Matthew 25:14-29 (CEB)
“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who was leaving on a trip. He called his servants and handed his possessions over to them. To one he gave five valuable coins, and to another he gave two, and to another he gave one. He gave to each servant according to that servant’s ability. Then he left on his journey.
“After the man left, the servant who had five valuable coins took them and went to work doing business with them. He gained five more. In the same way, the one who had two valuable coins gained two more. But the servant who had received the one valuable coin dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.
“Now after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five valuable coins came forward with five additional coins. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five valuable coins. Look, I’ve gained five more.’
“His master replied, ‘Excellent! You are a good and faithful servant! You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’
“The second servant also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two valuable coins. Look, I’ve gained two more.’
“His master replied, ‘Well done! You are a good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’
“Now the one who had received one valuable coin came and said, ‘Master, I knew that you are a hard man. You harvest grain where you haven’t sown. You gather crops where you haven’t spread seed. So I was afraid. And I hid my valuable coin in the ground. Here, you have what’s yours.’
“His master replied, ‘You evil and lazy servant! You knew that I harvest grain where I haven’t sown and that I gather crops where I haven’t spread seed? In that case, you should have turned my money over to the bankers so that when I returned, you could give me what belonged to me with interest.
Therefore, take from him the valuable coin and give it to the one who has ten coins. Those who have much will receive more, and they will have more than they need. But as for those who don’t have much, even the little bit they have will be taken away from them.
November 18-19, 2017
“Investing Our Hope”
We stay in the Gospel of Matthew this week and pick up where we left off last week with yet another parable from Jesus about the kingdom of God.
(Read Matthew 25:14-29)
There is a formula that I use frequently with those I share ministry and leadership with; or with youth; or simply to remind myself of the responsibilities we have as God’s people in sharing life and faith together.
It is a formula I have shared with you before…It is…Expectation – Reality = Disappointment.
When there is an expectation placed on us and the reality of what we are doing does not meet that expectation, there will be disappointment.
Expectations always come with responsibility. We all have things that are expected of us; therefore, we all have some type of responsibility in life. ‘Responsibility’ is defined as ‘the state of being responsible.’ And being responsible means being able to fulfill one’s obligations; being reliable and trustworthy; and being called upon to answer for one’s actions or decisions.
A man named Andy tells the story about when he was eight years old and his mother gave him $10 to go to the bakery to buy bread. Andy says, “My grandparents and cousins were all coming to lunch and this was a big deal. It was the first time that I got to go all the way to the bakery by myself—down the block, to the right, then across the street and down one more block to the corner. I’d been that way a million times, but never all by myself. And ten dollars! It was an enormous amount of money. Mom told me how much the bread would probably cost and told me to keep the change in my pocket. There was all this trust in me, all this responsibility. And what did I do? I lost the ten-dollar bill. When I got to the bakery there was no money in my pocket. I had no idea what could have happened to it. I looked everywhere. I was late getting home and my grandparents and cousins were already there and everyone was in the kitchen. “Where’s the bread, Andy?” my mom said, and I had to say I lost the money. The room grew so quiet. Nobody said anything. I think everyone knew how bad I felt, but there was not anything anyone could do. We had our lunch with the bread basket on the table but without the bread.”
As he reflected on that story, Andy said that he was so overwhelmed by that experience, he never wanted to be entrusted with money again.
I wonder if that is how the third servant in our story felt.
In this parable, Jesus tells us about a man who prepares to leave on a journey and while he is gone he is entrusting his servants with his money. Other biblical translations call the coins entrusted to the servants ‘talents.’
A talent in the biblical sense was a large sum of money. One talent was estimated to be worth about 15-20 years of wages for a common laborer. So, some big money was entrusted to these servants with no instructions as to what to do with it. When the master returns, he asks for an audit and it becomes clear how each servant has handled his responsibility. Two of the servants took a risk and invested the money. They gained amazing profits. The master called them ‘good and faithful.’ He was pleased and invited them to celebrate with him. The third servant was cautious and buries the money. Then, he uses fear to defend his actions, saying he knew the master was a hard and shroud man. The servant gives back what was given to him, thinking that will make it right. The master said the servant could have at least earned some interest on what was given to him. With that, the master gives what had been given to that servant to the first servant and tossed the fearful, no-risk servant out into the darkness.
This parable as told in the Gospel of Matthew is not an easy one because it causes us to examine ourselves.
We can all relate to the one-coin servant. He was not evil or dishonest or immoral or unfaithful. Like most of us, he was concerned and protective of his position in life and what he had. Like us, he was fearful and anxious about not having enough. And because of his fear, he did not understand or believe that his investment could play a part in the growth of God’s kingdom…his fear had eroded his ability to trust. There is not much hope or joy in life without trust.
Peter Storey, who was the Methodist Bishop in South Africa during the struggle against Apartheid, says that all of Jesus’ preaching was a call to set our minds on God’s kingdom above all else. If we can hold that mind set, we begin to realize that what we have been given is really a trust.
In our culture that is so often driven by wanting to have it all, this parable calls us to realize the faithful and abundant gifts of God and asks us to think about how we live as God’s kingdom people in a way that is different from the world around us.
To recognize that we have received these gifts of God as a trust, calls us to realize the expectation placed upon us as God’s people. And with that expectation comes the responsibility to joyfully use God’s gifts for the sake of mission and ministry to God’s people.
As stewards of God’s kingdom, what we believe and who we trust, affects how we make choices and set priorities.
Jean Chatskey is a financial planner and author of several financial books. She says when it comes to choices and priorities with our money, it’s not about income or education or intelligence; it’s about habits. She tells a story about being in Mexico and visiting with a merchant at a market who had many parrots for sale. She observed that the parrots were just sitting on perches, none of them in cages. She was fascinated by the fact that none of the parrots were even trying to fly away, so she asked the merchant, “Do these birds just love you so much they have no desire to fly away?”
The merchant laughed and said, “No. I had to train them to think their perches mean safety and security. When they come to think this, they naturally wrap their claws tightly around the perch and don’t want to release it. They keep themselves confined, as if they have forgotten they know how to fly.”
Jean Chatskey says a light bulb went on in her head. We are, she thought, just like those parrots. We have all been taught to clutch our money, our time and our possessions as tightly as we can, as if those things are the perch of our safety and security. Just like those parrots, our habit is to keep holding on out of fear. The more afraid we are, the tighter we hold on. When she realized this, she asked the merchant how he would go about un-teaching this behavior. The merchant said, “It’s easy, you just show them how to release their grip and then they fly as free as they want.”
We choose whether to bury what has been given to us or invest the blessing. We choose whether to keep holding on to what we have out of fear or release our grip and be part of what can happen when we invest in God’s kingdom.
Think about your own investment strategy…are you investing with hope in the full life and faith of God’s kingdom or are you saying, “I was afraid,” and burying what has been given to you in the outer darkness?
The real question from this parable is, what are we doing with what we have been given?
We have a loving God who calls us to put faith above fear and who continues to entrust us with the gifts of God’s blessings, even when we fail to make the most of them.
To have expectations of others is a good thing. The expectations of God’s kingdom people are high and the responsibility of investing our time, our talents, our resources and our hope in God’s kingdom are even higher.
May we be found to be good and faithful servants.
Thanks be to God.