One of the arguments of legalism and a legalistic approach to Scripture is that of it being "safer to do nothing" if we are uncertain of anything. This mindset, of course, results in much good being left undone, as people are too scared to even try.
This "it is safer" argument is of questionable nature as a hermeneutical practice. And Jesus confronts this mindset directly in the "Parable of the Talents" (or the "Parable of the Bags of Gold," as the updated NIV calls it.) In this parable, the master gives out talents of 1, 2, and 5 to three different servants, respectively. The 5 talent man doubles his talent. The two talent man doubles his talent. The master is well pleased with them.
But note what the one talent man/person with a bag of gold does with his gift when his master returned. Matthew 25 says,
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’"
In this parable, the one talent man hid his talent rather than invest it because is was "safer." Why did he believe that it was safer to do this? Because of his view of his master as being a mean, harsh master, ready to punish him.
Is that not the mindset of the "it's safer" argument? Why is it safer not to do something that might not be 100 percent clear? Because there is the view that God is just waiting to strike down those who fail him in some way, with examples given like Nadab and Abihu, time and time again.
My friends, that is not a grace-filled view of God. And it is not safe to not act in creative ways to reach out to our world today. It is not safe because it risks continuing to losing souls at a high rate.
This parable shows that God wants us to take risks for him and in reaching others, and that he rewards this, rather than punishing this. Taking risks to save others is pleasing to God. As with children, we have to believe that God is a loving father who will continue to bless us if we are genuinely seeking God, and forgive us of our (un)intentional wrongs.
What do you think of the "safe" argument and use of the Parable of the Talents in this article?
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Dr. James Nored is a preacher, evangelist, writer, and missional leader. He currently preaches and helps lead the church into mission at the Fairfax Church of Christ in Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.