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Part 22

14 Jul 2021

Matthew 25:14—30

Jesus tells a story where a businessman is about to go on a long journey, so he called his servants together and entrusted them with some of his money that they may conduct business on his behalf while he is away. 

There are a few things about this story that catch my attention. Firstly, notice that the Master did not give to his servants in equal measure. There was no equality in this transaction. The money belonged to the Master and he distributed it as he saw fit. 

However, although there was a no equality in what the servants received, they having received differing amounts of money, there was equity in that what they each had they received by grace from the Master. It is also worth noting that while there was not equality in that they received differing amounts, they each had equal opportunity to invest what they had received and to make a profit on their investment, and in doing so, increasing their Master’s wealth, their standing in his estimation, climbing the corporate ladder, so to speak, in that they could advance in their work situation being entrusted with greater responsibility, and presumably their own remuneration as a result.

There is so much being said at the moment regarding equity and equality, about economic systems, and about the supposed evils of Capitalism versus the apparently more just system of Socialism (or even, in some cases, Communism).

I was reading an article just last night written by a christian in which they were lamenting the evils of the Capitalist system with its inherent competition for financial resources. Apparently Capitalism and financial competition over profit is not Biblical.

Such thinking is out of step with the Bible’s portrayal of financial reality. As we see in this example, the Master apportions to his servants as he saw fit, not on the basis of some imposition of supposed fairness. What’s more, the parable as it plays out, clearly demonstrates that Jesus has set up the parameters such that there is inherent competition involved in the scenario.

It is the same throughout scripture. There is no indictment against gathering wealth, making a profit, procuring riches. There are injunctions against taking bribes, stealing, misappropriating funds, using counterfeit weights and measures, or counterfeit coins etc. but not against making a profit or procuring personal wealth, riches, or private property.

The real issue that scripture impresses upon us with regards to money, is not to pursue money as an end in itself so that it becomes a god and we a slave to it. Scripture  also consistently challenges us to ask the question of what we do with wealth once we are in possession of it. It, in other words, Scripture impresses upon us our social obligations and duties in regards to our money. The needy are to be cared for and the poor are not to be exploited in their lack.

Where we have come unstuck in our culture is not in that our economies are built in Capitalism, after all, Capitalism feeds, clothes, and houses more people at higher levels than any other human system, Capitalism having lifted the standard of living of a vast number of people globally in a way that no other system has even come close to emulating. No, the issue is that our Capitalist economic system has been unmoored from its ethical foundations which were supplied by the Christian faith and worldview.

Once it came unstuck from that framework, profit was pursued as an end in itself and people exploited in the pursuit of it. The bottom line became the bottom line and any sense of societal obligation or duty was jettisoned in the area of finance just as it has been in almost every other area of our culture.

On the flip side, in Scripture there were societal obligations and duties placed upon the poor to deal with their poverty, to work to pay their debts, even to the point of entering servanthood to the one to whom they owed money in order to work off that debt.

Now that is a very brief overview of the issue, and much more could and should be said on the matter (I will dedicate some time and space to writing on this issue at a future point). However, there are far too many christians pushing the agenda of Socialism, Critical Theory, and Social Justice, and railing against the evils of Capitalism, advocating for a societal change from our current economic system to that built on the foundations of Marxist thought.

The economic systems and assumptions of both the Old and New Testaments are not Socialist, but neither are they strictly Laissez Faire Capitalism. There is something else in play in both Old and New Testament expectations around how we earn our money, as well as what we do with it, both as those who have it, as well as for those who do not.

Now, back to our passage and the three servants.

Notice that the first servant, we are told, goes at once, immediately, without hesitation or fear. He knows exactly what is being asked of him and how he can best achieve those ends in service to his Master by gaining a profit on the Masters investment.

The second servant does likewise, however the third servant did something else. He hid the Masters money in a hole in the ground. Why?

Because he was afraid, afraid of losing his masters money, not for the Masters sake, but for the inevitable punishment that such a loss would bring upon the servant.

The servant would have been better off putting the money in the bank and earning interest on it until the Master returned. However, the servant was not thinking about making a return for the Master, he was more interested in preserving his own hide.

The issue isn’t how little money the third servant had, or how little his understanding or gifting in regards to economics and business. The issue was that he produced nothing for his Master because he was motivated by his fear and self interest.

Being motivated by fear preserved the original Talent but produced nothing. His fear resulted in zero growth. It resulted in stinginess, and in the end his fear caused him to lose what little he had been given.

Fear is, at rock bottom, unbelief, and as such, sin.

We try and justify our sin of fear by attempting to pass it off as something else. We disguise it to look like wisdom or prudence, and in the end, we try and dress up our fear as if it were in fact faith, after all, in not risking the loss of the little we had been entrusted with we are being good stewards of God’s gifts. In the end those gifts produce nothing, not because of the little we have been given, but because we were to scared to risk losing what little we had.

Now, we can decry the Master for not giving us more. We can whinge that we should’ve been given in equal measure as the first servant. We can even plead our case based on the severity of the Master, that his reputation is such that it produced in us fear that ultimately oppresses us and caused us to be unfruitful with the little we had.

The reality is that the Master is accountable to God and will answer to Him for how he treats his servants. However, we must never loose sight of the fact that we are also accountable to wisely put to use whatever we have in faith and faithfulness to the Lord. If we are unwilling to invest the little we have been given wisely in the hope of producing good fruit, then we risk loosing even the little that we have.

The irony is that fear in the end will always produce the very outcomes that we are seeking to avoid. The third servant incurred the wrath of his Master and what little he had was taken away from him and given to the first servant who had gone at once to invest his talents on behalf of the Master.

Let’s not fall foul of fear. Let’s not try and dress up our fear as if it was something other than a lack of faith.

As Christians we march under the banner that reads ‘It is finished’. All that needed to be done to earn our salvation has already been accomplished for us in the all sufficient work of Christ. We also stand in the promise that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus and our inheritance is being kept by God Himself, and we are being kept by His power.

In other words everything that could possibly be granted to us is already ours in Christ and the victory has already been won. We simply can’t be beaten or robbed of what has been won for us by Christ.

If our victory is certain and our inheritance assured, what is it exactly that we are afraid of?

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