Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 42; 146, Joshua 2:15-24, Romans 11:13-24, Matthew 25:14-30
Have you ever heard anyone label a certain type of thinking or theology as “Old Testament” or “New Testament?” Sometimes we like to believe there’s an easy distinction, a clean break between the people of the law and the people of grace. However, many Old Testament prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah, etc. – foreshadowed Jesus’s teachings by commenting on the need for justice and mercy over sacrifice. Conversely, we can be tempted to soften Jesus’ language to make him seem less OT and more WWJD.
Many, if not most, translations of the Parable of the Talents refer to the characters in the story as “servants,” but a more accurate translation is “slaves.” This is true for many Biblical passages in which the word “servant” appears. Some critics of Christianity use these passages as evidence Jesus condoned or even promoted slavery, especially since some Christians have made the same mistake.
Though we accept his teachings as universal, we understand Jesus was speaking to a specific culture at a specific time. So what can we make of problematic passages like Jesus’s casual references to slavery? First, many of the people in his audience were slaves. Using them as examples of righteousness elevated them spiritually beyond their societal stations, and was a revolutionary statement of their worth as children of God.
Second, Jesus is an example of a faithful life in the world as it is. When we acknowledge what we can do for the poor and oppressed today, we are not condoning or promoting poverty and oppression, nor are we foolish enough to pretend these conditions will cease to exist. Though Christ did not actively speak against slavery, the abolitionist movement sprouted from Christian churches. Third, as Paul says in several of his letters, in Christ there is no distinction between Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female, etc. We are all slaves to each other and to Christ. Softening the language diminishes its radical message.
Slavery is certainly not the only difficult topic in the Bible. If we are willing to understand scripture in the larger context of the world and tackle its more challenging texts head on, our faith only deepens.
Comfort: God is present even in the most unpleasant places and times.
Challenge: Find out if there are an resources in your community to combat human trafficking. You may want to start at traffickingresourcecenter.org.
Prayer: God of the Known and Unknown, let me know you as you are and not just as I’d like you to be. Amen.
Discussion: What Biblical passages make you uncomfortable?
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