In Matthew 25, Jesus introduces us to a fellow who wants nothing to do with a loving master. He wants neither the master nor his bothersome love. The parable of the three servants receiving five, three, and one talent each to invest describes a loving master [a ‘type’ of God] who showers his charges with treasures. Two accept the conditions, but one rejects them.
Jesus called him lazy. Not incompetent, or incapable. Lazy. He is severely punished and sent away.
Image by Gerd Altmann
By John Pearring
We may be wrong about the God someone says they don’t believe in. Are they talking about the God we know? If they knew him, they’d be over the moon. Wouldn’t they?
According to Jesus, not everyone wants the real God.
In Matthew 25, Jesus introduces us to such a man—a fellow who wants nothing to do with a loving master. He wants neither the master nor his bothersome love. The parable of the three servants receiving five, three, and one talent each to invest describes a loving master [a ‘type’ of God] who showers his charges with treasures. Two accept the conditions, but one rejects them. Jesus called him lazy. Not incompetent, or incapable. Lazy. He is severely punished and sent away.
Our God is a serious God.
I think I’m right that most people who can’t believe in the real God simply don’t grasp that our God “can” exist. I’m clearly hoping God’s parable is about a rare individual.
We don’t know the heart of a person, but I imagine, like me in my own sinfulness, the ignorant are cynical about such a wondrous entity, but not fully lost. Perhaps life hasn’t inspired them enough to experience overwhelming holiness. They might not know the highlights of this life are peeks and snapshots into a place where only goodness resides.
“God’s busy. Don’t bother him,” works pretty well to derail folks. Without rejecting God per se, an unbeliever makes God out to be an elitist, addicted to a throne, or logically limited in communicating with every single being at every moment. “Sheesh, that’s just too much for any entity!”
Explaining away holiness or self-sacrifice as foolish works too. Call the truly good a fantasy, just pretend, like when children play. Where goodness truly pops out, it’s called luck. Goodness isn’t a gift, because everyone doesn’t get the same stuff. Worse, those who have all they need operate under the awning of unearned privileges. By this point, there is no God at all.
Two categories of human rejection are explained from these examples—the duped and the dupee. The dupee, our third servant, has a different quality from the duped. Mistaken notions of God aren’t the fault of the uneducated and the poorly trained. We can agree that a God who is distant, who doesn’t care about the poor isn’t a god at all. And a god who gets so angry that his rage impacts the innocent is also not the real God. When the innocent are collateral damage, a horrifying substitute for god has stepped in. Don’t believe in that God. Don’t be duped.
The ignorant are brainwashed into believing evil is from God. When you agree with the duped that the god they reject is fake you have an opportunity to witness the true God.
Dupees—those who know the true God and reject him—operate from an evil beyond the pale.
What bothers many of us about the buried talent servant (yes, he buried his treasure) is that he was afraid of God. He said that he was afraid. Isn’t he just mistaken about who God is, then? He thought God was some kind of fiend. Isn’t he just ignorant? Shouldn’t he be treated like anyone who misunderstands who God is?
No, says Jesus.
The lazy servant is a person who acts consistently in rejection. He is not a bamboozled man. I looked up some evil dudes and dudettes in scripture. Bad wives and evil women in the Bible have done great damage: such as leading Solomon astray; betraying Samson; and ordering the killing of John the Baptist. God warned Eli in the Book of Samuel about the coming judgment upon him and his sons, but he didn't listen. Eli’s two sons were killed by the Philistines and the ark of the covenant was stolen. Upon hearing the news, Eli fell backward on his chair, broke his neck, and died. God was rejected, not misunderstood.
Jesus introduced us to another.
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, 'Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.'
“I knew you,” he said. He knew all about him. “Here it is back.”
The God he knew was too demanding. Too unforgiving. Too impossible to please. That might not sound like the real God, but it is. The real God can look and sound like that through a lens of rejection.
The talent is a sizable sum. Scholars guess a talent is a year’s wage. The master—a parable about God—didn’t fit what the lazy servant wanted. He perceived his good and generous master as a trickster, an overbearing governor, and a hard-to-please taskmaster.
After knowing God we either love God or reject him. People who have been lied to about God likely don’t yet know him. They’re unaware of goodness at the level of pure love. An innate hope for a loving God who forms us into saints translates into loving God back. When we meet him we are no longer ignorant. A disobedient, dissenting, and another d-word—disagreeable—person wants love but not the formation, nor the bother of loving God back.
A rejecting person gets the message of love, mercy, and transformation, but they don’t like it. The real God is formative, engaged in our lives, keen on everything we do, and urges us like a parent to be better, to be just like him. God can be generous and even envelop some with great prosperity. A person mired in evil doesn’t want any prosperity from God, because it comes with strings attached.
The dour fellow we’re examining (inserting God for ‘Master’) saw God’s abundant results as a wealth scheme, a front for his master’s asset hoarding. Matthew’s loser servant treated the talent as a trap, not a gift.
Burying the talent meant he needed to protect himself, probably from squandering the talent away. He might have figured God would respect him for having a keen sense of knowing God cannot be pleased. He’d hidden the gift from his awful self by calculating that the odds were against him. We can imagine that he genuinely expected the others to lose their talents by engaging in schemes.
Not him, though. He knew how tricky God could be. He’d not be tricked!
His punishment sounds severe but where his master sent him is exactly where he imagined what an angry God would do.
“And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”