Learning and Earning God’s Wisdom
The theme of the second companion parable is also the coming of Christ. It is a companion to the bridesmaid parable, going one step further by comparing God’s truth and wisdom to gold. It deals as much with aspiration and spiritual wealth as it does with God’s admonition and disappointment.
As I studied the logic behind the story, I found it would be easy to see this parable as a parable of exclusivity. Yet, knowing God in a positive, sharing light, I know better.
It encourages us to invest our truth and watch it grow, not only to our delight, but also to the delight of God. As Christ draws near, our investment ability begins to become automatic. The result of this investment is the joy of knowing we are loved and cared for by the perfect ‘Employer.’
God begins to employ the secrets of His wisdom with us as we create the capacity to learn. While this parable itself does not touch on evangelism, and it is clear that while we are employed to learn, the wisdom, thankfully, remains the property of our Creator.
The discourse following the parable in Matthew stresses our sharing what we know, even to the emotional and physical needs of our brothers and sisters. As we await Christ, we must also share by meeting our responsibilities knowing that the ultimate truth remains in His hands.
Jesus compares the arrival of Christ in these terms:
A wealthy man was called out of the country for a time. He placed his resources with his servants, each according to his servant’s level of trust. He gave one servant five bags of gold, to another he gave two bags, and to another one bag of gold.
The man with the five bags of gold invested wisely and earned five more. The second many invested his two bags and earned two more. The third man dug a hole and hid the money.
Some time later the wealthy man returned and settled his accounts with his servants. The master praised the servant who doubled the five bags of gold, telling him he was trustworthy and promising to place him in charge of something even bigger. The same result for the man who had doubled the two bags of gold. The master called him trustworthy and promised to place him in charge of something even bigger.
When it came to settling accounts with the man who hid the gold in the ground, the servant gave the one bag of gold back to his master making excuses and saying he was afraid to invest because of his master’s character.
The master admitted that his character was indeed as the main claimed. The master then expressed his disappointment, gave the bag of gold to the man who had ten, and he cast the servant who had failed our of his sight.
The master stated a warning that the man who has will always be given more till he has enough to spare, but the man who has little with forfeit even what he has.
While it would be easy to take a judgment stance on this parable, pointing to the three examples and applying each to people we know, a more constructive theory would be to try to apply the three examples to individual aspiration.
To aspire to be like the man who invested and ended up with ten bags of gold may be likened to the desire for literally all the knowledge of God, linking the number ten, once again, as in the bridesmaid parable, to a whole.
This may be an attractive aspiration, and one to which we all can relate at one time or another. Wouldn’t each of us like to have all the answers?
Yet, if we had all the answers, consider the immense responsibility that would accompany this knowledge! There may be times, however, moments actually, when we are entrusted with a great deal of gold. In other words, we use what knowledge we have, and this knowledge is compounded through the revelation of God.
At these moments we have God’s trust to treat this precious information (His revelation) with responsibility, using it as a springboard for making great strides in our relationships and ultimately how we live our lives.
While this lofty aspiration is unrealistic as a way of life, we should be alert to these special times when we are entrusted with those five bags of gold, being cautious and calculating regarding how and where we invest this information.
It is probably far more realistic for most of us to relate to the second example most of the time. Two bags of gold are indeed a quantity of value. It is the same commodity, wisdom from God, yet, it is not an overwhelming amount for us to deal with.
Over the course of our lives, doubling and doubling our wisdom again will ensure a positive relationship with God and will also have the benefit of continually allowing us to renew and reground, and grow not only spiritually, but also helping us apply this wisdom to every aspect of our lives. This wisdom from God encourages our ethics whether we are students, homemakers, construction workers of business executives.
As we learned from our last parable in Chapter Three, Christ may arrive a little at a time over a long period of time in our lives. Until his physical presence is made known to us all, we might find comfort in knowing He is always on His way, happy that we are investing our gold wisely and earning a handsome profit of Godly wisdom.
Although the parable does not express sharing or even our actual possession of the gold, we cannot but share our profit through our actions. As we gain in knowledge and wisdom, we literally become more like God through His wisdom.
We become His good and trustworthy servants. Next to man’s never having fallen from Truth, surely to grow and aspire to learn from God must be the next best thing. I believe this concept to be the extra responsibility promised to the successful servants in the parable.
