I’m often befuddled by why the certain scriptures are joined together in the daily and Sunday readings. I often do not see the fit.
Today, for better or worse, I do. Beware: I know not what this may mean. Either I’ve been enlightened, or what passes next will be worthless.
In the first reading, Paul speaks to the Corinthians: “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; . . .” 1Cor.1:27.
There are many other instances where Paul, the psalmists, and others enjoin us to set aside our worldly wisdom and pride and listen to the Lord. Jesus himself did as well.
Now the fundogelicals (coined by Grumpy Lion), would have us believe that higher education and all that “fancy” learnin’ is being condemned here, and God is really telling us that the common average person need only read the actual words of his book, and receive the perfect truth unto all things.
But I don’t think that is what Paul or any of the others is really saying. And I believe the attached Gospel reading informs us as to the true meaning.
In Matthew 25: 14-30, Jesus tells the parable of the Talents. In the story, the Master, going on a trip, parcels out his wealth among his servants to care for. He gives no instructions, but gives the largest amount to the most competent, giving only one talent to the third, and apparently, least competent of his servants.
The first two servants take the Talents given them and invest them, by trading. The third, fearful of losing the Master’s money buries his Talent for safekeeping. We don’t know what kind of speculation and risk the first two ran, only that they were successful in doubling what had been given them. But the risk appears to have been certain.
The Master receives his servants and is pleased with the first two, and outraged at the third who exclaims that knowing the Master to be harsh and one who by apparent quick wits is able to make money without any work, has thus hid his one Talent without risking anything.
I have often been puzzled by this parable. Certainly I see that Jesus is saying that God is sending out servants to do the work of conversion and bringing the people to God. The third, fearful of God’s wrath, doesn’t “preach” to anyone, but only remains “secure” in his own salvation. This I get.
But the story seems not the way of the world, not how we would expect the Master to respond. Why does he congratulate those who took his money and risked losing it, and condemn the one who protected his funds?
This is what Paul is referring to. Jesus upsets our standard thinking. The way of the wise, in the world, would praise the third servant for protecting the assets of his Master. But God wants us to risk ourselves because only in doing so do we really gain our salvation. It is by risking ourselves for the sake of others that pleases God.
We are taught that the lessons of God are not the lessons of the world, and are framed in ways that jar and upset us. They make us think!
This is no denigration of learning or conventional wisdom. God has no desire that we remain in caves living simple hunter-gatherer lives. He gave us marvelous minds and he wishes us to use them. We are to discover electricity, the uses of the atom, the live-saving properties of plants. We are to learn the methodology of how live evolved upon this planet.
All this is good and proper. All this can enrich life and make it better for all.
But, only if, IF we remember that God’s wisdom is quite another thing. God has no need of wisdom about thermodynamics or string theory. He knows the ways of His universe all too well. His wisdom is “other” and is at odds with our world of logic and induction and deduction.
This is why Jesus’ parables are always difficult. They cut across the grain of our sensibilities and alert us that important stuff is about to come. We cannot dismiss the seeming illogic of the parable of the talents because it was told by our Lord, and thus we must ponder and think it out, and realize the hidden truth.
The truth is not made obvious, because superficial acknowledgement is not true faith. Faith requires time and attention. If we seriously love, we seriously spend time thinking about God and what he would have us do.
If we seriously love God, then we seriously love each other, and we seriously do our important brainy things with the good of all in mind. We turn our considerable mind talents to increase the betterment of life for all God’s creatures, the good, the bad, the gifted, the simple, the eager, the lazy, the old and the young. For great and small, we prepare and risk ourselves in doing our best to express our love through our works.
And thus, we are able to proclaim as Paul does “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”