What if…we should grab the shovel and dig?
One of our lectionary texts this week is a familiar parable.
We call it the parable of the talents.
Matthew 25:14-30 is often used in sermons to encourage good stewardship through the wise
use of one’s “talents” and gifts.
This point is driven home through the lifting up of the master’s response.
The master gives the praise of “well done” to those
who invested the talents given to them thereby producing a return,
while the servant who buried the talent and produced no return is
deemed “worthless” and thrown into outer darkness.
But what if, Jesus is telling this parable for a different reason?
What if…there are times we should grab the shovel and dig?
This parable is told by Jesus just days before His arrest and crucifixion
by those in POWER.
We immediately know that the man going on the journey is wealthy
and therefore, powerful by the world’s standards.
He is rich enough to leave for a long trip, to have wealth needing management while he is away,
and to have servants available to be in charge of that work.
Typically the thinking regarding this parable is that the wealthy man represents God
and we are the servants.
Yet, when the wealthy man returns, we hear troubling things from the third servant
about the one he calls “master”.
We hear that the master is “harsh”, that he reaps from places he has never sown,
and gathers where he has never scattered seed.
In other words, the master is ruthless and has gained wealth at the expense of others.
This ruthless practice is elevated in the parable as the master gives the one talent from the digging servant to the servant with the 10 talents. The master then pronounces that the rich will become richer in “abundance” and the poor “who have nothing” will become even poorer.
If we approach this parable as we typically do, identifying Jesus as the wealthy master,
it should definitely leave us with questions.
Afterall, Jesus has always identified Himself with the poor, the powerless, the outcast,
and with those “who have nothing”.
This identification began in the womb as Mary sang about her son’s presence in the world bringing change to the status quo:
“My soul magnifies the Lord…
“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.”
– Luke 1:47, 52-53
Jesus describes His own ministry in Luke 4:18-19,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor…
to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And, immediately in the next parable, Jesus identifies Himself with
“the least of these” and invites into the Kingdom as “blessed” those who have ministered
to Jesus through their care for those who are least.
Perhaps Church, Jesus tells this parable to illustrate that, for those of us who are following Him,
it’s time to grab the shovel and dig, because some things need to be buried.
Wealth then and now = power.
The love of wealth over love of God = injustice/sin.
The master loved wealth and rewarded those who shared that love,
while punishing the one who was wise enough to “fear” that way of life.
The third servant refused to participate in the master’s way of living.
The third servant chose not to perpetuate a system
which made the rich richer and the poor poorer.
The third servant chose not to strengthen the status quo
by picking up a shovel and digging.
Church, the way of this world is not the way of God, and our love of comfort needs to be buried.
I confess to you that in my heart of hearts, I often don’t want to pick up the shovel and dig.
The color of my skin gives me a very comfortable privilege with which to live and move in this world.
My bank account affords me comfort.
Where I live gives me comfort.
My relationships, those I have and those I don’t have, give me comfort.
Comfort in and of itself is not bad.
My love of those comforts to the point of ignoring the discomfort and pain of others, is sin.
In our baptismal vows we covenant that we will:
“resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”
Church, this is a promise we make to grab the shovel and dig.
To bury the thinking that those who have less are worth less.
To bury the thinking that might equals right.
To bury the thinking that there is no privilege in being white.
To bury the thinking that God wants us to be comfortable.
We are approaching the season where we will hail the birth of the Prince of Peace.
Unfortunately, the peace we seek is often a peace that undergirds and continues our comforts.
Jesus promises that the peace He gives is unlike the world’s peace, unlike the status quo.
Church, Christ’s peace will be uncomfortable.
Christ’s peace will disrupt the status quo.
Christ’s peace will necessitate change.
May God grant us His peace that, like the third servant, we may have the courage to pick up the shovel and dig. May the peace of Christ be with us, so that we may bury our comfortable acceptance
of so much that is unacceptable to God.
Grabbing the shovel with you and thankful for you,
If you would like to view past editions of Grace for the Journey, follow this link: https://fairwaydistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/