As with yesterday's passage, today's chapter has some anxiety inducing parables. Again, I can hear preachers and Bible study leaders from my childhood saying how important it is that we be doing good works until Jesus comes back. The idea seemed to be that if Jesus returned and found us all at prayer meeting He would be pleased and we would get into His kingdom. If, on the other hand, He returned and found us drinking a beer or, much worse, at a dance, then we couldn't be sure what He would do, but it was not likely to be good. Then the next week we'd bee taught that salvation was by grace and not by works. It could be rather confusing.
All of that sets me up to feel a little rebellious when I approach these stories. I want to read them differently than I was raised to. I suppose I want to interpret them through the lens of "belonging" rather than through the lens of "pull up your socks". What would it look like if I just knew that I was part of Jesus's kingdom and nothing will ever change that? How does that change the way I understand these stories?
Once again, I'm finding that NT Wright is helpful. Rather than seeing the parable of the talents, say, as a story about how I need to keep busy until Jesus comes, I could see it as a story about generosity--God has great resources which He has shared with me, and I have the opportunity to share those resources with the world. To some extent, this is a story about a life free from fear--I don't have to worry about having enough, God has provided generously and in the economics of the kingdom sharing is the same as investing. The key thing is not to hoard what God has given. Wright sees this as a story about Israel--they had the temple and the scriptures, but they largely kept it all to themselves rather than sharing with the world.
I hope that God can turn me into a person who can see the ways in which I am hoarding the good things He has done for me. I want to be free to share that with the world free from fear.