The following is a reflection on Matthew 25:14-30, the Gospel lesson appointed for November 13th, 2011, Proper 28, Year A according to the New Revised Common Lectionary. On this site there is also
• a reflection on the Hebrew Bible lesson for the same day.
The NRSV, which I reflexively use for sermon prep (along with the ESV), unfortunately gets this text wrong—or at the least it obscures it’s meaning by translating “pistos” as “trustworthy.”
Now, before all you Koine-Greek scholars jump on me, and tell me that “trustworthy” is a perfectly fine translation of “pistos,” I agree with you. It is.
Except that English-only readers miss that over and over again in the New Testament “pistos” means faith.
And, unless your congregation is one full of Boy Scouts, “trustworthiness” isn’t the foundation of the Gospel. But…”faith” is.
And that’s what Jesus is really talking about here, folks. Faith.
Three different people in Jesus’ parable, with different levels of “ability” (or “dynamis“–power, strength), were given resources for building up the Kingdom of God, and two showed “faith” and one didn’t.
This parable shows the element of risk that is endemic to the call of God. God always asks us to step out of our comfort-zone and act out of faith, not fear.
It’s what God expected of Noah when he told him to build an ark and collect animals. It’s what God expected of Abraham when he told him to leave his home. It’s what God expected of Moses at the burning bush. It’s what God expected of Mary when he sent the Angel Gabriel. It’s what God expected of Paul after knocking him off his horse.
Had any of those figures acted out of their fear (What will happen? Will we be safe? Will we have enough money? Will people still like me? Can I accomplish this?) instead of faith, the Bible would be a very different book.
And the difference between the two slaves who invested what the “Master” (“kyrios“–Lord) gave him, and the slave who dug a hole and buried what the “Master” gave him–is a willingness to have faith, instead of succumbing to fear.
It’s why the clarion call of the Scriptures, from the beginning to the end, is “do not be afraid.”
We are called to be people of faith, not people of fear.
For so many reasons.
For one, we do stupid, ridiculous things when we’re afraid.
But, even more, we lose sight that even through all the risks of failure, and all the failures themselves, God is still always with us. We don’t go through failure alone. And, on the other end, God turns our failures into things we couldn’t even imagine.
Trustworthiness is fine. It’s good. We like that.
But really, it’s all about faith.
And, faith is what God expects of us all.