Summary: Being a faithful steward of God’s gifts requires we face the challenge of risking those gifts to grow the Kingdom.
THE RISK OF THE STEWARD
The hang-glider rides the tramway to the top of Sandia Peak overlooking Albuquerque. At the tip of the peak, he stretches the gossamer fabric over a lightweight metal frame and leaps off the mountain into the clear air. The person enjoys the rush that comes with the risk of hang-gliding. Yet the glider trusts that the warm thermal currents coming up from the valley floor beneath him will sustain the flight.
Twenty-five thousand people shoot the rapids of the Colorado River each summer. Rising and falling with the swirling current, they enjoy the thrill of beating the odds and taming the river.
In another kind of risk, many enjoy playing the commodities markets. Betting on the future price of certain goods, they seek to profit in the face of the unknowable future. Still others across the United States take the risk of gambling in the growing phenomenon of casino betting.
Risk is reality. Starting a business or starting a family is a risk. Life is risky.
Yet how many people identify the call of the Lord Jesus Christ with a willingness to take risks for the sake of His church and kingdom? The “Parable of the Talents” does not have so much to do with what one does with talents as with what one risks for the sake of the Kingdom.
All of us have been given by God a quantity of the “stuff of life.” That stuff is our time, talent, and resources. God has given us the same 24 hours per day. God has given every believer a talent, a capacity. God has entrusted us with resources. In reality, this parable is about our willingness to risk time, talent, and resources for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and His church.
All too often, the last entity in the community identified with risk is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. One prominent pastor hung this banner before the church: “The seven last words of the church: ‘We never did it that way before.’ ”
The present challenge before our church calls for a decision of risk. We will, in the days ahead, be called upon to risk time, talent, and resources. We will shortly decide to risk our very substance for the sake of the challenge before our church. We will pledge a portion of our future income for the great advance before us. The Lord Jesus Christ calls upon us to take risks for the sake of His kingdom and church.
THE Risk OF Participating in
What God Is Doing rather than Merely Observing
The well-known story of the three servants has etched itself into our memory since early childhood. A man gave part of his money to three servants. One received five bags of gold, one two, and another one bag. The Greek coin talenta represented the largest denomination commonly minted—a large sum.
In reality, the five-bag servant and the two-bag servant are window dressing; they set off in clearer relief the one-bag servant. Although he had less to lose than the others, he did nothing. He had one bag of gold and did nothing with it. He was the typical observer, benchwarmer, or non-participant. He was incarcerated in inertia, imprisoned in his own special paralysis. He could not risk even the minimum.
Reinhold Niebuhr, a famous American Protestant theologian in the 20th century, served as both a working pastor in Detroit and a respected professor at Yale University. He told the story of a flatland farm boy who, all his young life, dreamed of being a sailor on a tall-masted sailing ship. He slipped away from home, made his way to a port city, and enlisted as an apprentice sailor. The third day out to sea, the captain commanded that he assume the watch in the crow’s nest. The boy climbed halfway up the mast and then froze, going neither up nor down. He took an option that was not an option. He feared the ridicule of the seasoned sailors on the deck beneath him, so he would not go down. He feared the heights above him, so he would not go up. He froze between the options and took neither. He is the very illustration of the one-bag servant. The servant neither risked the money nor threw it away. He simply kept it and did nothing with it.
God hands us the “stuff of life.” That stuff is the mix of our influence, contacts, network, abilities, money, time, and energy that make up life—in short, our time, talent, and resources. God expects us to risk that for the sake of the church and kingdom. We have the same options as the servant: risk it or lose it. The challenge for our church in the weeks before us will call each of us to take risks for the sake of reaching others with the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. Each one of us will assess the stuff of life that God has handed us and will decide to risk some of it for God’s work or to do nothing with it.