The Plight of the Poor
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30
Whenever I find an interpretation of scripture too easy to understand, too obvious or too much in line with my own bias and ideology, my religious scam detectors go off like early warning radar seeing missiles coming over the horizon. I realize that I have fallen into a trap. Next I enter into a kind of laundry cycle of write, reflect, research, discard, repeat. It takes me a long time to digest and distill such challenging messages.
The more I studied the social tensions between wealth and poverty in Jesus' time the more convinced I became that this parable is enormously MISunderstood. Ironically what started out as an indictment against unjust economic practices has been morphed into a feel-good piece about using our spiritual gifts to build up the church. The first thing you need to know is the Greek word ''talent'' referred exclusively to a very large sum of money equal to about $2.5M in today's currency. It had nothing to do with spiritual or practical gifts.
Secondly, the parable begins with Jesus saying ''It is as if a man going on a journey …'' Most preachers just assume that ''It'' is the kingdom of God. Then they assume that the landowner is God and that the story is an allegorical tale. These assumptions lead to many difficulties. But what if Jesus is interpreting the economic laws of Leviticus and the landowner really is a scoundrel? What if Jesus began the parable saying ''Let me tell you a story about what happens when people do not obey the laws of the Torah. It is as if …''
What makes this particular parable of Jesus so easy to get wrong involves what sociologists call our ''social or cultural location.'' Our values, lifestyle, economic system, sense of change and social class are so different from the world of Jesus that not only do we often miss the point, we interpret the story complete the opposite of what Jesus probably intended.
I know this is diffi ...
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