Digging a hole
Matthew 25: 14-30 (NRSV)
14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 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 replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 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. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Where is God in this story? Many people look at the honesty and courage of the slave who buried the money and cheer him on. He is sticking it to his boss who seems to be much more concerned with the money that has accrued rather than were it has come from. Money, money, money. So how can the master be God? God is not known in the Bible to call a truthsayer ‘worthless slave”. He is not known to say the end (sum) justifies the means (regardless of morality).
Perhaps this parable ISN’T a morality play telling us what God is like. Perhaps this is as much a horror story as it sounds — right to the last threat of the master. Perhaps this is thieving capitalism writ large in the Bible. You can imagine the shock hitting the disciples – “So where is God in all this?”, “Isn’t whistleblowing a later development, Jesus”, “So who’s doing God’s work here?” No answers. Just another parable which reminds the sheep to be sheep and leave the goats to be goats. The difference: justice, care for the poor, the prisoner. The difference is the Gospel message which Jesus himself shared in Luke 4 when he began his ministry. Better to read that to find treasure than go digging holes!
Lord, turn the world upside down. Help me see justice where it stares me in the face. Today, tomorrow, everyday. Let me not be questioning where the right is between the accumulation of wealth by any means and justice God’s way. Help me believe that you are calling us to turn the world upside down and when we can’t really see you in stuff, then turn away and find where you are. Let us be drawn to your justice and live in your peace. Amen.