“The Bottom Line isn’t the Last Line,” Matthew 25: 14-30

This story is probably familiar to us if we’ve spent any time in church or around scripture

  • Story was so well known during the middle ages that the word talent went from a unit of measurement to become a word that describes any skill or ability that comes from God
    • That definition/understanding probably gives away where we’re headed right?

What happens

  • Part of a larger section where Jesus states “the coming kingdom of heaven will be likeā€¦”
    • Lets us know immediately that there’s more than just the immediate story happening here
      • A wealthy man has to go on a journey so he puts three servants in charge of various amounts of wealth. Two of them make investments they work with the money and get a return – both of them double what they had. Third man buries the money, doesn’t do anything with it, so that when the master returns nothing will have been lost
        • Eventually the master does return, the two who increased the money are rewarded, the one who didn’t do anything with what he was given is punished.
          • He makes a pretty good case in his defense
            • I knew you were a horrible person, I was afraid of what you would do if I tried and failed so I made sure not to risk anything just in case

Interesting thing – in a later apocryphal gospel we learn a lot more about the third guy.

  • In that version – he doesn’t bury the money, he goes wild with it
    • We don’t know for sure how much a talent was worth
      • Some people say 20 years worth of wages, 75lbs of gold
        • Today 75lbs of god would be worth around 1.25 million dollars
          • It was enough to get into to some stuff
    • He parties, he spends, he is as reckless with the money as one could be (apparently assumes the master isn’t coming back) and then when the master comes back he has to face the music
      • I don’t know about you but I like that version better. I would be way more comfortable if that were the story. Because the version we’ve got is uncomfortable. The fact that there’s an alternate version lets us know that other people found it uncomfortable too because it points us to this: there are two ways of being unfaithful to God – an active way and a passive way, a hot way and a cold way
        1. Open rebellion – we know what it is and we know how to avoid it
        2. Do nothing at all and neglect the potential and opportunities we have

This story would have been familiar Jesus’ audience

  • Travel was a long and hazardous thing
  • Also familiar in another sense – it is how the Jewish faith had always understood the relationship between God and human beings
    • Creation was an act of divine generosity; God offers creations in his image the opportunity to enjoy the things that were uniquely God’s
      • People have some characteristics of a creator that creations aren’t usually given (things we don’t/can’t give robots for fear of an uprising)
        1. Power – we have the ability to do things and to make things happen, we can impact other people and the rest of the world
        2. Freedom – we can choose what we do with that power – we have the ability to split an atom and we can use that ability to create energy or destroy the world
        3. Spirit – spirit that we see evident in God where God finds joy in doing things that bless the recipients of God’s actions
      • God has those three characteristics, God gives those to people
        • Simone Weils – “Creation was the moment when God ceased to be everything so we humans could be something”
          • God has to give us opportunity to use those gifts without interference – we have to be able to ride without training wheels or anyone holding us up
    • That’s what’s happening in this parable – the master goes away and gives the servants a chance to do something – and the third guy doesn’t even try
      • That’s his issue – not that he doesn’t bring about enough a return but that he receives an opportunity from his creator and doesn’t do anything with it

Tying it all up

  • Last week of the Resolution series, last major category – Finance
    • Start saving, pay off debt, all kinds of things – all kinds of good and important things
      • But – if we limit our value to a number then we make a mistake. If all we focus on is what we earn and save then we miss the mark
        • We talk about Stewardship in church, we talk about how much we give, how much we owe to God, stewardship is not and has never been just about money
          • Biblical stewardship includes way more than that
            • It involves how we treat creation – the planet we’ve been given
            • It involves how we treat each other – the relationships we have
            • It involves how we spend our time – are we using our opportunities when they come
            • It is about what we do with all of the things that God gives us and all of the opportunities we have to make something of those things

A lot of people study this parable and try to find the reasons the third servant does what he did

  • Lot of reasons given but the one that sticks out to me is fear – he’s afraid of a bad result so he doesn’t even try
    • What he does out of fear is an image of what we do when we define success as return on investment and assume that God does so as well. When we let our fear of what a bad result might mean paralyze us we lose the ability to try. Jesus takes the actions of this third servant so seriously because when we do what he did we make ourselves less than we are, we throw away the gift of creation
      • God had given us the gift of opportunity to act. If we let fear keep us from making the best use of that opportunity then we lose the chance to experience what God created us for.

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