The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew 25:14-30
14“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then 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.’ 21His 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.’ 22And 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.’ 23His 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.’24Then 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; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But 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? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents.29For 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. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
The Parable of the Talents by Mother Beth Matthew 25
Several years ago when Stephen and I were on vacation with our boys it became obvious that fear was playing a big part in deciding what theme park rides we could all go on together. You see Stephen and I are both roller coaster riders but our sons are not quite that daring. So one afternoon by the pool I decided to have a chat with the boys about fear and how it can sometimes have the upper hand in our lives. I wanted to emphasize that fear is not necessarily logical and if they could just see the logic of a situation they could overcome their fear. When the chat was over, Nathan asked if I would go down the waterslide at the pool.
Now this waterslide is a completely enclosed tube that goes into a small brick structure and winds around to come out into the deep end of the pool and I do not like enclosed spaces. I attempted to put Nathan off by saying that I would rather not go down the slide, to which he blurted, “Mom you can’t give us a lecture on overcoming our fears and then give in to yours!”
Ah yes. The old adage “do as I say not as I do” had come back to haunt me. So I decided that I would attempt to go down the slide. I watched as many small children and many adults went down the slide unscathed: plunging with a smile into the warm pool. I went to the top of the slide, I sat down in the slide and froze.
I could not muster the strength to go down that slide. I was paralyzed with illogical fear. I summoned all my strength, I told myself that if four and five year olds could go down without fear, I need not be afraid. I tried again and backed out. Nathan and Matthew swam waving at the bottom of the slide cheering me on. Steve coached from the top and still I cowered in fear at the thought of getting into the slide! It was not rational or even reasonable but it was real fear. Now I realize that in one way it made absolutely no difference if I ever went down that slide but I wanted to show my children that I could overcome fear and make my own decision.
Finally, another gentleman came along and said, “Just so you know, you have a crowd of kids cheering you on so why don’t you just close your eyes and go – with your eyes closed you won’t know if it’s dark or light and the water will just pull you along.” So that is what I did. I closed my eyes and went down that slide twice – the first time to show Nathan that I could do it and the second to prove to myself that I could do it again.
So what is the point of this story? The point is that fear is real and it can be powerful. Fear can keep us from doing the things that we need to do or from taking a risk and doing something new and different. Fear can control us if we let it.
In the gospel reading today we hear about risk taking. Jesus tells the parable of the talents. To one servant a master gave 5 talents, to another he gave two talents and to the last servant the master gave a single talent. This master entrusted to his servants large sums of money.
Today a talent is thought to be about 20 years-worth of wages (about 1.5 million dollars). The first two servants are praised for being faithful with the money that they were given. They each managed to invest their sums and double it. The third servant takes his talent and buries it. Why does he do this? Fear. He is afraid of his master and he is afraid of losing the money. He is given an opportunity to show faithfulness but he is paralyzed by fear.
Further we see that the third servant thinks that his Master is harsh and calls him someone who reaps where he did not sow and gathers where he did not scatter seed! But is this a true picture of the Master? The master entrusted to this servant a large sum of money – a generous offer; allowing the servant an opportunity to show faithfulness. Unfortunately, the servant does not seem to know his master. Perhaps he has a picture in his mind’s eye of who the master is and he has allowed this picture, this idea of a harsh master to cloud his behavior and make him afraid.
Have you ever walked through a fun house and looked in those mirrors? The reflection back is a very distorted picture of who you are. One mirror will exaggerate your head, another will stretch your body. It is a reflection of you but not an accurate one. Sometimes I think this is how we view God.
We may have had a bad experience with other Christians or we may have heard a distorted interpretation of scripture. Someone may have used God as a punishment for our behavior. When we hear that God is a Father we may have a distorted view of him because we did not have a very good experience with our own father. Do we have a distorted picture of who God is? Does that picture of a harsh, demanding God keep us from fulfilling His purposes here on Earth? We have been entrusted with the gospel – a message of good news; a message of hope and reconciliation. Our image of who God is and what he expects of us might limit our willingness to share that good news with others.
Our distorted image of God might even keep us from seeing the gospel as Good News.
What about how we see ourselves? Sometimes I think the paralyzing fear comes in the insecurity about our own abilities. What if the last servant doesn’t trust his own ability to make a good decision? I mean it is all well and good to invest the master’s money but what if I choose the wrong thing to invest in? What if I am not smart enough to see the good thing when it is offered to me? Many times I think we have a distorted view of ourselves, as well. And that indecision and fear keeps us from moving forward.
Just being entrusted with something is not enough. The servant was given the talent but he didn’t do anything with it. Just being given the peace and forgiveness of the gospel is not enough – we are expected to share it. Burying it will not do any good for us or for our neighbours. You may have noticed that in our society we have a little problem with hoarding things – just turn on the TV and you will see shows called Consumed, Hoarders or Storage Wars. We are amassing things just because. Not for their usefulness, not to help others but just to have them. Keeping these things stored is costing us thousands of dollars a year!
Things are meant to be used or to be shared. The Master rewarded the servants who took what they were given and used it for his gain. God has entrusted to us his message of hope for the world. It is good news to us and to others. What is our motivation? Are we held back by fear of risk and failure OR are we motivated by God’s great love for us and His generosity towards us? May we see in our Master the generosity and grace that that extends great gifts to us. May we see ourselves as He sees – entrusted with the gospel – chosen to take risks and to make an impact on our community. May His love compel us to be faithful to go out into the world and share the great gift that He has entrusted to us. Amen.