From the Well - 3/7/2017

Matthew 25:14-30 (NRSV)
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.'

This story rocks me back on my heels. Out of the blue, the master calls his servants in and drops a huge amount money into their pockets. How much? Well, a talent according to some commentators is equal to over five years' worth of wages. Get your calculator out and crunch the numbers. The first servant receives twenty-five years' worth of wages and the second a decade's worth. That's a lot of money! What would you do if someone suddenly gave you twenty-five, ten, or even five years' worth of wages? You certainly wouldn't bury it in the ground!

And, yet, the Biblical scholar Eduard Schweizer says that the Jewish law of Jesus' day reads, "Whoever immediately buries property entrusted to him is no longer liable because he has taken the safest course conceivable." The one talent man is following the law. Why is the master so upset with the servant who buries his treasure? Why is he so angry? The servant is following the law.

Jesus often talks in positive terms about those who give their money away (Zacchaeus) and those who give sacrificially (The widow's mite). This is the only instance that I am aware of where Jesus encourages investment and profit. What's the point? I believe Jesus is using exaggeration (Hyperbole) to get our attention. 

The Master is upset because the servant doesn't do anything with what he is given. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem where He will give the world the greatest gift it has ever received. What are we doing with the gift? Where are we investing our gifts, talents, passion? Will we bury them in the ground?

Let me try to make my point with this illustration: Many years ago a pastor from the U.S. was in northern Canada to preach at a friend's church. He wanted to write a letter to his wife but he did not have any stamps. So, he walked down to the local post Canadian Post Office to buy some. When he put his money on the counter, the clerk refused to take it. "That is U.S. money,"the postal clerk said. "We only take Canadian money." The pastor could not buy any stamps with the money in his pocket. He had not exchanged his money. The money he had was useless to him.

All of us will eventually move to a new country. It's called heaven. The only way to take anything with us is to exchange it for something worthwhile before we leave. The question at this point is, where are you investing your God given resources? That is the question we are being asked in Jesus' story. Are you using your gifts and resources for something that will last, something that will matter? Are you making a difference with what God has given you? Think about it.