And Throw Him into the Darkness

I heard a sermon yesterday by Pastor Craig based on a biblical text that I have always found disturbing, Matthew 25:14-30. It's a story that Jesus tells about a rich man who gives differing amounts of money to three of his servants to watch over while he's away. Then, what happens when he comes back.

The problem that I have with the text is how it ends. The servant who returned the money intact, no more and no less, is punished.

28‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Mt 25:28-30, NIV)

Quite frankly, it doesn't sound very "Christian" to me. It doesn't seem to match up with Jesus' mission statement in Luke 4:16-21.
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
   18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
   because he has anointed me
   to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
   and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
   19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Isaiah 61:1,2)
 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus is talking about helping the poor and the oppressed, not rejecting people who don't make a lot of money or are less successful. It just doesn't mesh. The Matthew passage is what is sometimes referred to as a "difficult reading." No kidding.

The problem with difficult readings is that people tend to avoid or ignore them.  However, if we consider the Bible important or even a way for God to communicate with us, can we just pick and choose what we are going to accept in it and what we can safely ignore? The logical side of my brain says no, but the emotional side can not get past a passage that seems to say that it's okay to throw people away.

That was why I was so excited by the sermon I heard yesterday! It allowed me to see this Matthew passage in a whole new light.

It's not about money, success, or the lack thereof. It is about how we use our God given talents. At the time the passage was written a "talent" was a large sum of money, but we don't even think about it that way anymore. We think of talents as abilities that people have.  The important part of the story is that the third servant hid his talent in a hole. He buried it and did not share it with anyone. He horded his talent.

What happens when we don't share ourselves and our talents with others, the community, the world? We find ourselves isolated, lonely, and alone. We find ourselves in the darkness.  It is not a "punishment" from a ruler. It is a natural consequence of our actions.  What's more ... it's an invitation ... An invitation to participate in the community to help and give joy to others by sharing what we have.

Now, that sounds more like the Jesus I know.

Are You “In the Word” … Jargon in the Church

How Language Isolates the Church from the Wider World

I did not grow up in the church.  When people talked about being a “Born Again Christian,” I really didn’t know what they were talking about.  I knew that people in certain Christian denominations or from particular regions of the country were more likely to call themselves “Born Again” than others, but what did it mean?

Then others would talk about their “Walk,” or the “anointing” of Jesus (or a particular person for “ministry”). The bottom line was that I was confused. I wouldn't be surprised if you're confused too.  However, this kind of language gets used every day in churches all around the United States.  It’s a specialized language that’s supposed to it easier for us to talk to each other. It’s a type of jargon.

When I looked up Jargon at, I found several definitions.  The primary of these is,

“The language, especially the vocabulary, particular to a particular trade, profession, or group: medical jargon.” 
That really does define how the church often means to use its particular language, but how it’s perceived outside of the church (or by visitors) matches much more to the fourth definition. 
“Language that is characterized by uncommon or pretentious vocabulary and convoluted syntax and is often vague in meaning.” 
 In other words, rather than making things clearer and more precise, it makes the speaker or the group seem pretentious, elitist, and exclusionary.

The funny thing is that this can be found among congregations that want to be the most open and hospitable as possible. These Christians go around blissfully unaware that people unfamiliar with the church don’t have the slightest idea what they’re talking about.

So, what am I talking about?  Evangelism, another one of those $5 jargon words, and a very scary one for people in Mainline denominations. In the case of Christians, evangelism is sharing information about Christianity with people outside of the church.  If they’re not familiar with Christianity, they’re certainly not going to understand Christian jargon.  In fact, it may scare them away.

What’s the moral of this story? When you’re talking about the church or Christianity (regardless of where you are or who you’re with) resist using our technical Christian terminology. You never know who might be listening.

Peace out. ;)

The Lesson of Abraham:

Going Off into the Unknown

"Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you ...' So Abram went, as the Lord had told him..." (Gen 12:1, 4 ESV)

I have always have been up for an adventure. Coming from an Army family, we moved quite a lot. My dad got orders. We packed up our stuff, and we went. At the time, the Army had a three year cycle. Routine as clockwork, after three years, we'd be moving again.

When I went out on my own, the pattern continued, but it was more of a five year cycle. It wasn't so much that I wanted to move, but after five years I found myself moving someplace new. The most dramatic was my move from Charleston, SC to Odessa, TX.

This one was a little different. I felt called to go to West Texas ... the desert. I felt a little like Abraham. Unlike with the Army, I had no guarantee of a job when I got there. In fact, the economy there was terrible at the time. But God was my general, and God said, "Go ..." and, like Abraham, I prospered.

With my move to Texas, I broke my moving cycle. I actually stayed there for over a decade, but just a few weeks ago, my General cut new orders. God said, "Go to Idaho." So, I got to explore a whole new section of the country in a U-Haul truck.

And now, I'm in a new land ... Idaho. Do I know what will happen? Will I prosper? Only time will tell. Abraham did not always prosper where he was told to go. Sometimes God had different work in mind for him. But I am here, and I am pleased to feel that I am where God wants me to be.

What has God been asking you to do?

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