It’s too easy. Too slam dunk capitalistic for Jesus.
God gives you money. You invest it. And just like Wall Street, the Boss congratulates you for your investment success and gives you a promotion. It’s the perfect explanation of how the rich get richer and those who have been given only a little (bad karma or something) and don’t invest it properly…they can go to hell.
This is what the kingdom of heaven is like?
The easy answer promoted by western Christianity is “God rewards you for your success in helping God.” That’s why some denominations measure their success by the number of baptisms they perform and conversions they initiate. All denominations measure success by the numbers of people they’ve caught and added to their pews. If you use the gifts God gave to you in God’s service, then you will be rewarded.
The problem is – it doesn’t agree with grace because grace says no successful results are necessary. Except they are.
Explain that one to a nineteen year old and then ask him why he doesn’t need church.
Too quickly, we claim the man who gave his property to slaves to manage is the one God, the Father. But remember, Christians are supposed to believe God is love. Jump to the end of the story. Does Love call someone worthless (v. 30) and throw him into darkness because he didn’t use his money to the master’s advantage? I thought grace was unconditional. No payment required. No “at-least-give-me-back-what-I-gave-you… and with a little interest” kind of theology.
Maybe it has to do with “what you see is what you get.”
Maybe it’s the same kind of thing as “is the glass half full or is it half empty?”
Maybe it’s – where there is no fear of punishment, there is only passion for using what you’ve been given to its full advantage for the One you serve.
Or maybe: what you see is what God gets?
The man is who and whatever you perceive him to be – worthy of working your butt off for or worthy of fearing. Each kind of master inspires a certain kind of response: either “I’ll give you everything I’ve got” or “I’ll only give you back as much as you gave me, and no more.” Which kind of boss will you work hardest for? (Then ask, is Jesus my boss or the one who washes my feet?)
Maybe the kingdom of heaven is more about your attitude – the way you perceive the One you serve. Take a look at each of the three servants’ attitudes. The first two servants had no fear that if they used their master’s property and failed, they would be punished or thrown into outer darkness. They didn’t fear their master’s punishment. That’s why they could use his property (their time and talents) to its full advantage.
That’s how the spiritually rich get even richer. They believe in the goodness of their master and they love the One they serve with all their heart. They fear no punishment even if they fail. Their vision of the master continues to be validated. They are free to use the resources given to them. Their efforts are tireless. The results are outstanding. Their reward is great.
On the other hand, the servant who received little, perceived his master as harsh and able to pull a harvest out of thin air, thus the servant operated out of fear. He may have received a smaller amount because the master understood his servant’s less-than-appreciative attitude. This servant buried his talent in a hole in the ground…in the earth, adam, clay. He buried the talent within himself where it was not used.
True to the vision of the wicked servant, his master was harsh. The servant got what he saw. The result? His master remained harsh in his mind and he shed lots of tears and harbored much anger in his life.
Martin Luther said it this way: #12. I have often said that God acts toward man even as man is disposed; as thou thinkest and believeth concerning him, such he is to thee…If our hearts picture him as gracious or angry, pleasant or harsh, we have him that way. God is not to be mocked. Those who regard him as angry toward them will find him so; but whoever can say: I know that he will be a gracious father to me and forgive my sins, they will have that experience with him. There must, however, be no hypocrisy, no dissembling, as if the lips should say one thing and the heart thinks the opposite. Matthew 22:15-22, from The Sermons of Martin Luther, published by Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI, 1983) volume V:313.
So, how do you see the Most High? Do you have no fear?