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Is God a ruthless exploiter of our talents?

Last Sunday’s gospel reading in the Revised Common Lectionary was the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25.14-30. The most popular interpretation of this is that God’s gives us abilities and gifts (‘talents’) and leaves us to get on with using them in fruitful and enterprising ways as responsible stewards until he returns and asks us to give an account of what we have done. So the moral is: do not bury your talents in the ground. There is an important and central corrective to this reading, which we will come to—but there is also a more radical reading which rejects the whole shape of this approach. This was expressed by a friend on Facebook last week:

The parable of the talents in today’s Gospel, and everywhere people will be exhorted to shine with God-given light lest in hiding it away they find themselves cast into outer darkness to gnash their teeth to the gums and such like. There’s a different angle; to me it’s all about the consequences of the ruthless exploitation of the powerless. I’ve always felt for the poor guy who buries his talent (library pictures) in the ground so it groweth not, and when his unattractive master returns he cops it for failing in enterprise – fired, like a hapless contestant on The Apprentice. But the ruthless master is surely not to be identified with Jesus, as preachers of v1 assume. It’s totally un-Matthean, and totally at odds with the God of the Hebrew Scriptures.

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Jesus was not born in a stable (honest!)

I am sorry to spoil your preparations for Christmas before the Christmas lights have even gone up—though perhaps it is better to do this now than the week before Christmas, when everything has been carefully prepared. But Jesus wasn’t born in a stable, and, curiously, the New Testament hardly even hints that this might have […]

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Can we handle conflict like Jesus?

Mark Woods writes: Conflict in churches can be horrible. We are, after all, supposed to be able to get on with each other, and most of the time we do. Relationships can be close, friendships warm, trust absolute. When that’s broken, it’s really hard to deal with. Sometimes these conflicts arise because of human cussedness, otherwise […]

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What is Matthew 24 all about?

Matthew 24 is the reading set for the fourth Sunday before Advent (i.e. in the countdown to Advent at the ordinary season comes to a close) and its parallel Mark 13 is the reading for the first Sunday of Advent. There is much confusion about both these passages (and the parallel in Luke 21), and […]

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Tyndale NT Study Group 2018

The Tyndale New Testament Study Group is part of the Tyndale Fellowship for biblical and theological research, based at Tyndale House in Cambridge, and including evangelical scholars from all over the world. The 2018 NT Study Group will be meeting at Tyndale House from 27th to 29th June 2018 (note: one week earlier than previous years). Our theme this year is […]

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Where will it all end?

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard […]

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What on earth is God up to?

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by […]

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Is it true that ‘God is love’?

It seems to be increasingly common in a range of ethical debates in the public sphere for one protagonist or other to reach for the formula ‘God is love’ as a quick resolution to disagreement. But this is usually done in a particular way, in the form of a progressive from God to us and […]

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