The 27th Sunday after Pentecost -- Proper 28A (11/16/2008)
Lessons: Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18 Psalm 90:1-8 [9-11], 12 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 Saint Matthew 25:14-30 Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm Judges 4:1-7 Psalm 123
[Jesus said] 25.14 "For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 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.' 21 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.' 22 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.' 23 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.' 24 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; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' 26 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? 27 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. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 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. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"
St. Matthew 25:14-30, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
We are a fortunate people. Even those who live most modestly among us rarely go without a meal (unless it is a matter of convenience or diet...), have a warm, dry and reasonably safe place to live, and don't lack for adequate clothing or medical care. Some of us even have retirement savings, or "rainy day" funds. We are a fortunate people.
How do we understand the fact that we have so much, especially in light of the fact that others in this world have so little? The secular perspective claims that since we are more capable, more creative, more industrious, and more determined, we have accumulated these riches on our own. They are the fruits of our labor - the result of hard work and dedication - they are ours.
But the perspective of faith looks at our good fortune from a different angle. Our wealth is not our own. It belongs to God, and has been entrusted to us for a time. Jesus' words in this weekend's Gospel lesson support this belief, and he takes it even a bit farther. He suggests that some people have less because they are less capable, and some people have more because they are more capable. From those who have less, and who are less capable, less is expected. But from those who have more, and who are more capable, more is expected. And what is expected is this: that we put our belongings to use for God's purpose.
That certainly puts our wealth in a different light. When we think of God's role in our good fortune, we are often tempted to think of that wealth as a blessing. But the words of Jesus cause us to wonder if our wealth is in fact a blessing, or instead a test.
In Exodus 16:4, we read these words: "Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.' " (See, also, Deuteronomy 8:11-16.) The writer of Exodus interpreted this free bread from heaven not as a blessing, but as a test: a test to see whether or not Israel would continue to trust God, and follow God's word, once they had a home of their own.
Our belongings become a test for us too. The more we have, the more easily we delude ourselves into thinking that what we have is for our own personal benefit. But the truth is: God expects us to put what we have received to use for the good of the kingdom. God expects us to invest ourselves and our belongings into efforts that benefit God's kingdom. Our wealth is indeed a test - a test to see whether or not we can remember that it all belongs to God, and is all to be used in a way that honors God.
This month, in congregations throughout the world, people are making their financial commitments to support next year's ministries. This is one way we measure our faithfulness to God. This is one way that we "pass" the test that our belongings can become for us. This is one way that we say, with a loud and clear voice, that we intend to invest ourselves and our resources in ventures that are pleasing to God.
In this parable, those who are given more (and who are more responsible with how they use what they have) "enter into the joy of the Master." May we who also have more, use our resources in a manner that is pleasing to God. And as we do so, may we too "enter into the joy of our Master."
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week's Text:
- Why did God need to test Ancient Israel?
- Why did Jesus want his listeners to consider this parable?
- What is the result of not trusting God?
Connecting with This Week's Text:
- What are signs of wealth in my life?
- In what ways do my possessions draw me away from a true trust in God?
- What can I do to make sure that benevolence and trusting God come before hoarding wealth and spending only on myself?