Today’s first passage is a long (and abridged) one from the prophet Jeremiah:
The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews that dwelt in the land of Egypt, at Migdol, at Tah′panhes, at Memphis, and in the land of Pathros, 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You have seen all the evil that I brought upon Jerusalem and upon all the cities of Judah. Behold, this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them, 3 because of the wickedness which they committed, provoking me to anger, in that they went to burn incense and serve other gods that they knew not, neither they, nor you, nor your fathers. 4 Yet I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, ‘Oh, do not do this abominable thing that I hate!’ 5 But they did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their wickedness and burn no incense to other gods. 6 Therefore my wrath and my anger were poured forth and kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they became a waste and a desolation, as at this day. 7 And now thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel: Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves, to cut off from you man and woman, infant and child, from the midst of Judah, leaving you no remnant? 8 Why do you provoke me to anger with the works of your hands, burning incense to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have come to live, that you may be cut off and become a curse and a taunt among all the nations of the earth? 9 Have you forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, the wickedness of the kings of Judah, the wickedness of their wives, your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they committed in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 10 They have not humbled themselves even to this day, nor have they feared, nor walked in my law and my statutes which I set before you and before your fathers.
15 Then all the men who knew that their wives had offered incense to other gods, and all the women who stood by, a great assembly, all the people who dwelt in Pathros in the land of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: 16 “As for the word which you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you. 17 But we will do everything that we have vowed, burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out libations to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no evil. 18 But since we left off burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out libations to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.” 19 And the women said, “When we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out libations to her, was it without our husbands’ approval that we made cakes for her bearing her image and poured out libations to her?”
20 Then Jeremiah said to all the people, men and women, all the people who had given him this answer: 21 “As for the incense that you burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your fathers, your kings and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the Lord remember it? Did it not come into his mind? 22 The Lord could no longer bear your evil doings and the abominations which you committed; therefore your land has become a desolation and a waste and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is this day. 23 It is because you burned incense, and because you sinned against the Lord and did not obey the voice of the Lord or walk in his law and in his statutes and in his testimonies, that this evil has befallen you, as at this day.”
24 Jeremiah said to all the people and all the women, “Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who are in the land of Egypt, 25 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You and your wives have declared with your mouths, and have fulfilled it with your hands, saying, ‘We will surely perform our vows that we have made, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and to pour out libations to her.’ Then confirm your vows and perform your vows!
This passage is interesting because of how it treats the idolatry by the people of Judah following the Babylonian conquest of the southern kingdom. It makes it clear that man and woman alike was responsible for this most grievous of sins against the Lord. This is reinforced at numerous points in the passage, from the beginning to the end. The message is a clear one: no one was free of sin on account of this.
I also found the part in bold interesting, because it seems to be a bit of a reversal of what Adam did in Genesis 3. Here the wives of the men of Judah are saying in effect: “hey, our husbands not only didn’t stop us but approved of the act.” Almost as though trying to shift the blame as much as to share it. All of which goes to show that the rot ran deep in the people of the Lord. They had wholly given themselves over the world, and lived as its inhabitants did. Essentially, they were indistinguishable from their neighbors who weren’t of the faith.
Considering the price that they paid for this, it should serve as a stark reminder to us that we should not be living identical lives as our secular brothers and sisters.
The second passage is a rather familiar one:
14 “For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. 17 So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’
I read this passage again recently, and got to thinking about my particular talents, and what they are good (and not good) for. Then I focused on the servant who hid his talent, and made a connection that I hadn’t made before….
There are a number of folks around these parts who believe that the End Times are upon us. They may well be right, we know not the hour. But more than just believing the Day of Judgment will soon arrive, they had adopted a view that attempting to change the world in any way is pointless. In fact, many say/argue that trying to “fix” things is entirely futile, and even if it isn’t, what’s the point? This position has never sat well with me, and after re-reading the parable of the talents I finally understood why.
Christians who adopt these views are acting just like the servant who buries his talent. They have been entrusted by the Lord with something of value, but refuse to make a profit from it. That something of value is their ability to make a difference in the world however they can, using the skills and gifts allotted to them. Ostensibly they are acting this way not because of fear but because of perceived futility, but I wonder. The servant is punished for not using his talent appropriately, not for being afraid of losing it.
It is my belief that if we can make a difference, we should. Anything less would be the equivalent of burying our talent and waiting for the Master’s return. Now some may feel that can’t “fix” anything out there, and perhaps they are right in that their talents don’t fall in that particular field. But I believe that mine do, and I intend to used them as wisely and profitably as I can. They have been entrusted to me, and I will not betray my Master’s confidence.