Simple Gifts, Amazing Possibilities: Giving “Passing the Buck” A New Definition

“For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted them his property; to one he gave five talents [“equaling a hundred years wages’], 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. … He who had received the one talent cane forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; 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 ought to [at least] have invested my money with the bankers [with a modest interest].  So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has made ten talents. …
And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness …” – 
Matthew 25:14f; RSV

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 Indeed. This is a troubling parable.  It’s one of four concluding “parables of judgment” in Matthew’s gospel, which Jesus teaches his disciples – just a few days before he suffers death on the cross [for our sake]. It doesn’t deliver what we expect. But while it alarms us (and it should!), it also brings us into serious reflection on what it means to be a true disciple. One who lives between Christ’s first advent and his second advent/coming.  Matthew’s gospel makes it repeatedly clear that the life of discipleship is costly, it means taking serious risks (cf. II Samuel 24:24).  Moreover, this “Parable of the Talents” [see Arland Hulgren’s excellent commentary, The Parables of Jesus, p.271-281] is not about what must be done in order to be saved or on repaying a debt, but on responsible ministry and mission in light of the Master’s/Jesus’ return.  As St. Paul would also remind us: “We have this treasure [i.e. the gospel of Jesus Christ] in earthen vessels [i.e. us!] (II Corithians 4:7). The grace in this parable – as it always is – comes up-front, in the form of the gifting of talents to ALL of the servants. The question remains … “Are we, especially in modern mainline Protestantism – that is waning in the winds of increasing religious pluralism, moral relativism, secular humanism – say nothing of personal complacency and messed-up priorities … “O, I’m just so busy” BUNK! – also like the servant sitting over the talent buried in the ground, not risking and not gaining or sharing, cuz we’re ‘afraid’?” (Which if you think deeper into this parable, the servant sounds a lot like another man who had all kinds of excuses and “passes the buck” … or should we say, “buries it.”  Cf. Genesis 3:9-12, 23.)

Let me leave you with this thought … in this season of Thanksgiving … and for you, among the family of First Lutheran Church, a time for tithing and pledging for ministry and mission’s sake … consecrating anew the many, many amazing talents (in all kinds of forms) that God has given us -  yes, the One from who ALL blessings flow.  We who are in Christ have an enormous, uncountable, unimaginable treasure – in Jesus and his saving love for us, and all people! The only “catch” with this treasure is that the only way to keep it is to give it away.  (Remember the song “The Magic Penny” we sang in Sunday School or Grade School?)  Then it comes back – doubled, tripled, and quadrupled in the form of others who will love Jesus with us.  So give.  Invest in the kingdom of God.  Not because you have to, but because you get toGive like you give to your children, because you love to see them healthy and happy. Tell others, like you tell stories of your favorite novel or vacation or your grandkids – without reserve or shame, like you can’t help yourself.  Give like you’ve been given to: when God sent his son to die on a cross for us.  Who can imagine such a gift? The litmus test of truth is with those who give abundantly in return – “whatever the gift may be.” Yes, to those of us … all of us, to whom much no, EVERYTHING has been given.  Thanks be to God!  From whom all blessing/talents flow … See you this weekend in praise and thanksgiving to God …

John Christopherson
Senior Pastor