I promised I wouldn’t do it again and so far this series I’d managed to avoid it but this Wednesday, in a moment of weakness, I succumbed and watched ‘The Apprentice’.
After an hour spent squirming on the sofa in acute embarrassment I finally saw Lord Sugar raise his arm, jab his stubby finger in the air and declare “Rebecca – you’re fired!” Oh the injustice of it all! Is this I wonder, how that poor old slave with his one talent felt when the master returned and found him wanting? Let’s push the analogy further …. the taxi arrives and Rebecca heads off … into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Perfect! But just a minute, if the one-talented slave is like the hapless Rebecca then the Master (who is God in this parable) must be Alan Sugar! Like all good analogies it eventually breaks down!
When you think about it though, many of us will have grown up with the image of God as a grumpy and hard-to- please old man sitting on a cloud and casting arbitrary judgements on his creatures below. But surely the whole of Jesus’ ministry should make us protest against such a view of Christianity, of the gospel, of God himself! Jesus said that he had come to call, not the righteous but sinners, he had come to seek and to save the lost. He told the leaders of the Jewish people how dangerous it was to think of things in terms of all the rules that must be kept. So what is this parable about?
At one level yes the message is ‘use it or lose it’. God has given us talents, abilities and other resources to use for the good of others, we all have something to offer. At another level Jesus is identifying the lazy slave with the scribes and Pharisees of his day. They had been given the law of Moses and the Temple, signs of God’s presence among them. They had received wonderful promises about how God would bless not only Israel but, through Israel, the whole world. And they had buried them all in the ground and kept the light for themselves. They had been worthless slaves and now they were to be called to account.
If the scribes and Pharisees are the third slave who fails to respond to the master’s generosity, who are the other two who do respond appropriately to the master’s trust? They are those who hear the call of Jesus and, on that basis, develop what Israel has already been given so that it becomes something fresh and new and available to all.
Today’s parable and others like it, do not give a complete picture of the creator God, the maker and lover of the world but point us to certain truths. Jesus told this parable as he was about to be cast into the outer darkness of the cross but we live in the light of the resurrection and Jesus himself scatters the darkness before us.
Let’s leave the last word to St Paul “beloved, you are not in darkness.. you are all children of light. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other”.
With my love and prayers
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