So somehow I missed this passage when I set this series up. I kinda wish I hadn’t noticed because it’s a horrifying parable. But the goal here is to work through the whole gospel, for better or for worse. In order to get caught up I will combine what is scheduled as today’s reading with tomorrow’s (which maybe makes more sense anyway!).
As already stated, this is a horrifying parable. The traditional interpretation is that we all have something contribute (that’s nice), and that we are called and expected to use what we have to grow God’s kingdom (that’s not so unreasonable). But then at the end, the one slave who did not use what he was given for growth is left with nothing, and those who rejected this master are summoned to be slaughtered. Yikes. So much for “gentle Jesus.”
This is an image for God that I simply cannot embrace nor does it seem to match up with what God is going through Jesus in Luke. This whole gospel has been about equality and lifting up the lowly and bringing down the haughty. This passage seems to do the opposite. It paints a picture of God who is angry, power hungry, unrelenting, and unforgiving. So what do I do with it?
As always it’s important to keep Jesus’ audience in mind. This parable comes immediately after the Zacchaeus episode, and in that episode we see the generous, forgiving, loving, and empowering Jesus that we love and know. Zaccaheus is viewed by the authorities and the crowds as an unclean sinner, yet in Zacchaeus Jesus calls out beauty. But remember that the Zacchaeus episode has an audience. We’re not certain who specifically “all who saw it began to grumble” (19:7) were, but they are presumably the same people referred to in the beginning of this parable in verse 11: “As they were listening to this…” The target audience of this parable, are those who grumbled at Jesus who went to “be the guest of one who is a sinner.”
That does not mean that we are not in anyway the target audience as well, and can therefore throw this parable away as I subconsciously tried to do. It does, however, speak to what it means to be faithful with what God has given us. I think one could say that what Jesus is saying here is that if you are going to use the grace, love, blessing and gathering in of God in your life to judge, condemn, exclude, and marginalize, then look out. To be faithful with what God has given us is to build up, not tear down; it is to gather in, not to push out; it is seek and save what is lost, not discard what remains.
This is a tough one. Don’t take my interpretation as the interpretation. Remember parables are meant to disrupt and disturb us. They are meant to be messy. So what do you see in this mess?