“Joy or Weeping?”

Matthew 25:14-30

November 15, 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 25:14-30

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 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.’ 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.’

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.’ 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.’

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; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

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? 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. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 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. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Prayer.

Thank you for your financial commitment to the mission and ministry of our parish and for promptly returning your completed Pledge Card.

What may appear to be the perfect ending to our annual Stewardship Drive

The parable Jesus serves up for us today is a lot more complex.

The obvious and easy question is,

What are you doing with what you are given?

Are you making what God has given you greater for the Lord’s benefit?

Or, are you hiding away your time, talent, and treasures

Hoping to skate through life on the cheap?

What are you doing?

This is a good starting place.

Is faith so shallow it only requires going through the motions?

… show up for worship (as little as possible)?

… drop an Andrew Jackson or a check into the basket when prompted?

… purchase some baked goods to “support” Promise Land or our South Africa missions?

(Sarcasm)

“I’ll tell you what,

Burying my talents

Saves me a lot of time and effort when I have better things to do, and

Burying my talents

Saves me a ton of money that would otherwise be wasted on the church.

Why tithe if I don’t have to?

Sunday’s are meant for sleeping in.

Maybe I can

Just put a lid on this Jesus talk and

Hope it all works out in the end.”

(End Sarcasm)

What are you doing?

Perhaps there is something deeper, quietly stirring in your soul.

Instead of waiting for a personal or family crisis to kick faith into gear

Perhaps now is the time to make some investments

Into personal faith development.

The timing couldn’t be better as travel restrictions and

Stay at home requests increase.

If you’re going to put in 45 minutes on the treadmill,

How about 45 minutes in exercising your spiritual life?

Pray, and learn about prayer.

Study scripture, and experience God working through scripture in your life.

Learn about the early Church, martyrs, leaders, and thinkers.

Engage in missional outreach by making neighbors into friends.

Grow that circle of friends bigger, and

Love every one of them as if each is your long-lost child.

What are you doing? Jesus is asking those who follow him,

Knowing full well that he would soon

Suffer, die, resurrect, and ascend into heaven

With the promise to return

At some unknown and unknowable future date and time.

The choice is yours.

How are you going to spend your time and money waiting for me to return? Jesus is asking.

Are you flying economy class …

Faith on the half-shell?

Or, is it time to upgrade with

an investment in personal spiritual development?

What are you doing? Is a good place to start, but

There is more here ripe for discovery.

1. First, when Jesus is talking about Talents,

He’s talking about money;

Cold hard cash.

Jesus is not talking about God-given abilities, gifts or graces.

The definition of “talents” expanded beyond money to include abilities, gifts, and graces in old English during the middle ages.

One Talent equaled 6,000 Denarius.

A Denarius is the daily wage.

So, one Talent is worth 6,000 days of work.

In today’s terms,

At a modest annual income of $40,000 per year

1 Talent would equal $600,000.

That’s a lot of money to bury in the back yard.

Likewise, 2 Talents = $1.2 million.

5 Talents = $3 million. 

The example Jesus uses in the Parable of the Talents

Is one of hyperbole;

Excessive, over-the-top abundance.

Jesus isn’t using for his example a couple of bucks, or

A couple hundred, or even

A couple thousand dollars.

Jesus is talking millions.

In this parable Jesus personifies God as the Master.

Jesus is quite intentionally composing a character of his heavenly Father.

God is incredibly trusting, giving great stewardship responsibility,

Each according to their ability. (25:15)

The least abled was entrusted with $600,000!

Our God is one of abundant, amazing grace.

Jesus characterizes God as kind and generous, who is enormously thankful.

“Well done, good and trustworthy servant; You have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.” (25:21)

I’d call that

Getting a bonus and receiving a  promotion,

Earned for work well-done.

Jesus fills his character palate by describing God as being positive and joyous.

“Enter into the joy of your master,” the master grants his faithful servants. (25:21)

In other words, God invites the productive, the fruitful, the faithful into God’s own joy.

