Friday, November 18, 2011

Parables for Dummies

I get it now. It's effectively taken me 12.5 years, but I get it. Well... at least a part of it... finally.

I've been learning a lot about the Kingdom recently.

And I've been learning a lot about people recently.

Fascinatingly enough, the two go hand in hand.

I was listening to a podcast by Ben Pasley tonight about pastoring and what it should look like, when he just briefly mentioned what is traditionally called the parable of the talents. This is found in Matthew 25:14-30, and there is a very similar yet different parable in Luke 19:11-27 also. He was mentioning this in passing in light of how pastors should be faithful with the people under their care, as this passage is well used in helping us as followers of Christ understand we must be faithful with what we have been given. Then a light bulb went off and I had to stop the podcast because he was moving on, and I was not yet ready.

"The parable is about people!" I exclaimed.

As we pursue the Kingdom of God, we realize it is comprised of people. It is all about people. Jesus was always all about people. The Kingdom is about people. The Lord doesn't want an institution or a building or an organization, or even Heaven itself (that's why He left it, after all: He didn't want it in comparison to being able to have people, and now He will have both Heaven and people because He gave up that which He had to obtain that which He did not). The Lord desires people.

The parable of the talents is about the Kingdom. The very premise Jesus starts it with is "Again, it (the Kingdom) will be like..." and then He tells His story. The parable is about people!

Let's look at some highlights here from the Matthew passage to illuminate the true heart of God...
  • v. 14 "a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them" // The man is Jesus, those who have chosen to follow Him are (obviously) His servants, and His property is... you guessed it: people. Technically speaking, all of Heaven and Earth is now His because of the victory won only in His life and death and life. Yes: the mountains bow down and the seas roar at His name. All of creation sings His praise. But the rocks cry out where there is a lack of His people crying out. He has everything, but cares only for people!
  • v. 15 "he gave... each according to his ability" // We are entrusted with the measure of people to which we are able to be found faithful with. Yes, it says money. But this is a parable! Jesus is saying something bigger here than meets the eye! That bigger thing... is people!
  • v. 16 The man who had been given five talents "put his money (his people!) to work and gained five more" // This directly models the great commission! If we are charged with going and replicating other disciples of Christ, that models exactly what a financial investment is! Imagine this luxury: having a $20 bill, and then telling that $20 bill to go make more of itself. This is exactly what Jesus has done! We as people are the reward of His sacrifice! We are His prize! We are His treasure! He bought us at the price of His life! We as people are His property! Jesus is talking about being faithful with people here! Jesus was always about people! He never cared about things! Let's face it: He never really cared about money! If Jesus did care about money, He probably wouldn't have put Judas Iscariot in charge of it!
  • v. 18 "the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money" // This servant was not faithful with the people he had been entrusted with! How often do we as followers of Christ try to hide what was meant to not be hidden? By this I mean our lives, our stories, our homes, our food, our fellowship, and the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ itself (and more)?

Go on now and finish reading the parable for yourself, all with the perspective that it is about people. Watch then as the Spirit of God turns your life upside down and inside out, and then urges you to be faithful to invest in the people around you, so that they in turn will make investments into the people around them, and so on and so forth, until the ends of the Earth!

The Lord's delight is in people, and His happiness with us is found in the faithful care of people.

It is no coincidence at all that the parable of the Kingdom immediately following this is about the sheep and the goats. One of which was faithful with people. The other was not faithful with people.

The parable of the talents has nothing to do with talents at all. Can it be applied over to being faithful in all things, such as money and property? Sure. But in the end, the Lord doesn't care about these things. People are made for eternity; money, property, and others alike to these are not made for eternity. This really makes me want to go back through all of the gospels and reread each and every single one of Jesus' parables with this new found understanding.

He who has eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand, listen: The Kingdom of God is about people.


So I dare to ask it: are you faithful with the people in your life right now?

Do you dare to answer it?

Do you dare to do something about this?

How willing are you to pursue and advance the Kingdom of God?