Sunday

15 November 2020

Matthew 25:14-30

'For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.' (v.29)

Psalm 90

Background

In this story from Matthew’s Gospel we have to put ourselves in the position of the Jewish population at the time when the author was writing. A businessman travelling abroad would not have been able to do commercial business whilst he was away, nor was he permitted by Jewish law to practise usury, so he could not invest his money in someone else’s business to keep it safe. The master therefore decided to keep his money in 'the family', so to speak,  giving it to his servants to care for. It is shared out according to the individual capabilities of those concerned, so the servants do not all have the same amount. If they made a profit through wise investment,  the interest would be returned with the capital to the master, for the servants concerned were his agents and would know their responsibilities. It would seem that the first two servants just get on with making the right moves that would bring them into favour with their master by multiplying the money they were given. The third, whom I am sure realised that he had been given a much smaller amount of money, was well aware of his master’s attitude and decided not to take the necessary risk to gain interest. He decides to keep the capital safe so that he will have the full amount to return when the time comes to hand it over. The money is taken from him and handed over, the story goes to the ones who have made a profit, even though the cautious servant has not lost anything. The money was not his in the first place, therefore all he lost was his status. However, the message which comes at the end of the parable is that because he was not willing to take risks on behalf of the master, he was the one who lost out and was left out of the picture, so to speak.

Like so many of the parables at the end of Matthew’s Gospel this story seems to  speak to those who have heard Jesus call to them in one way or another and now have therefore have the responsibility of carrying out his commandments (to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love their neighbour as themselves) which of course take precedence over those given in Exodus 20. A. E. Harvey in his A Companion to the New Testament sees this story as reflecting on the rewarding of a person’s spiritual resources at the Last Judgement. Whether that was the original intention when Jesus told the story, it is difficult to judge.  However, the parable reminds us that when a person is called to follow Jesus they must do their best for him, not bury away their talents for no reward.

To Ponder:

  • Who do you relate to in the parable – the active and productive servants, or the more cautious being, who kept himself and the task he had been given to himself?
  • Do you relate at all to the image of the master, 'a hard man' according to the story? Do you think this story reflects the Jewish impression of a vengeful and punishing God, seen in parts of the Old Testament?
  • What can we learn from this account to help us in our day-to-day discipleship?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.

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