least not to my 21st century interpretation.
My daughter wrote a paper on this story last year for her schoolwork; her comments were the same as mine. Our conversation included the phrases “double bind,” “mixed messages,” and “unfairness.” The moral of this story for me is this: if you want someone to do something for you, explain that to them. If you want them to succeed in a task, provide clear guidelines for it. Review your expectations, and discuss potential rewards if the task is completed appropriately. If that person doesn’t do it correctly, show him or her grace and offer to teach him/her how to do it “right.” If that doesn’t work, then bless him or her and move on. (Can you tell I’m an educator?) Wasn’t Jesus an educator, too?
So let’s bless one another on our individual journeys, whatever they may be, and forgive ourselves when we are impatient or scorn others who operate differently. As my new Facebook profile picture says, “Stay Calm and Love One Another.”
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