Summary: PENTECOST 26, YEAR A - Investing for God what God has given us.
I am told that the inventor offered it, first to the Swiss, and only then to the Japanese. The Swiss said that no one would buy such a thing. The Swiss never imagined a situation where their product, with its history and impeccable reputation, was not be the most sought after in the world. The Swiss were not willing to risk their reputation on this newfangled technology, a technology that was, without a doubt ONLY a passing fad. What was the new venture that the Swiss turned down ? It was the quartz chip technology that has revolutionized watch making. In the world of watch making nothing has been the same since. Within a very few years the 80% share of the world watch market, previously enjoyed by the Swiss, was given over to companies such as Seiko and the Swiss were reduced to a mere 20% share. The Swiss passed up the opportunity of a lifetime because they were unwilling to risk what they already had. To make it in today’s rapidly changing and competitive global market it is said you that a company cannot rely on past success or rest on present achievements but must risk everything on what the future may hold. Amazingly, the same can be said about the kingdom of God
A PARABLE OF WARNING
This morning’s gospel reading is the parable of the talents. This is a story about the opportunities God offers his children to participate in what God is doing in the world. It’s a parable about those who receive what God gives them and then invest it for God’s glory. It’s a story about those who turn away from divine opportunity and reap God’s judgment. It is a straightforward account. A man who is about to leave on a journey entrusts his servants with different portions of his property. They are to look after that property, and to ensure that it continues to work for the master, that it continues to make a profit while he is away. To one servant he gives 10 talents, to another 5 and to another 1 talent. Now a talent in the days of Jesus was a sum of money, but it was not chump change. Each talent was worth 15 to 20 years salary. In other words, even the man who was given one talent was on easy street. Two of the servants take this gift and double the investment they are entrusted with, and are richly rewarded for doing so and given even more responsibility; But the third gains nothing from it for his master, all he does is keep safe what he was given - and so what he was entrusted with is taken from him and he is cast off the estate of his master and into the place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
USE IT OR LOSE IT
On one hand this a frank and simple exhortation to work hard at developing the gifts and talents that God has given us. The message Jesus is giving us is to use what God has entrusted to us, whatever that is, however much or little we have. His warning is that if you aren’t productive with what God has given you, you will lose it. It explains why so many people are so spiritually impoverished, why our churches and our societies are in so much trouble. Too many of us have failed to use what God has given to us. We have ailed to do anything more than hide his gifts deep in our own lives. We have failed to reach out - and to share his gifts with others, and so those gifts have done us - and everyone else - no good. It is as if those gifts had never existed, as if God had never given us anything. Use it - or lose it - that is the warning of this parable. But on the other hand, there is something more to this story than simply a fearful exhortation. While it is true that God wants us to use his gifts and to multiply them for the benefit of his Kingdom. We must also understand that we are not judged according to the quantity of the work we do for God, nor even by the quality of that work, or by how much we produce. Rather we are judged by our attitude. By our willingness to do as God wants us to do. by our
willingness to risk all that we have been given for the sake of the Kingdom just as Jesus
risked all of himself for our sake. As Paul writes
"it is by grace, through faith, that we are saved, not by works, lest anyone should boast."
If we reduce the parable of the talents simply to a matter of saying that we must be productive for God - or else be condemned by God. Then we miss what is so good about the Christian life. We miss the good news of Jesus Christ, the good news of the grace and mercy won for us on the cross. I believe that, in the end, if we focus on productivity, we will end up like the servant who failed to invest the talent that his master gave him because of fear. We will end up being afraid. Worried more about how well we are doing in the eyes of God than we are about actually doing anything at all. Consider the servant who buried the talent entrusted unto him. When he is asked by the master to give an accounting of what he has done with his talent what does he say?