Day 225: Matthew 24:45-51

Who, then, is a faithful and wise servant? It is the one that his master has placed in charge of the other servants to give them their food at the proper time. How happy that servant is if his master finds him doing this when he comes home! Indeed, I tell you, the master will put that servant in charge of all his property.

But if he is a bad servant, he will tell himself that his master will not come back for a long time, and he will begin to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. Then that servant’s master will come back one day when the servant does not expect him and at a time he does not know. The master will cut him in pieces and make him share the fate of the hypocrites. There he will cry and gnash his teeth.

[The disciples want to know when Jesus will return and the New Age will begin.  Jesus replies, “No one knows the day or the hour.”  This is one of several scriptures that further illustrates this statement.  For more on the Second Coming see Day 150.  For more on the Messiah see Day 145.  For more on the End of the Age see Day 128.]

Here we have another parable where Jesus exhorts his disciples to remain faithful to the mission that he has given them.  As parables go, it’s pretty easy to understand.  The servant is a disciple.  The other servants are the people of God. The master is Jesus.  The property is the Kingdom of God.

The disciples who is faithful and wise will continue Jesus’ ministry after he is gone.  He will give what they need (food) at the proper time.  I assume that “food” refers to the life-giving word of God that Jesus talks about on Day 2 during his conversation with the devil in the desert when he says, “Man cannot live on bread alone, but needs every word that God speaks.”   Jesus says he will reward the faithful and wise disciple with more responsibility when he returns, kind of like the “Prayer of Jabez” that gained popularity in the 1990s: “Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from hurt and harm!” And God granted what he asked. (I Chronicles 4:10).  The faithful disciple will get an enlarged territory commensurate with those big thrones Jesus promised them on Day 172.

On the other hand, the bad disciple is impatient when Jesus doesn’t return fast enough.  He forgets about the whole business.  Instead of feeding the people like he’s supposed to, he abuses and neglects them.  He wastes all of his time partying in the bars with drunks.  And when Jesus returns he says it won’t be pretty.  He says he will cut them into pieces and make them share the fate of the hypocrites.  Who are the hypocrites?  I presume he’s referring to the Pharisees.  While he never directly says the Pharisees are going to hell, he implies it in several of his parables.

But what’s this business about cutting people into pieces?  Jesus?  Cutting people?  Again, this is one of those visceral metaphors that Jesus throws out there once in a while like on Day 28 when he says, So if your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell.  If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose one of your limbs than to have your whole body go off to hell.”  

Of course, Jesus was nonviolent and he never attacked anyone nor did he ever mutilate himself so I guess everyone kind of ignores it when he says he will cut people up.  But the fact is that he says these kinds of things.  Jesus was super intelligent and ever so clever, but he was also a little crude sometimes, especially when he was trying to make a point.  Fortunately Christendom didn’t pick up on this scripture like it did on some of the other obscure sayings of Jesus.  I’m glad pastors don’t teach parents to tell their kids that if they aren’t faithful to Jesus he will chase them down and cut them up.  Scriptures taken out of context can be so dangerous.

So if we throw out all of Jesus’ references to self-mutilation and cutting people up because we presume them to be metaphors, why isn’t it possible to also look at references to hell as a metaphorical as well?  To me, throwing people into hell is just as violent as cutting them up.  To me, it seems even worse – although both things seem to be pretty much out of character for a pacifist who is trying to convince us that God is our loving Father.  To me, it seems like Jesus is saying these crude and violent things to get people’s attention and scare them straight.  That’s how the church has traditionally viewed all of these threats.  Except for the hell one.  For some crazy reason they seem to like hell they treat that one as literal and they threaten children with it.  I mean, Jesus never sits his disciples down and gives them a talk about the details and reality of hell.  He only uses it as a vague threat.  Like cutting people up into pieces.

Anyway, Jesus tells them quite forcefully that if they fall off the wagon and start acting like fools, all bets are off on those thrones he promised on Day 172.  If they want eternal life sitting next to him they have to stay the course and keep the faith.  He warns them to stay focused and shoot for the Narrow Gate he talked about on Day 60.  Because, of course, one never knows the day or the hour he will return.  Hopefully unarmed.

What does this scripture say to you?

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