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Worship Service begins at 10:30 AM
Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

The Small Things - March 31, 2019

Matthew 25:14-30 In the gospel of Matthew, we find a master with incredible wealth. As he gets ready to leave he has nearly a decade cash on hand to entrust to his servants. Which, likely, means he has a whole lot more for himself. After all, who would trust ALL their wealth in the hands of someone else? One man receives 5, another 2, and another 1, which, doesn’t sound like much. A talent seems more like an ability than money. But even if it were a translation for dollars, 5, 2, and 1 don’t amount to much. But what if we consider it’s equivalent in 2019—something more like $50,000—a year’s wages for just 1 talent. Does that change the picture at all? What if

your boss came to you and said, “here’s $50,000 cash, keep it safe.” What would you do? What if you received $250,000? Do you have enough confidence in your abilities to use it?
I don’t know about you, but I have a good bit of sympathy for the 3rd servant. I consider myself fairly capable—but I’m not sure I’d be willing to risk a full year’s wages. I hardly want to risk a week’s wages—spending it wisely on things we need, sure, but on the unknown and unsecured? I’m not so sure. So, the idea of taking it and tucking it away someplace secure sounds great. I mean, I may not gain anything, but I also won’t lose anything. And, honestly, I’d hate to lose $50,000 of someone else’s money. Truth be told, I’d be a terrible broker. And I’m a one talent person.
I’m not self-deprecating here, I’m claiming the truth that my master would not give me heaps of money to invest if he were giving each according to their ability.
Now, some of you are thinking you know how to make good investments and wouldn’t really worry much about not making a profit if you were at least given some time, right? You know what you’re doing with trading or investing. You’re savvy. You’re a 5 talent person.
The scripture says, “to each according to their ability”. That means the master understands his servants. He trusts them, believes in them and knows what they can do. That includes that the master knew the 3rd servant could handle the $50,000. It’s the servant who doubted, not the master.
The third servant experienced a worm of doubt….an insidious anxiety of failure. As I empathize, I can hear his inner monlogue—“What am I supposed to do with this? Why did I get less than the others? It’s probably because Master trusts them more than me. Master believes them and knows they can do it. But I just get the leftovers. Master doesn’t love me like them. Master must be expecting me to fail. Master knows I can’t do it. I’ll never measure up. I’m not as good as them. It’s better if I just tuck this away and keep it safe.
This servant is full of self-doubt and fear. He won’t even try. He becomes consumed comparing himself with others and what the Master gave them, so much so that he can’t see the forest for the trees. If the Master didn’t trust him would he have given him a full year’s wages?!?! Really! If I had that kind of money, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t just be handing it out for people I don’t trust with money to invest. That’s just foolish. And you don’t come to have $350,000 cash on hand by being foolish!
The master wasn’t a fool. I think he knew what he was doing and believed in the third servant. I think what he didn’t see was the reservoir of fear and self-doubt.
So then we have the story of the return…the Master comes back and each one comes before him with what they have. The one, 5 plus 5, the other 2 plus 2, and the 3rd with just his one. And here’s where it gets messy for me. The Master praises those who traded and invested well. But then comes off the rails with the third servant. The servant is bitter and fearful….he’s not confident. He doesn’t say. You have me one talent, here is one talent. Have a good day. He didn’t say, “look that was more money than I have ever had in my hands and I honestly didn’t know what to do with it. I froze and thought it was best to save it than to risk losing it. Here is what belongs to you.” Instead…he deflects….I knew you were mean and cold-hearted. I knew you’d go looking for what you didn’t earn and didn’t sew.
What?!?! Where is this coming from?! The generous master who entrusted $350,000 to three servants, is mean and harsh? He didn’t ask the other two men for more than they offered? He didn’t rip them a new one for failing him….so where does the third servant get this? And then the master can’t hear him…he doesn’t see the truth of what’s happening…he rises in anger as he accused of being terrible and then lives into the terrible accusations the servant has made, condemning him forever. Not offering forgiveness or grace or mercy. Instead, there’s just weeping and gnashing of teeth.
So now our story is pretty messy. What was fairly logical and reasonable all the sudden becomes harsh and judgmental. Especially when you compare it to the kingdom of heaven….which is meant to be a place of peace and wholeness, of grace and mercy, and now all the sudden it resembles hell a little more than heaven….so where do we go with it? What do we do with the parts that are uncomfortable?
And, recognizing this is a parable…it’s a story that highlights the meaning of other things and really isn’t a story of truth in and of itself….what is the significance we are meant to tease out of it?
Are we meant to live in fear of an angry Master who reaps where he has not sown? Does Jesus really mean for us to be motivated by fear??? After all, it was fear that paralyzed the servant…so couldn’t it be a two-edged sword?
Or, are we supposed to see that God trusts us and entrusts us with amazing gifts…maybe not $50,000 or a winning lottery ticket, but gifts and abilities that are worth far more….gifts of hospitality, of music, of craftsmanship, of intercession, healing, and administration. Gifts that can come together to help bring about the kingdom of heaven on earth—here and now?
Are we meant to see that we should stop comparing ourselves to others, for when we do we lose sight of how God views us? Do we diminish ourselves instead of seeing the brilliant and beautiful gifts we do have?
You might notice that the parable doesn’t have an incapable servant the master doesn’t trust. And there isn’t one who tries and fails?. Seemingly, if we put to use what God has given us, there is a guaranteed return of fruitfulness. How crazy is that?! We aren’t meant to fear trying or risking, only to fear a failure to even try at all. All we have to do is try.
Now, that’s not a blanket shield of protection from failure for all Christians. It’s not that God says all you have to do is try and you’ll never fail. That’s not the point. The point is….God has given you a gift…a talent….a treasure of some sort…and if you dare to work with that…to be a part of God’s kingdom using that gift…then you will bear fruit. First, you have to figure out your gift. My gift is not investing. This is not a shield that says I can do anything I want and God will bless it. Do not give me $50,000 of your money to try and get you a 100% return. It’s not going to happen. Why? Because that’s not my gift. But, ask me to use my gifts…the specific ones God has given me…hospitality, or wisdom, or preaching or intercession…and I can probably deliver for you. =) At the very least, I’m willing to try. And I can attest that if you are faithful with a little….use what you know you have…God does tend to give you more. I wasn’t born with all those gifts. But as I have learned to invest my small amounts, God has entrusted me with more. I do believe that happens. I have seen those responsibilities grow in my own life. And I believe that God will grow them in yours too. Not so we can all have a million dollars…or even $50,000 cash in the bank…but so we can grow the work of the kingdom each and every day.

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