Lately I have been thinking about our old dog, Buddy. Nothing made him happier than being beside us moment by moment…following Jack around the yard, or me as I went from room to room going about my household chores. Anyone who has had a dog knows this: Even though we don’t speak the same language, it doesn’t take long for dogs and their owners to gain a rich understanding of each other.
As strange as it sounds, thinking about Buddy shed new light for me on the parable Jesus told in Matthew 25: 14-30. I have always struggled with this parable because it seemed to focus on how hard the servants worked to gain their Master a profit, which in turn had direct bearing on their future status and happiness. Now I see this could not be further from the truth, neither for this story nor for the parable of the Sheep and the Goats that follows.
Faithful dogs will do pretty much anything for their owners. It’s a trait borne out of a bond of mutual love and respect from time spent together. Similarly, the real issue in the parable of the talents is how faithful the servants were to their master, driven by their intimate knowledge of what their master was like. Clearly the servant who hid his “talent” did so out of fear, believing that his master was a harsh, meddling kind of man (vs. 24-25). Possibly he saw the talent challenge as some sort of test or trick…some fun being had by the rich at the expense of the poor. Certainly he did not consider it an honor bestowed upon him that the master would entrust the talent to him in the first place.
How sad that he did not know the master well enough to understand the entrusting of the talent was the venerable action of a wise individual who knew that it is our nature to want to prove our loyalty by our good works. Makes me wonder, did the servant even try to get to know his master, or did he merely go about his duties blindly, with a chip on his shoulder?
It can be all too easy to go through the motions of the Christian faith without any of the devotion that leads to true faithfulness. And without that, our “works” (whether small or great) will be lackluster at best, and dangerously close to an insult when it comes time to meet our Master face-to-face.