The chosen hymns for this week, Sent by the Lord am I and Father, I place into your hands can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
“…..the Kingdom of heaven will be like this.”
How often do we hear words like this in the Bible?
How do we react when we hear these words?
Do we coorie doon and think “Great! Another story!” or do we shiver a bit and wonder what now?
Do we approach it with anticipation or trepidation?
I must admit, when I saw this was today’s passage my heart sank. Why could I not talk about the ten young women or the sheep and goats? I have more to say about them than about this passage!
What don’t I like here? Is it the concept of using unearned wealth to produce more unearned wealth while people have nothing?
Is it fear of perceived unfair and harsh punishment from a cruel overlord?
Is it because sub-consciously I identify more with the third servant than with the other two?
Many people find this a difficult passage.
The best way to deal with a difficult passage is to study it carefully, and to see what is behind the story to tell us about God and us.
The story itself is quite straight-forward.
Jesus tells us that a very wealthy landowner entrusts his servants with vast sums of money.
The measure of gold (or talent in some translations) was worth roughly fifteen years’ wages for a day labourer. Fifteen years’ wages was more than half of what you might expect to make in a lifetime—maybe all you hoped to make in a lifetime.
Each talent in this parable is that kind of wealth.
The master gives one servant five thousand gold coins, another two thousand, and the last one thousand coins.
So the first man got 75 years wages, the second 30 years and the third 15 years wages.
I’m pretty sure any of us would be delighted if someone gave us 15 years wages – and not told anything about what to do with it!
Did you notice that? The master gave no instructions about the money; he just gave the servants it. And then he left home.
Right away – immediately – the first two invest their money and double it.
The third one dug a hole in the ground, and hid the money.
Their reward varied – the first two were given more money, but the third was treated differently.
He said, “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.”
Notice, he was the only one who said that the master was a harsh man.
Notice also, the servant gave back to the master the coins he had been given. He hadn’t spent them, given them away or squandered them.
He gave back to the master exactly what had been given to him.
Knowing what he did of the master, the servant was cautious and careful.
But this prudent, judicious, sensible, practical, careful, cautious man was treated very harshly by the Master.
Instead of being congratulated on his honesty, he is unceremoniously thrown into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Just because he was practical and sensible, he's tossed into darkness.
He certainly seems right to say the master was a harsh man!
What lesson are we to take from this? Is it that you don’t tell the master that he is harsh and cruel?
Is it that if you’ve got a lot of money, you take it and use it to make more money? Is it that honesty doesn’t pay? Or what?
I think if we go back to the beginning of the passage, we get a clue. We are told it is about what the Kingdom of heaven will be like.
The Kingdom of heaven is God’s realm. It is where God reigns. It is where God rules. It is where God’s law operates.
And we know what God’s law is – it is to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength and to love our neighbour as ourselves.
God’s law is love.
Jesus taught that the heart of the Good News is love. Our world was created for love.
But love is costly and not without risk.
A universe where real love is an option is a risky place, as pain and suffering are not only possible, but likely.
What did the third servant risk? Nothing!
The first two servants risked all – they could have lost their investment. They could have lost everything their master gave them.
Ah you could say, but what would the master have done to them? Surely, he would have reacted harshly.
I don’t think so.
The master would probably have accepted them.
If you read the parable, he does not commend the first one more than the second, so it is not their profit that he is interested in.
The master says to both ‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’.
It is their faith he commends. And their reward is to share in his happiness.
The third servant was motivated by fear rather than faith.
The first two recognise trust when they see it. They recognise generosity. They recognise the honour the master has given them.
And they are empowered to take risks on their master’s part.
God has shown you great love and asks only that you share that love with others.
When you take the risk to love, it is the grace of God that is working through you.
How might you share the love of God with someone today?
Who is going to receive the love that God has shown you?
What would you risk for love if you knew you couldn’t fail?