Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Gospel of Matthew - Self Protective Lovelessness

 Matthew 25:14-30

This is the famous parable of the master who, before going on a journey, gives varying numbers of talents to his servants, according to their abilities. Two servants use them profitably to increase on investment. One servant buries his in a field. Upon return the master praises the profitable servants and condemns the profitless servant as lazy, saying the he could at the very least have put his talent in the bank where it would have earned interest.

In a long ago Bible study, the priest pointed out that the good servants success in "small matters" are only given perspective in the great joy of the master.

"Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.

I love that the success even in small matters gives the master great joy.

Also, the lazy servant wasn't punished for trying and failing. He was punished for not even trying the bare minimum. You get the idea that possibly if he had tried and failed, the master might have been understanding. It is the lack of effort, not the failure to achieve, which is being condemned.

Ok, now let's turn to C.S. Lewis from his book The Four Loves. I already love this quote, but the C.S. Lewis Bible uses it for reflection on this parable.

The parable of the talents, depicted in a 1712 woodcut. The lazy servant searches for his buried talent, while the two other servants present their earnings to their master.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God’s will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness. It is like hiding the talent in a napkin and for much the same reason. "I knew thee that thou wert a hard man." Christ did not teach and suffer that we might become, even in the natural loves, more careful of our own happiness. If a man is not uncalculating towards the earthly beloveds whom he has seen, he is none the more likely to be so towards God whom he has not. We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them nd offering them toHim; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.

This series first ran in 2008. I'm refreshing it as I go.


  1. Also, look at Kenneth E. Bailey’s “Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes— for decades he lived in small villages which have not changed as much as we might think in 2,000 years, and he has some very interesting things to say about layers of cultural meaning which are invisible to us!

  2. Thanks, Nancy! I've heard of him but haven't had a chance to pick up his book on Jesus. Luckily, William Barclay does a lot of that heavy lifting also. His book is from a while ago but thanks to how little has changed culturally in the last 2,000 years, as you say, he is still very reliable. But Bailey is on my wish list now! :-)