Sunday November 19, 2017.
14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, “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.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, “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.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
There is only one place I can think of where burying your precious goods in the ground would have been very productive. That time and place would be if you were the support party for Burke and Wills exploring expedition in 1861!
We were up on Cooper’s Creek last month. Burying supplies for those worn out exploders returning from the Gulf of Carpentaria under the famous “Dig Tree” on the banks of the Copper’s Creek before they pulled out of the camp site only nine hours before Burke and Wills finally arrived months later than expected was a good thing to do, even if it was not quite enough to save Burke and Wills.
The rest of the time, burying the gifts you have been given seems to be a real no, no according to Jesus.
This parable about the Kingdom does make you wonder about God! I am disturbed by the harshness of the judgment against that third servant. It seems that unless you perform well, you are out. It seems like God favours the rich and productive and cares little for those who don’t so well and have little. It seems unjust. God seems harsh. A lot of people see God this way.
It goes like this. As the wealthy land owner departs for a long journey he calls in his servants and gives each servant an amount of money.
Some servants use what they have been given and produce it again. One servant does not. He buries the money. He does not use what he was given at all.
After a very long time, the boss returns to square everything up.
Some servants get the master’s approval. They were trustworthy with what they were given and so, they now have authority over greater things. “Well done good and faithful servant”, says the Master.
But one servant cannot or will not use what he has been given in a productive way. He gets the shovel out and buries what he has been given. He says that he does this out of fear. Fear of what? For fear of either misusing the gift (getting it wrong), risking losing the gift or just fear of the master! He does not know him enough to trust him.
This fearful risk-averse person gets pretty harsh treatment. He is stripped of the smallest amount he had been given and thrown out of the family! He ends up angry and distressed.
Message? We have been given a lot by the Lord and so we better get on and use it well unless this angry master throws us out of his family when he returns!
This might be PART what the message is from Jesus. We indeed have been given much and we are called to daringly use what the Lord has given us for others, producing more joy, more thanks and more good for others.
But there is more to it.
First of all, a talent is a vast sum of money. These people are given a superabundance of gifts. The Master is very generous to his people.
The master is very trusting of them too. Think about it: these people are entrusted by the master with his WHOLE property.
The master is taking the MOST risk here. Would you do this; give your workers or your family or you next door neighbour responsibility for looking after your house and garden or farm or business or special stuff in your room and give them lots of your money and then go away for ages? There is no guarantee that there will be anything left when you return!
The master is generous, trusting and very patient. He trusts these people for a very long time. This is not a short journey of weeks or months but maybe years, even decades.
I wonder why. Is he looking for some learning by his people; and for some fruitful production and expansion of his kingdom? Seems like he wants them to learn to be faithful with what they have been given. So much so that he is prepared to wait. He gives them plenty of time to learn and grow in this.
Seems like his end goal is joy. He wants his people to know his joy. “Enter into my happiness”, he says to the faithful ones.
And there is one more thing to notice. There are these different amounts given. He gives one a lot and another less. Why so? He says so.
“….to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability”.
So, this Master knows his servants well. He knows their abilities, their character, their personality and ability to handle a gift and a responsibility that comes with the gift. There is a personal relationship here.
Can you hear today, friend, that God is not favouring the gifted and talented at the expense of those who are not doing so well.
He is not running a competition that you have to compete in to save your skin.
He is not withholding things from you to get you to work harder or perform better or because he does not trust you.
Just the opposite. God is generous, trusting and patient. He wants to share the joy of his acceptance and love with you – forever.
For that to happen, he knows you have a fair bit to learn. We all do!
He knows you and what you can handle. As you trust his giving and his gifts, you will experience his joy. If you won’t trust his gracious intent, faith dies. What little you had gets buried in fear.
And yet, the One speaking this parable casts out fear by his perfect love today.
Jesus is still generous: he gives himself in the getting of forgiveness and faith for you.
Jesus is still trusting. Even though there is no guarantee than any of us will be always faithful with the gifts he gives, Jesus takes the risk anyway! He entrusts us with the lot – home, family, work, spirt, school, retirement, personality, marriage, relationships, fun, sun and Tanunda bakery buns!
Jesus is patient with us! We have had our whole lives so far and some people are really old!
Jesus is personal. This is not just any “Master” or “God” speaking this parable. This Jesus speaking to you. He is the treasure of life buried in the tomb for you. He is the one who rose to give out his superabundant gifts to people he knows, loves and calls.
But, it is possible to go for the shovel and bury his gifts. We can dig our way to death by trusting in ourselves more than him, and putting our trust in what we can produce and achieve over what Jesus has already produced and achieved for us – forgiveness, life, assured future life, endless and rock-solid acceptance and love and the joy of being his worker in his world for his purposes.
Why do we bury his gifts?
Is it fear of making a mistake and being embarrassed about it?
Is it fear that we will lose something precious?
Is it fear that that comes from just not actually knowing who he is as a person, and so, not believing his promises in the Scripture? Probably all of these and more.
But hear him now:
I am generous, patient, trusting of you, prepared to teach you and be patient with you and I know you by your name and in baptism you are mine.
Friend, go ahead. Throw that shovel away today! Don’t bury yourself by burying his gifts.
Receive his gifts. Everything your heavenly Father has is yours by faith in Jesus.
Don’t hoard his gifts. Give them away. So much so that your left hand loses track of what your right hand is giving to others!
That his joy. That is our now and our future.