Bible Study 1.23.12, 1.26.12, 1.29.12 For Worship 2.5.12Posted: January 19, 2012
Bible Study 1.23.12, 1.26.12, 1.29.12 For Worship 2.5.12
Matthew 25:14 “For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property;
15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more.
17 So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more.
18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’
21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’
22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’
23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’
24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow;
25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’
26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed?
27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.
28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents.
29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
Luke 19:11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.
12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive a kingdom and then return.
13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Trade with these till I come.’
14 But his citizens hated him and sent an embassy after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’
15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by trading.
16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten pounds more.’
17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’
18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’
19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’
20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound, which I kept laid away in a napkin;
21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow.’
22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you out of your own mouth, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?
23 Why then did you not put my money into the bank, and at my coming I should have collected it with interest?’
24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the pound from him, and give it to him who has the ten pounds.’
25 (And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’)
26 ‘I tell you, that to everyone who has will more be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me.'”
The Parable of the Talents gives us another remarkable opportunity to study the early oral transmission of materials that were incorporated into the Gospels. This Parable only appears in Matthew and Luke and is presumed by scholars to have been part of a document they call Q. Scholars still debate whether Q was an oral resource or a written document, and scriptures today tell us why that debate has substance. Matthew and Luke seem to be using the same basic plot line but their narratives are very different.
In Matthew the master is simply a “rich man.” In Luke the master is a “nobleman.” In Matthew the master’s resources were entrusted to three servants, and each of them was given a different amount. In Luke the master’s resources were entrusted to 10 servants and they are all given the same, and in the end only three servants come forward to give an accounting. In Matthew the successful stewards are given more resources to invest and work with. In Luke the successful stewards are placed in charge of cities controlled by the nobleman. In both cases the slothful servant is afraid to use the resources entrusted to him and incurs the wrath of the master. And both stories use the punch line: “to everyone who has will more be given; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
We should note that the Gospel of Thomas, an early sayings Gospel does not include the Parable of the Talents, but does include the punch line: “(41) Jesus said, ‘The person who possesses will be given more. And the person who does not have will be deprived of even the little that that person has.’”
Many scholars point to the extensive differences between the two stories in Matthew and Luke to argue for Q as an oral tradition rather than a written source. Other scholars argue that just because Matthew and Luke may have felt free to change stories found in Q doesn’t mean that it wasn’t written down, witness the many changes that scribes made in the texts just when they were copying. Luke’s version of the story seems to draw upon the historical precedent of Herod going to Rome in order to be confirmed by the Roman Senate as the “King of the Jews.” The “nobleman” in Luke’s version may also refer to the political jockeying among the Herod’s descendants, the Tetrarchs vying with one another for Rome’s favor and an expansion of their territories at one another’s expense.
So what then is the meaning of the Parable? First let’s consider the punch line, because it might be an afterthought that changed the original intention of the Parable. If Jesus is the “rich man,’ or the “nobleman” and the church are the stewards, and faith and the spiritual gifts are the talents or pounds, then the punch line makes some sense. Think of the spiritual gifts like Reiki, the transfer of energy from one person to another through spiritual connection. Reiki only works if the practitioner and the recipient believe in what they are doing. Some people would claim then that Reiki is only a placebo. So what. Placebos have been shown to work as effectively or more effectively than many medications, and without the side effects. But what if there are energy fields that can effect healing changes in people’s bodies? It still won’t work without faith.
The Parable then suggests that all followers of Jesus are entrusted with faith and some portion of the spiritual gifts. If they believe in their gifts and use their gifts their faith will increase. If the followers of Jesus don’t believe in the gifts Jesus has bestowed upon them, if they do not put their spiritual gifts to work, then they will be taken away. Perhaps this is why the church sometimes seems to be so spiritually bankrupt.
Both Matthew and Luke are saying: God calls us to service, because God has given us gifts to share. And God does not bestow gifts equally. God isn’t fair. But God is fair in that to those of us who have been given more, more is expected. Great or small God asks us to become all that we are. Don’t bury your gift, and let us learn to use our gifts to serve.
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. In both stories the owner of the property entrusts his resources to servants. Why?
2. How is the “master” described differently by Matthew and Luke?
3. How many servants are entrusted with resources in both versions of the Parable?
4. What is the complaint of the population against the “nobleman” in Luke’s version of the story?
5. What is the performance of the “industrious servants” in both stories?
6. What do the “slothful servants” do with the resources entrusted to them?
7. What excuses do the “slothful servants” make for their performance?
8. How does the “master” respond to the slothful servants in each version of the Parable?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF US
1. Who do you think is the Master?
2. Who do you think are the servants?
3. What do you think the talents and the pounds symbolize?
4. Why do you think Jesus told the Parable?
5. Have you ever felt like the one talent servant?
6. What are the principle fears that drive you?
7. What do you believe are your most important gifts?
8. Have you ever thought of any of your gifts as spiritual gifts?
9. What do you think the punch line of the Parable means? “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
10. How would you apply this Parable to United Church?