There is no hint here of a God who is harsh, rash, or vindictive.

I wonder where that assumption came from?

2. The foil for the parable is the servant who buried the talent and waited for his master’s return.

Why did he bury it and wait?

Why didn’t he take the initiative and invest the one talent like the other two?

He reveals his motive when asked:

“Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.” (25:24-25)

He was afraid.

He was afraid of his master.

The servant who buried his one talent

Assumed the master to be a harsh man.

Harsh?

Based on what?

The parable already established the master as being generous, kind, grateful, thankful, and full of joy.

Nary a hint of evidence exists to lead one to believe the master was a harsh man.

Jesus reveals in this parable that

False assumptions lead to poor decisions which leads to disastrous outcomes,

Especially when we are naturally biased to do the least amount of effort to just get by.   

He was afraid.

Fear is a lousy motivator.

Fear of aging boosts sales of anti-wrinkle Aveeno and man boosting Nugenix.

Fear of torture makes people confess to both the truth and falsehoods.

Fear of hell and damnation has been a staple of some Christian communities for centuries, creating untold harm to God’s beautifully created human condition.

Fear that leads to paralysis results in Divine anger and judgment.

“you wicked and lazy slave!” = an accurate observation of the servant’s effort.

“you knew, did you?” = you think you’re so smart?

“I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?” = you calling the Lord a thief? (25:26)

“As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness”

Not the inner darkness.

“Throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (25:30)

Looking for a fair trial?

Don’t anger the Judge with false accusations.

That right there

Is the judgment of an angry God.

Paralysis.

Laziness.

Wickedness.

Worthless effort.

Believing we are smarter than everyone else.

Making false accusations.

These are the behaviors Jesus warns his disciples about in this age

As we await his promised return.

3. There are two possible outcomes for those entrusted with the master’s wealth:

An invitation into the joy of the master, or,

Being thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The judgment of the master is pre-determined, pre-established, and all are forewarned.

Our final outcome is completely dependent on the choices we make.

We choose the judgment we receive.

In other words, we are responsible for our choices and actions.

I know responsibility is a dirty word to many in this day and age.

Yet, Jesus takes the unpopular stance of holding his disciples

Accountable and responsible for our actions.

Each of us are held accountable by the Master.

These are the questions for my own accountable discipleship:

– Are the words I choose consistent with the grace and love of Jesus Christ?

– Are my efforts worthy or commensurate with His suffering on the cross?

– Is my love for God and neighbor an accurate, proportional reflection of God’s love for me?

I err, just like everyone else.

Yet, I firmly believe that all failures are forgiven for all those baptized and clothed in Christ.

In the long view, critical self-reflection helps keeps my spiritual journey on the right trajectory.

Faith without actions is dead, the Apostle Paul reminds us.

Satisfaction with the status quo stinks like a week-old dead fish.

Until Christ promised return and His kingdom is fully established on earth as it is in heaven,

There is work to be done,

Here in Rush,

In Monroe and Livingston Counties,

In the United States, and

Around the world.

Faithfulness is not merely obedience to God’s direction,

But also to how we use this in between time until Jesus returns.

Living, growing, vibrant faith smells as sweetly as a vase full of Spring flowers.

Living faith, motivates each of us to take initiative and risks.

To those of greater ability, greater effort and risks are expected.

You think you’re so smart?

The master expects you to dedicate more of your intelligence to the benefit of the kingdom.

You think you’re so affluent?

The master expects you to contribute more of your wealth for the benefit of the kingdom.

You think you are so naturally gifted?

The master expects you to contribute more hours of productivity than everyone else for the benefit of the kingdom.

The Master expects results.

God trusts us with everything …

All the jewels of Creation.

God holds nothing back.

God expects us to perform and expects results.

The choices we make determine our judgment.

So what choices will you make?

What are you doing?

Make informed decisions.

Make the right choices.

Get to work in the mission field.

Make disciples. Love God. Love neighbors.

Make progress.

Show results.

And you will

Enter into the joy of the master.

Amen. 

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