This week in Scripture

I’ve been thinking about posting reflections here about some of the readings we do on Sundays, but I am a procrastinator, and I also worried about not knowing enough to really render opinions on these things out in public. I’m kind of a perfectionist (I know, people who know me personally may now reel back in shock).

This week, our Gospel passage was Matthew 25:14-30. For those both unfamiliar and disinclined to go and look it up, this is a parable where Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to the story of a master going on a journey and leaving money with three slaves. They are to watch after it until he returns. When he does, two have traded or invested the money and now have more to give him than they started with, and they are rewarded. The third fears that the master is harsh and unfair, so he hides the money away and gives it back exactly as-is, and is punished.

Now, this is the kind of story that used to strike me as a demonstration of how not-cool the Christian God was. All that talk about the third slave gnashing his teeth in the outer darkness, and he technically didn’t do anything wrong! That’s not fair, is it? How Old Testament! (In the sense where some people, most of whom haven’t talked to Jewish people much about it I’d imagine, use “Old Testament” to mean “Mean God,” as opposed to the New Testament’s “Nice God.”) In fact, if I remember correctly, this was the way it struck me only a few months ago when I was reading. But now it doesn’t. Why not?

The point of this story isn’t actually about what’s “fair.” I think to a large extent, we cling to the idea of what’s “fair” and what we’re owed when we’re afraid of getting cheated out of something. But what I think about now when I read this passage is that it’s a parable. What God gives us isn’t actually money, is it? It’s love. All through both testaments, what God gives is not only right judgment (which He does give) but above all, love and mercy. Although it’s money in this particular parable, it more often appears symbolically as light. And there’s lots and lots of other passages about not hiding lights under bushels and not being stingy about the love to God and our neighbors.

Love isn’t for hoarding; it isn’t for burying under the rock beside the tree and making sure nobody finds it. It’s for trading with others who love us back, and investing in those who need love and mercy – which is, you know, pretty much everybody. By doing this, we multiply the amount of love and mercy in the world by inspiring it in and teaching it to others. (Honestly, the majority of religious or moral paths of any seriousness that I know of, know this.  The line I tend to remember most for this is from a dedication ritual for the Fellowship of Isis, where the teacher lights a candle for the student with the words , “Light shared is not divided, it is multiplied.”)

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