The Stories We Tell Ourselves
"For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away."
November 17, 2023, Words By: Joel Aguilar, Image By: Anupong Intawong
The parable of the talents has haunted me for a long time. It has frightened me since I was a teenager. I remember hearing the youth pastor preaching about this passage several times. Every time he brought this parable up, I felt uncomfortable. I believed I had not been given anything, and the story was quite clear: “Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
I worried I did not have a talent to multiply. Consequently, I would be like the servant who is thrown into the darkness. The idea was quite simple. You either have the talent to multiply what God has given you, or you will be deemed worthless and thrown out to the darkness.
The more I heal from violent theologies, the more I realize how silly and cruel this was. I was caught in a system that relied on the third servant’s fear-based narrative and perception of an angry God. Which leads me to wonder, how did I miss the alternative narratives that were right in front of me?
In fact, in this week’s passage, Jesus is presenting us with three possible narratives. First, we see the generosity of a master who is willing to entrust his wealth to his servants. Secondly, we see two servants who trust their master so deeply that they are willing to risk failure in their relationship with him. Thirdly, we have a frightful servant who has a distorted image of his master that leads him to prioritize risk management in their relationship
What this leads me to believe is that Jesus may be extending an invitation to his audience, and to us as well. The invitation is to examine the stories we are telling ourselves about God and our relationship to God. In the end, just as Shekhar Kapur said: “we are the stories we tell ourselves.”
In this story, the servant said: “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you. What I wonder is, why did the other servants seem to have a different perception of their master? Could it be that they knew the truth to be different?
As a result, the master responds to the “wicked” servant in the same way the servant spoke. in other words, the servant created a reality that would throw him out into the darkness. If Shekhar Kapur is right, God is also the stories we tell about God. In other words, God is as bad and angry as we make God out to be.
Today, I can only look back with compassion to the teenager I was. I need to comfort him as he is still part of who I am becoming. I lived into the story I internalized and repeated about God. And, the story brought pain and sorrow, neither of which is a hallmark of a healthy relationship with our Creator For that reason, I am learning to see anew, rediscovering the scriptural narrative of a God whose generosity and love is completely other to us.
I am trying to relax into the process of becoming more human like Jesus, who revealed to us a God who is in rivalry with nothing and nobody. The process is far from complete. The narrative told by the last servant is still very present in my life. I can only hope and pray that it loses a little bit of power and validity one day at a time.
Dwelling Among Us
Take 10 minutes to reflect in the following questions:
- What are the stories about God you are telling to yourself?
- How are these stories freeing you or hindering you to love and serve your community?