I have been putting off dealing with the third man’s plight. The third man was given gold, the wisdom of God, in order that he might grow, but he chose not to invest and hid the wealth in the ground. It is almost as though he was ashamed to be a party to this capital, as some of us are.
He not only made excuses, but he put the blame on God by claiming God was so harsh that he was afraid to invest.
Unfortunately, the man represents the aspect of our selves which would rather defy God than cooperate with our salvation.
If we were in perfect relationship with God, He would not have sent His Son to rescue us. As part of our wisdom, we must be aware of the part of ourselves that would rather reject God’s glorious wisdom.
In all of us this part of ourselves may be compared to so much garbage, to be thrown out and not recycled, out of the sight of God. Thankfully, wisdom can overtake the dark stench of rejection.
One point not to be forgotten is that faith permeates every parable. Faith that God has a personal plan for each of us, and that He provides us the resources to carry out this plan should allow us to rest in His infinite and valuable wisdom.
Rest in God knowing the gold is there when we are ready. It is more beautiful and more precious than all the crown jewels on earth, and it is available, free of charge, for our special purposes.
Yet, it remains the property of a loving and providing Creator who will praise our judgment and share in our delight at the fruits of our investments.
Some may be in a position to wonder where God’s wisdom can be found. The best place to find God’s wisdom is all around us.
Of course, scripture is a good place to look. Give a man a Bible, and he is a billionaire. But I also suggest keeping yourself open to the unexpected blessings and moment-miracles of the day.
God may speak out in the lyrics of a song on the radio, at that moment sung especially for you. You may find His wisdom in watching a deer cross the road, a cardinal in flight, or even in a special laugh from your child. Let the pump of your imagination be primed, and the gold will spill easily from its faucet. Trust in God that you will learn to invest wisely!
Following this parable, beginning at Matthew 25:31, Jesus talks of putting our new found wisdom into practice, and this is evangelism in its purest form.
At the coming of the King we will be separated into two groups. The sheep represent the characteristics of our individual selves which have been open to accepting the wisdom of God. The goats, on the other hand, represent the characteristics which have rejected Christ in all His wisdom.
As an individual learns how to recognize true wisdom, he or she cannot help but to identify with the group of sheep. At some point the goat inside us all may be exposed as ridiculous and harmful. When this occurs, slowly but surely our sheep will take over. We are His at last!
During this discourse in Matthew, Jesus talks about putting our sheep-like characteristics into practice for the benefit not only of ourselves in fresh relationship with God, but others as well.
Jesus talks about our doing good for ourselves and our community at large.
Rest assured that God knows that one individual cannot feed, clothe and be of emotional support to everyone in need. This would e an impossible expectation. However, we can do what we can to help our world with the wisdom we have been allotted.
As His sheep, we begin to hearken to our Shepherd’s voice not with grumbling, but with gladness and eagerness. We can then express the goodness of God through our actions.
We should be cautioned at this point in our walk with God not to run ahead of His wisdom. This running ahead would be ‘goat-like’ in the eyes of God.
We are not all endowed with the wisdom of Mother Theresa. If the lofty aspiration is there, perhaps we will receive the wisdom from God to accompany it.
By comparing us to the sheep side of this scenario, Jesus is reassuring us that we will do the right thing automatically as any given situation arises. This is the meaning of His discourse found between Matthew 2531 and Matthew 25:46, however subtly it is expressed.
These good works, whether they are performed for ourselves, our family or our community will not be heralded with a trumpet blast from Gabriel or some elitist anointing ‘directly from God.’
Our behavior will become automatic. There will be an automatic response to a call to help or give.
This is not to say the Holy Spirit never gives us personal direction. It is merely to say that our thoughts have gone through a metamorphosis.
We have become like new creatures, always ready to listen to our pure hearts. This is what life is like to live in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus also tells the fate of the goats. First of all, Jesus is not telling us that goats are somehow inferior animals. Anyone who has taken a child to a petting zoo or has enjoyed a goat cheese sandwich would go up in arms at that thought.
But Jesus needed to convey an image of two very different kinds of animals to make His point. Had the scenario been in a different place and time He may have used palomino horses and angus steers to make His point.
The goats illustrate the thoughts and characteristics which God cannot use. These thoughts are thrown on the ‘fire’ of our psyches and completely consumed so that we are neither haunted by them, nor do we see or use them anymore. As wisdom supplants ignorance, hardly a goat will be seen.