November 14, 1999
The kingdom is also like what happened when a man went away and put his three servants in charge of all he owned. The man knew what each servant could do. So he handed five thousand coins to the first servant, two thousand to the second, and one thousand to the third. Then he left the country.
As soon as the man had gone, the servant with the five thousand coinsused them to earn five thousand more. The servant who had two thousand coins did the same with his money and earned two thousand more. But the servant with one thousand coins dug a hole and hid his master's money in the ground.
Some time later the master of those servants returned. He called them in and asked what they had done with his money. The servant who had been given five thousand coins brought them in with the five thousand that he had earned. He said, "Sir, you gave me five thousand coins, and I have earned five thousand more."
"Wonderful!" His master replied. "You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!"
Next, the servant who had been given two thousand coins came in and said, "Sir, you gave me two thousand coins, and I have earned two thousand more."
"Wonderful!" his master replied. "You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!"
The servant who had been given one thousand coins then came in and said, "Sir, I know that you are hard to get along with. You harvest what you don't plant and gather crops where you haven't scattered seed. I was frightened and went out and hid your money in the ground. Here is every single coin!"
The master of the servant told him, "You are lazy and good-for-nothing! You know that I harvest what I don't plant and gather crops where I haven't scattered seed. You could have at least put my money in the bank, so that I could have earned interest on it."
Then the master said, "Now your money will be taken away and given to the servant with ten thousand coins! Everyone who has something will be given more, and they will have more than enough. But everything will be taken from those who don't have anything. You are a worthless servant, and you will be thrown out into the dark where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain." [CEV]
1. An important alternative reading comes in the invitation of the first and second servants to come and share happiness. The Cotton Patch and The Message both speak of partnership as the image. In some sense this recognizes that both these folks behaved as though they were partners even though the language about them both is that of subservients. The "master" recognizes the partnership. Partnership has a different, more active, feel than simply entering into "happiness." [A cynic might say that they had learned to take advantage of the economic system to their own advantage. They were like their master, reaping where they had not sown, getting profit off the top. To get the kind of return they did they probably did not invest in non-profit/worker-friendly organizations, long-term infrastructure development, or socially-conscious products.]
2. A question for the church is how we are seen. All too often, as representatives of "the kingdom," we are known as "hard to get along with." We demand loyalty when we haven't invested our time, energy, resources, blessings in people's lives - particularly in those lives which differ from the congregational power-brokers. It is little wonder that folks will literally and figuratively bury anything that seems to come from the church. The Jesus who participated in people's lives with healings and encouraging words isn't recognized in the lives and words of those who claim to follow Jesus. If we turn this story around to catch all its facets we will have to look at this disturbing view.
3. The first two points have contained much that is difficult to deal with. Let's end on a positive note. We have been left in charge of only a little (although in the story the money involved would be enough for several lifetimes) and by our living have been put in charge of much more. This is the way we grow - from little to much.
Here's an exercise to try. In the midst of whatever you consider your "work" to be, imagine you are a partner with GOD in doing it. Choose a 15 minute time frame. See how much of that you are able to keep a dual understanding that GOD is a partner with you in your work. After the experiment is over ask some questions like, "how often did I have to stop to reset a picture of partnership?" "was my work happier because I was partnered?" "will I need to change work because my partner let me know this wasn't the work I was created for?" "did the little things really take on more importance and lead to much more?"
I would be interested in your experience of this exercise. You can let me know at email@example.com
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