Today I have a meditation which I may or may not expand upon later.
Part of my morning prayer time includes prayerfully reading the Gospel reading from the common lectionary, which is used by tens of thousands of churches worldwide. This weeks reading is the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-30.
I’m not really worried today about the multiplying of the talents for the man who was given 5 talents or 2 talents. I’m going to focus on the character in this story who represents most of us, the poor soul who was given one talent to manage.
We’ve all (mostly) known the story. A man going on a long journey gave 3 servants 5 talents (a measurement in those days of something of value, like gold or silver), 2 talents, and 1 talent to manage respectively. The servants given 5 and 2 talents each doubled what they had received, and each one heard from his master ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ A joyous declaration for any master to his servant.
But for the man who had but one talent, the reception was a little different. He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ So this servant had received but one talent, and had done nothing with it. Not only that, but said to his master I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed. That’s a gutsy thing to throw at your master when he comes around checking productivity, is it not? But here’s the point of what I’ve been meditating on this passage since Friday, that this, by and large, may be how we view our master in heaven. He reaps where he has not sown, and gathers where he has scattered no seed. And dog-gone it, we are not putting any of our talents, our treasure, or anything else in play to gather in that field, or reap where we don’t believe God has been working.
We are like Peter in the Book of Acts, refusing to eat anything on that sheet being lowered from heaven with all the unclean animals upon it. “But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”” Acts 10:14 ESV. Peter refused to eat what God was offering him because the holy scriptures, the Bible, told him not to eat anything that slithers upon the ground, certain birds of prey, meat from animals that don’t part the hoof or chew the cud (this is just a small sample). Peter was doing exactly as his bible told him. Oh yeah, and no shellfish. Yes, God said don’t eat shrimp. Or crabs, whether you have Old Bay or not (sorry for the local Maryland reference!!).
But now, God is pushing the limits in what Peter can comprehend or accept. “And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”” Acts 10:15 ESV. And, just for good measure – God sent Peter immediately to the house of Cornelius. Cornelius was a Roman centurion who loved and feared God, and had been commanded in his own vision to send his servants to bring back Peter. So Peter, at the word of the Holy Spirit, does go with, and says this upon entering the house of Cornelius – “And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”” Acts 10:28-29 ESV. Peter, who had actually been with Jesus during most of his earthly ministry, had been taught directly by Jesus and had been following Jesus ever since, took a long time to get to this point. This is about 10 years after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and Peter has barely left Jerusalem. He still has not gotten the fact that salvation is for all, and still doesn’t associate or eat with Gentiles. Paul had long been eating and associating with the Gentiles, Peter was just a little slower in his understanding for some reason. But once he gets it, he gets it – “So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Acts 10:34-35 ESV
We know what is expected of us (“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”Matthew 28:19 ESV), just as this lazy servant in the parable knew what was expected – a return on his investment. We look at the world around us and don’t like what we see. Just as Peter once looked at the Gentiles who were all around him, and he knew he was not to associate with them. The bible told him so. And in his understanding of what the Bible told him, he was correct. Just as we are correct in what the Bible tells us (at least we think we are). But, now as then, God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. We may misunderstand the nature of God, and believe him to be a hard man. We may look at the world around us and see that God has done no sowing or planting. But in truth, it is not God who has done no sowing or scattering, it is we that are called to do the sowing and scattering, then the reaping and gathering. He has given us all we have, the breath in our lungs, the life in our bodies. He’s given us our abilities, our potentials. All he expects is the effort. The effort to participate in the fulfillment of his kingdom, on earth as it is in heaven.
Christ will come again. What will be his return on the investment he made in you? When we go before his judgment seat, there will be an accounting, a reckoning. What did you do with what he gave you? Did you invest it in the lives around you? Or did you bury it? Will you give Him a multiplied return on his investment? Or will you give Him excuses and justifications?
“”For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
Matthew 25:14-30 ESV
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