catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 20 :: 2005.11.04 — 2005.11.17


Knowing the Master

On Wednesday afternoon, I attended my second worship planning session for our church. Having gained some distance from my former job as the church office manager, I felt the time was right to get involved in the life of our faith community in this new way.

The text that we discussed, The Parable of the Talents as recorded in Matthew 25:14-30, is one of the lectionary texts for Sunday, November 13. By way of summary, this familiar story recounts the response of a wealthy master when he returns to find that two servants who were in charge of his money have multiplied what they were given while one, who was entrusted with the least amount, has taken pains to protect his singular talent and has not multiplied the wealth at all. In re-reading the parable for preparation before the meeting, I realized that, in stumbling over ourselves to discover how we can imitate the faithful servants, we often miss the lesson of the unfaithful servant, the one who most resembles ourselves.

When the ?unfaithful? servant says that he knows the master is ?a harsh man, reaping where [he] did not sow,? he is telling the truth about who he understands the master to be, but he is dead wrong. In fact, even his actions are a poor reflection of his beliefs about the master and the master calls him on it, saying, ?Oh, you knew I was a harsh man? They why didn?t you at least put my money in a savings account where it would have earned the smallest amount of guaranteed interest??

The servant has neglected to perceive and internalize the whole picture. What kind of ?harsh? master gives away large sums of discretionary money before he goes away on a trip, saying ?Do what you will?? Indeed, the master is the complete opposite of who the unfaithful servant perceives him to be. The servant, therefore, is ?wicked? and ?lazy? because he has created the master in the image of his own simplistic fears and has not even done a good job of serving that false image. He has failed to accept the master?s goodness and for that the master gives the servant over to his own fear?fear that our purpose as humans is to compete with one another and that the quantifiable losers will suffer harsh, painful judgment.

I am grateful for the mocking example of this pathetic servant and for the opportunity to empathize with his ridiculous efforts. How often do I patronize the living God by assigning the qualities I desire, not the qualities that are? How often do I proceed with half-hearted attempts to appease this God out of fear, when I should be engaged in acts of passionate reverence and joy? If God truly is perfect in mercy and joy and peace and justice, my actions should proceed from an overflowing love and longing for the presence of this God?but how often are my malnourished deeds of ?faith? born of a shrewish obligation?

We all would do well to allow our faith in a gracious, forgiving God to drive our deeds, rather than our fear of a ?harsh? God who accepts or condemns on the basis of how well we hoarded our quantifiable gifts. A god in our own image is a small, neurotic, bookkeeping god. The God of the cross is infinitely abundant and merciful. Let us have the courage to act according to the full promise of the living God.

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