Saturday, May 10, 2014

The parable of the Stewards: Moral Lessons & Conclusions

From the beginning I asserted that verse 15, with the phrase, "to each according to his own ability" was key to grasping this parable.  The parable is set towards the end of Matthew at the end of Christ's earthly ministry, right before His passion.  It is one of 3 or 4 parables He delivers in regards to the question in 24:3, "Tell us when these things will be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?"  Immediately after this parable Christ plainly tells us in 25:31-46 of that coming Day of Judgment.

It is in this context that we find such a parable.  And at the end of this parable we see verse 29, "For to everyone who has more will be given, and he will have abundance, but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away."
What do we learn?  Our Lord does entrust to us a stewardship - and we have a response - ability to manage it aright.  What we do with the stewardship will differ from person to person - both as we are obedient & faithful to the work, or as we are not!

Our Lord is not capricious - to each according to his own ability.  We read in Luke 12:48b, "...For everyone to whom much has been given much will be required; and to whom much has been committed of him they will ask the more."

In another place Augustine of Hippo said, "Give what you command, and then command whatever you will."  We are to work - but only as a response to the Lord.  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
So why does God take the one talent from the unprofitable servant and grant it to the one who has ten?  Is this fair?  In our key verse we are reminded that to each according to his own ability, and that is of God.  Since the unprofitable servant had the ability to manage 1 talent, but neglected his responsibility to manage it we can easily reason that it was fair to take it from him.  Yet one might question why the talent taken from him was granted to the one with ten, and not the one with four.  What was the rational? Was this fair?

Of course to ask such a question we plunge ourselves right into Paul’s argument in Romans 9.  Paul asks the very same question of God - Is He fair in what He is doing?  Then Paul shows us the folly of such a question. (Rom 9:14-24)  And the fact that our passage is only a parable does not mean we ask these questions in irrelevance.  The Spiritual truths are why Christ is teaching.  The argument in Romans 9 continues through chapter 11 in a great doxology (11:33-36).  Deep waters indeed.
Is it wrong to ask such questions? Not at all.  Christ teaches us because He knows we will and do ask such.  Paul asks in as plain and clear language as one can use.  What is wrong, would be to make conclusions which demonstrate God to not be what we know He is, as He is already revealed in His Holy Word.

Sometimes this leaves in our mouth an unsatisfying taste.  We want complete understanding as to the mechanics of HOW God is just, granting the man with ten talents one more and not giving it to the man with four.

And we even surmise, that since He is God and He is the giver of all things, even the ability to manage talents, why then, does He grant some more than others?

But we fall for the lie to travel this line of reasoning too far.  We are not gods or as God, knowing good & evil.  In fact we are even worse than we suppose.
Recently Brannon Howse introduced to me a doctrine which beforehand had not been known to me.  The doctrine of concurrence. And I think it a wise matter to consider at this point.

There are times we see 2 apparently contradictory truths & reconciliation looks impossible, without more understanding or compromise.  As compromise is not acceptable we have to admit to our limited understanding of the truths and move on, for a time to other places, in Scripture, until greater understanding is acquired.  But do come back.
Concurrence is the recognition of our inherent inabilities to grasp all that we know of certainty, of God & His Works, and keep them balanced.

But we should not use it as an excuse or tool for laziness.  Do come back to those hard to understand teachings.  It may be that God will grant, due to greater life experience and Scriptural study time, new frameworks from which your contradiction may be reconciled.
Or He may not.  Just be prepared.  He is not One to trifle with.  Jacob wrestled with God all night for a blessing.  We ought to grapple with God and His Word, yet in reverence and awe - for we are only men & women, creature not creator.

Lord, grant us humility & yet help us to tenaciously strive to understand You better.

Amen

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