The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
November 15, 2020 – Stewardship Dedication Sunday
To follow Jesus is to take risks.
It’s risky to believe what you cannot prove, and riskier still to love as Jesus loved. To be His disciple is to put your heart on the line and to become vulnerable to such pains as He endured for love’s sake.
How courageous are you? Do you have enough faith to dare to believe the wild dream that you can have a big impact for good, and enough love for God and others to go for broke and give your all to fulfill the dream?
In this parable Jesus told about a man who entrusted his wealth to three servants, to manage it for him for a while. He doled out to each a share, in “talents”. A talent was not a coin, but a unit of weight for measuring the value of a bunch of coins. Currency back then was made of gold, silver or some other precious metal. If the money the master entrusted to these servants was made of silver, one talent was worth about fifteen years of wages. That means he was entrusting a prodigious amount of money to them. Why, even the one to whom he gave the least had the equivalent of a quarter million dollars!
This fact should not incline anyone to think this parable speaks only to those with a lot of money. The huge amounts of money here represent the huge value of all the powers and gifts God entrusts to His children – whether they be in the form of treasure and financial strength, time and opportunity, or “talent” in the typical sense of ability and skill. The large size of the amounts symbolizes the enormous value of whatever God puts in our hands to put to work for His purposes. Whatever we think of their value, they are of great value because they come from a great God and are meant to serve His great aims.
Of course, you and I have less treasure, time and talent than some others. But what matters is not how much we have, but how well we use what we have. That’s why Jesus praised to the heavens a poor widow who put a mere “mite” into the temple collection. And why, in this parable, the second servant – who had 60% less to work with than the first but who likewise doubled what he had charge of – received an equal reward.
But isn’t it unfair that one servant got five talents, while the second got only two and the third just one? The parable says that the master measured out a unique amount “to each according to his ability”. In other words, to give each the same chance to succeed, he gave each just as much as he could handle. Though everyone may not be equal in capability, we all can be equal in courageous effort.
The first two servants loved their master. You can see that in how they courageously applied themselves in a hope-filled attempt to bring their master a big payoff for his having trusted them. They took the risk of investing his money in enterprises that, while they held the promise of a 100% return, also made them vulnerable, as such things do, to a similar size of loss. Just on the chance they could bless their master mightily, they took a gamble and courted disaster for themselves. For they so loved him that they engaged in a bold and risky venture, preferring to endanger their own security rather than to shortchange him in service. No wonder he praised them as “good and trustworthy” and invited them to enter into his “joy”.
The third servant neither loved nor trusted the master. He thought him an unfair and cruel man, and thus this servant was only concerned about keeping himself out of hot water. So he played it safe and buried the money in the ground. Bringing the master some benefit mattered so little to him that he didn’t even bother to avail of the banks, which could have brought the master a little interest income without compromising anyone’s safety. The third servant was self-serving and thus unmotivated to lift a finger to do even the minimum for the master.
Our Master in heaven has entrusted to our care and responsibility a portion of His property: what we like to call our treasure, our time, our talent. They remain His, and we are to use them faithfully and courageously and to put them to work in the service of God’s good purposes. We are in fact to seek to make something more of them than what they were when first given to us. We are, for example, to make the money entrusted to us more than mere money, but a means by which to bring God’s best into people’s lives and to uplift a community.
We give generously just to the extent we love God and His intentions. And, the more we love God and His intentions, the more courageously we take risks in applying the money He’s given us to serve His ends, despite our fears of being deprived thereby. We follow Jesus’ way of self-sacrifice as we fear shortchanging His good purposes more than shortchanging our security or our pleasure.
We also give generously just to the extent we trust our Master in heaven. Do we believe Him when He tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive and that our lives will be enriched by using the money we have to advance the priority concerns He has?
Let us, as God’s good and trustworthy servants, take the risks of love and faith!