CALM DOWN! This is an illustration of context. Many would claim that this verse is taken out of context, which – I fully admit is true. Well, partially. You see, Jesus never said these words himself. Except, well – he did. (Are you confused yet?) Jesus told his disciples a lot of stories – choosing his words wisely, with purpose and timing – never by accident. Jesus also made no apologies for the need to uphold his Father’s Law.
The verse is taken from the last line of a parable where an unpopular king left town for a while, after first giving each of his servants some money (ten minas). When the king got back, he asked each servant what they did with the money. Those who invested it and made more money for the king were rewarded. One servant was afraid of losing his master’s money so he hid it for safekeeping. As a result, he was punished. Severely. Jesus ends the story powerfully with the verses quoted in the illustration – presenting the actions of an unpredictable king. Why was Jesus telling this story? To give a lecture on financial investments? (Maybe.) To ridicule the king for his vengeance? (He doesn’t.) Or, to warn of what happens to those who do not follow their king? To understand the context, Jesus is telling this story to his followers as they sit outside of Jerusalem, fully expecting that the Kingdom of God will appear “immediately” with Jesus as their king on the throne.
Why have so many translations of this last verse been altered through the ages from “slaughter,” “kill,” or “slay” to “remove them from my sight”? Yet, confusing passages remain where Jesus kills harmless trees or advocates the stoning of disobedient children. Why then, is it really so unthinkable that Jesus might exhibit some of the same vengeful tendencies as his own Father (Himself)? How many times had God (who, remember, came to earth in the form of the Son) already slaughtered the masses? The same God who sent the mighty flood, sent the plagues, killed all of the firstborns of Egypt, or, just tortured Job for the fun of it. Suddenly this same God wouldn’t demand the killing of His enemies? Why not? Why the sudden personality shift from His demonstrably consistent history of smiting at will? To ancient readers of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, this Jesus would have been no surprise. After all, He certainly already had plenty of practice killing His enemies without apology. God slaughtered innocent babies and helpless unicorns. Jesus is God. Therefore… (We’ll let you discover the next logical conclusion of basic transitive properties of the Trinity on your own.)
I fully admit – there is a lot of “context” to understand with this passage! Another bit of context that many Christians might be unaware of is that Jesus is actually a central figure to Islam – the Masih (Messiah), a respected and revered prophet. So important, in fact, that he is mentioned twenty-five times in the Qur’an where Muhammad is only mentioned five times by name. How dare we conveniently condemn the violent actions of a few radical Muslims while ignoring the countless slaughters at the hands of the Christian God and His followers! The Flood, the plagues, the Crusades, the Holocaust, the KKK, bombed abortion clinics, hate crimes against gays, domestic abuse, wars against non-Christian nations?
In short, yes – understanding context is important. (Please think about this context on your own before commenting…)
= = = = =
Remember: Don’t blame us, it’s in the Bible!
This illustration and commentary can be found in:
Awkward Moments (Not Found In Your Average) Children’s Bible – Volume #1.