Friday, July 28, 2017

Fresh Look at Matthew: Matthew 24

I realize it seems that I have skipped five chapters.  The reality is that they are in longhand and I haven't found the time to transcribe them. It's a time-consuming process because I have to edit and my handwriting is horrendous, very small and cramped.  (Arthritis and laziness combined)So I am moving to Matthew 26, a very long chapter, and will return later to the others.

Matthew 24 and 25 are an interlude of prophecy, brought on, perhaps, from the disciples’ question at the beginning of 24.  I have a feeling Jesus is deliberately opaque about some of the details—why should we know everything about the future?—but the message of preparedness is clear.  “Be ready.  Do not forget that ultimately I’m returning.  You will be held accountable.”  Is this a scary, depressing message?  No, it’s a real one.  Without accountability, where would we be?  

The story of the talents is often preached but I think misunderstood.  Talents are money, so interpreting it as gifts and abilities is a bit of a stretch, but maybe it’s all right. 

Some might make an economic argument out of it.  Due to the class we are born into, we have assigned financial resources.  The less you have, the least likely you will be to take risks and therefore be unable to get out of poverty.  A person born to poor parents is less likely to take the risks to be a tycoon than a person born to millionaire parents (can we say Donald Trump?) Why should this man then be judged for his fear of risk and inability to know how to use wealth? And if wealth were redistributed (in which case then it would not be wealth!) we would have equality of opportunity and there would be less chance of the last servant having so much less (one fifth) of what the first servant was given. 

It is interesting that he is told to have at least invested it with the bankers for interest.  I did not know there were bankers at that time and was taught banking started with the Medicis in Florence in the 1300s or so.  Why human beings would not have figured out banking before that makes no sense.  One thing humans are good at it finding ways to increase wealth. 
Sounds good as an ideological argument, except that it doesn’t follow in reality and is not the point of the parable.  First, I really think the key is in the last servant’s attitudes:  “You are a harsh and unfair man and I was afraid,” he says to the master; it is not the lack of money that causes his failure, but his internal attitude toward the master.  Second, the money was never his in the first place!  He was supposed to do something with it!  His gifts were given “to each according to his own ability” so he did not expect equal results but did expect something, not for it to lie uninvested. 

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