Summary: Encouragement to active service rather than freeze due to fear especially in view of the second coming of Christ
Fear Factor - Failure
’fail-ure’: 1. the state or fact of being lacking or insufficient 2. a losing of power or strength; weakening, dying away. 3. not doing; neglect or omission. 4. not succeeding in doing or becoming. 5. person who does not succeed.
Webster’s dictionary definition of failure... negative, no one likes that at all. No one likes to be viewed as a failure. Everyone want success. Very few people dream of living life as Webster defined it failure. Even babies don’t live there...
Look at babies ... learning to walk. Crawl first... many stumbles... more and more confident... one day they take another step... I like the picture of the mom and dad cheering every step... seem to be saying it is ok... take the risk, walk... It’d be tragedy, if babies do not risk taking steps to learn to walk. It’d be tragedy to have baby punished or jeered or put down, not have the steady and loving and encouraging arms of the parents.
Yet many people live there... not knowing that you’ve got to learn to crawl first...
The story is told that... A woman in the hospital was weeping after being told she was terminally ill with cancer. When a friend sought to console her she replied, "I’m not weeping because I’m dying. I’m weeping because I never lived." I suspect she has played it safe all her life and finally found she’s not really lived. It’s a tragedy to live life without really living as the woman discovered.
1. Fear of failure is not new...
In the parable Jesus told, fear of failure held back the servant with one talent. Some may think that why would the owner of the talents be so mad? After all it is just one measly talent. Apparently, the real story is this...A talent was actually a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a labourer. 20 years’ wages!!! Wow, that’s a big hunk of cash! Some translations translate one talent as a thousand dollars.
Hence, the tragedy of the story! The servant with 20 years’ of wages did nothing to increase the master’s wealth! The original hearers of the story would have understood the ferocity of the owner’s wrath. In those days, the original hearers knew that wealthy landowners often would go away for a long time. They don’t have regularly scheduled dependable flights like we have today, so the time and day when they come home is uncertain. They’d delegate the control and multiplication of their immense wealth to trained accountants in their employ. They expect a return on their investment. So for a trained accountant to not even make one red cent on 20 years of wages, well, it is just unthinkable. The original readers would have grasp the situation very well.
C’mon... Did not invest even one year’s wages??? What the...?? Not even investing in a fixed deposit account in a bank and earn some interest??? (v.27). But it seems, the servant with one talent or 20 years of wages seems so paralyzed by fear of failure of losing the talent, and gave into that fear, that he did not invest even in the safest most conservative way. It sounds like he gave into his past negative experiences and so he’s not even going to try. Ever felt that way? However, in this case, the negative experience was a cop-out – the master saw it for what it is, called him out - “wicked lazy servant” (v.26).
2. Emotionally paralyzed by fear?
Jesus wants us to learn from this story. We must not be let past negative experiences stop us, rather we must learn to use it to our advantage. Negative past experiences are God’s tools to motivate. When we refuse to take appropriate risks in our faith journeys, we’re refusing to live by faith. Gotta have faith that God can multiply our awkward attempts to bless others. Gotta have faith that God can use our gifts and talents to further His glory. Apparently, God has provided more than enough resources according to our ability, i.e. he believes in our potential. He knows we can do it. Just like the parent who knows their baby can walk. They just got to try. Failure is no excuse, being safe and sit around and expect the parents to walk for you is just crazy. Jesus, like the owner of the talents, is coming back and He wants His followers to be ready for His coming, not get lazy, or be paralyzed, but get going, do something, do anything, overcome the fear of failure by doing even the most basic simple step. Is that too much to ask? I like the way the Message says it...
26-27"The master was furious. ’That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest. (msg)