November 19, 2023
Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:14-30
Jesus used stories to teach. Seldom were they stories from real life. He would take a truth that he wanted to convey and create a relatable story that illustrated this truth. It’s what the film industry does, the world of drama, and many novels do. It’s brilliant! A good story embeds itself in your mind and you can ponder it for days. These stories in the life of Jesus are called parables.
Gospel writers sometimes clustered these stories/parables of Jesus together. Usually those clusters were on the same theme – like these in Matthew 25. All three of them are about how God has given each one of us a purpose and work to do in our lifetimes AND God will hold us responsible and accountable some day for how well we do with our assignment . Now this theme would have resonated with Matthew because he was a tax collector. He had to keep accounts and probably stayed up nights worrying about where the $1.29 was that was keeping the books from balancing.
So it must have gotten Matthew’s attention when Jesus said that a particular businessman was going on a trip. He didn’t want his money to sit around idly while he was gone, so he gave each of his three employees an envelope with money in it! To one person he gave a certain amount that he thought that person could handle. To another employee he gave twice that amount because he believed that person could handle it! To the third employee he gave five times the amount because he felt this employee was particularly gifted.
After some time, the businessman returns from his trip and calls the three employees into his office for an accounting! Now that is perfectly reasonable and surely was no surprise to his employees! What businessman would not do the very same thing?
Now we are getting to the heart of the story! This is where we’ve been leading up to. Quickly the top two performing employees step before their boss and report! They both hand their boss the envelope and it is twice as thick! 100% profit for both. “Well done, my good and faithful servants,” the boss says. “You will be promoted!”
Now the focus is on the employee who only got one share. He steps up to his boss meekly and hands him the original envelope still sealed but covered in dust and dirt. “Boss,” he says, “You’re one tough dude and frankly you scare me, so I just buried your money so I wouldn’t lose a penny! Here’s your money. It’s all there. It hasn’t been touched!”
What has this guy been doing all this time? Well, he’s been sitting around watching “The Price is Right” on TV! Short answer: he’s not doing much of anything for his boss to whom he is accountable! He has been ignoring his responsibility. He’s been going about his own affairs, basically. Blissfully and carelessly (if not intentionally) unaware that she would have to give an account one day to the person who has been so generous to her!
Are you surprised that the boss explodes? “You wicked and lazy employee! Couldn’t you at least have put my money in the bank or a CD or something? See if I ever trust you with money again! I’m going to give your envelope to my #1 employee who got five times what you did and made 100% profit! Get this man out of my sight!”
Now what do I take home with me today?
1) EVERYBODY HAS SOME TALENTS. Nobody has been missed. You – you- and you! And God never puts a higher value on one person over the other even though one of the servants may be able to perform better on a quantity scale.
2) EVERYBODY WILL GIVE AN ACCOUNT FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN. In this setting here at St. Johns, I will give an account for my performance as pastor and you as parishioner! Just because you or I pay no attention
to our responsibilities under God, doesn’t mean God has forgotten!
3) THE CRITERIA IS THE SAME AS IT WAS WITH MOSES. God said to Moses: “What is that in your hand?” Moses was accountable only for what he had in his hand – what he had been given! You are not accountable for what you don’t have nor are you
accountable for what somebody else was given! Just you!
4) RISK IS INVOLVED. You must step out of your comfort zone in the investment business. Playing it safe is not an option. Saying, as the one employee did, “I was afraid” is not a pass!
5) I need to say that NOWHERE IN THIS LITTLE PARABLE IS AGE A FACTOR! It is only “What is in your envelope? What is that in your hand?” For that – your time, your talent, and your treasure – you are responsible. What do you have? Money, talent, time,
car keys, a smile, a cookie sheet, a knitting needle, a phone, an experience or a way with children?
6) The WORD OF THE EMPLOYER AT THE END OF THE GAME is worth consideration: “Well done, GOOD AND FAITHFUL servant.” It is worth noticing that the criteria is faithfulness and not success! That puts those of us who mean to follow God in a different category than those with other agendas in their lives. The culture has its own rationale for judging someone successful. The Beloved Community strives for faithfulness to the wishes, values and agenda of our employer, so to speak: our God, as revealed to us in Jesus Christ.