Jesus is still teaching in the midst of Holy Week in the Jerusalem temple. He is preparing his hearers for a journey he will be taking a few days later on Good Friday. Jesus teaches with another parable.
Jesus sets the scene. “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.” One talent equaled 6000 denarii – a huge amount of money in the ancient world.
What has God entrusted to you? God may entrust us with a spouse and expect our marriage relationship to grow over the years rather than remaining the same or dying. God may entrust us with children and expect us to raise and nurture our children over the years that they would grow into faithful adults. God may entrust us with a job with increasing responsibilities and challenges to be overcome. God may entrust us with property or money, as he does in this parable, that we are expected to grow over the years to benefit His kingdom.
Because we all have different talents and abilities, God does not expect the same response from all of us. But he does expect us to use our talents and abilities to grow and nurture what he has entrusted us with, whether it be a marriage relationship, a job, a child, property, or most importantly, to grow and nurture our relationship with Jesus Christ.
In our parable, the first two people double what their master entrusted them with. They took action. The third person went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
At some point “after a long time” but sooner that we’d like to think, we’re going to meet our Master face to face, and we are going to need to settle up with him.
Now the first two people who had taken action and doubled what the master had entrusted them with were very eager to meet him face to face and tell their stories of marriage, of children, of jobs well done, of caring for their parents, of serving in the church, of fruitful stewardship of their time, talent and money.
Their master was impressed to hear their stories and said to them, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master”.
But then there is this third person who is not so excited to see his master and has nothing positive to say.
“Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so, I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”
“I was afraid.” I was afraid. What are we afraid of? Are we afraid of facing the Master with nothing to give him? Better off with nothing to give him than not using what he’s given us. Think about it.
He gives us everything we have – family, job, church, even life itself. He gives us grace and forgiveness when we don’t deserve it. So, of course, he expects us to use everything he’s given us, to do business with it, to keep it moving, to forgive as we have been forgiven, to raise our children as we have been raised, to give back to him what he has first given us,
and not to dig a hole some place and live some low-risk spiritual life in which we neither sin much nor love much.
All that matters is that you play at all, not that you play well or badly. You could have earned a million dollars with the money, or you could have lost it all, but at least you lived, you acted on what God had entrusted you with, you were not paralyzed with fear.
In a past issue of “Wired” magazine was this quote. “Toxic worriers are people who obsess over everything that could possibly go wrong – to the point of paralysis. Toxic worriers are 2½ more times likely to suffer heart attacks than less stressed-out individuals.”
Worry and fear can paralyze just as it did to this third person in our parable or it can inspire and lead us to action as it did the first two people in Jesus’ parable.
We all worry. It’s not that the first two in our parable didn’t have their share of worry. But they had good worry, the worry that leads to action. Two made worry work for them while the third was poisoned by it. The first two were spurred to action and made the most of the fortunes given to them while the third servant froze in his tracks.
So, we all need to ask ourselves some questions. “Which servant am I? What has God entrusted to me? Am I using the gifts my Master has entrusted me with or have I buried them – too fearful to use them? Do I look forward to meeting my Master and Shepherd face to face, and sharing with him my story?”
These are questions every one of us is confronted with in this parable. How can we be better stewards of the many blessings God has entrusted us with? How can a good worry lead us to action?
I’m going to suggest some possibilities to help us not become paralyzed and to not bury our gifts in the ground.
I have participated in many capital campaigns in the 4 parishes I’ve served over the past 39 years. Capital campaigns are always to fund building maintenance costs that are not covered in our annual budget or with memorial gifts.
Our Divinity building is aging like me. The original wing with our fellowship hall is 4 years older than me, being built in 1955. This sanctuary is 6 years younger than me, being built in 1965.
As we age, we need maintenance. I’m told by those who know that it’s a miracle that our 30-year-old air conditioning units outside the sanctuary are still functioning. I’m told we need new thermostats for this part of the building.
I’m told by those who know that it’s a miracle that our 15-year-old projector is still working. A new higher quality projector and bulb costs $15,000.
I’m told by those who know technology that the 2 large box T.V.’s on stands that I’ve been using for the past 21 years in confirmation and adult Bible study classes are outdated even though I think they work fine. There are now 55-inch interactive flat screens that can be mounted to the Sunday School room walls. They don’t need laptops because they have web browsers built in. I have no idea what that means except there are people much younger than me who are trying to bring us into the 21st century.
When we painted the chapel last summer, we also replaced the lights, which has made a huge difference. I don’t have to wear reading glasses anymore. I’m told by those who know that new lights in this sanctuary would make a huge difference.
I’m told by those who know that we need Wi-Fi smoke detectors and security. I’m told the bricks in the courtyard need tuck pointing and the curb needs replaced. It’s a long list that you can read and choose to support through our capital campaign.
There will be plenty of opportunity to not become paralyzed by burying our gifts in the ground.
As the women of our congregation bring forward their thank offering, we are reminded that we have a loving Savior who wants to see us do well, to succeed with whatever he’s given us to do, as our women succeed with the many ministries he has given them to do.
Our direction is found in the Gospels. Love your neighbor as yourself . . . In as much as you did it for the least of these . . . Preach the good news to everyone . . . Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
And these commands, these tasks, should not make any of us worry too much because Jesus promised the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and said He would be with us always, even unto the end of the world.
That presence, that hope, can help us conquer the worry, that paralyzes us and give us the good worry that leads to action.