Then Jesus tells the well-known parable of the talents. We all know that it is about being a good and faithful servant to God by using our natural abilities in the service of the Kingdom. We see the “Lord” as a kind of Jesus figure – not a very nice Jesus figure though. And to be honest most of us are not so keen on the ending with all that outer darkness and the wailing and gnashing of teeth. But we just get on with it.
Like most of the stories in the Bible it helps if you put the story back: back into its place in Matthew’s gospel, and back into the world it came out of. When we do that we find some others ways of understanding what Jesus was talking about.
Some ask where this story fits with the beatitudes and the sermon on the mount. At the Ascension Jesus will promise to be with us until the end of the age, not in some far off place. How does all that alter how we might read this story? A talent is an absurd amount of money, about 20 years income, or about a lifetime’s pay for poor day labourers. Maybe this is about allowing the life and absurd generosity of God to flow through us – that we might live the beatitudes, and join and advocate for the poor in spirit, the peacemakers, those persecuted for living God’s justice.
There are other ways to read this parable that warn the hearers about the ways of the foolish bridesmaids. They speak about how to live in the gap between the “now” of the reign of God, and the “what will be” of the reign of God.
How does this parable help us be street wise bridesmaids actively waiting for the world of the beatitudes to come into being? What might this mean to how we live in the presence of God?