A Passion for Parables
I have always loved Jesus’ parables, the complete narrative of the story that has the defined lesson, but that seems to apply to so many people’s lives where ever they are at in life. The Parable of the Bags of Gold, or the Parable of the Talents as it is commonly preached, is one of those commonly used passages that basically preaches for itself. I have heard this piece of Scripture preached as an illustration for Christians in many different ways. One is to do their best with what God has blessed them. A talent, one bag of gold, would have been 20 years worth of wages for these men, so for us to apply this, we need to use God’s investment for His glory for the next twenty years and see abundance come out of it. Another illustration is that it doesn’t matter if God gives you many things or a few, He will still love your intentions and effort equally. Notice in verses 21 and 23 are an exact duplicate response, even though the two men brought back significantly different amounts.
But my issue is not with the lesson of the parable, but instead integrating it into my life. Here is the passage I am struggling with:
14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Confronting the Scriptures
Since I can remember, I have always believed that I was the man that received the five bags of gold. I have lived a fairly blessed life with amazing parents, wonderful siblings, a wonderful set of gifts quickly revealed to me, and a faith that has been deeply rooted in Scripture and a relationship with Christ. Luke 12:48b states, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” With God blessing me so much, I have felt a huge desire and responsibility to deeply and richly understand my faith and share it with much of the world.
So last week in one of my counseling classes, we were talking about those we might interact with, many who will come from broken homes and terrible issues. At the beginning of this discussion, I would have thought these people were the one bag men. But as our discussion progressed, someone stated that they would have thought that our clients who overcame adversity, a woman who went from abusive parents to a compassionate pastor or a son with had to earn everything he wanted would graduate with a Doctorate from Yale, would be the person with five bags of gold.
My Theology Was Rocked
The foundation of my faith was not shaken, but I quickly reflected on the fact that I was too obsessed with who I was on this list. I had begun labeling people, including myself and potentially limiting my own understanding of all of my relationships. If I would hold to this, I could miss the passionate poet in the high school jock at youth group or be oblivious to the deeply caring Justin Beiber obsessed middle school girl. So while the lesson of doing our best is learned from this passage, I have come away with a worldview-altering compassion for the individuals I am in relationship with. I now want to see the whole person of everyone I am in contact, beyond the emo hair or “I have it all together” persona.
What do you think? Anything deeper you can glean from this passage? Have you been stuck labeling people instead of going deeper into truly knowing those you care about?