What would you do with $50?
Most of you have probably heard this parable, the parable of the talents, at least a couple of times. When Jesus told it of course, as with his other stories and parables, he wasn’t just telling a story, but he was inviting people into the story. He was always inviting the hearers to imagine their place in the story.
Now, we could see ourselves as the harsh, demanding landowner, to start. If you crave power, that may be your choice. Or, if you want to seem as much like God as anyone in the parable, then the landowner would be your choice as well.
But I think what Jesus really wants us to think about is the three individuals to whom the money is entrusted. The first two, of course, double the money given to them. That’s a pretty good return in just about any setting. I know I would be happy with that.
After all, if you are making one percent on any savings account that you have, then you are doing better than just about anyone else. If you are making six to seven percent in the stock market, then you are doing well there too.
Now I admit that Jesus in the story says that the landowner came back “after a long time” away, and so profits may have compounded for those two people, but still, a one hundred percent return is very impressive indeed.
And, since they have shown themselves to be responsible with what they were given, which in today’s financial valuations equals about $5000 for the first man and $2000 for the second man, then they are given responsibility for more of their master’s affairs.
Then…then we come to the third guy. He was afraid of the landowner, afraid of his boss. Now before we start to get down on him too hard, have any of you ever been afraid of your boss, afraid that you could lose your job that you need so much? Have you ever been afraid of making mistakes and getting fired because of them?
Maybe not. Oh, but maybe so.
In any case, the third man is afraid. He knows his master’s reputation. So, he hides the money under his mattress. Maybe he just didn’t trust banks. After all, there was no FDIC insurance back then. But for whatever reason, he hides the money so that he can return it to the master intact, not one penny missing, well, not one drachma that is. And the master blows up at him. Then, as if to add insult to injury, the master takes the money, and gives it to the man who started with five and ended up with ten. Now do you hear that? He gives it to the one who has ten. That implies that each kept the money they ended up with. So, not only does the third guy lose face and gets fired, but he has the original money taken away from him, where he could have ended up with that one talent plus a little interest.
So, where do you see yourself in the story? I would expect that many of you would say you are the first person, who was dancing all the way to the bank. But maybe you see yourself as the second person, still having a job, but not in the financial department, or even the third person, walking out the back door with head hanging low, trying to not see any of your friends.
A teacher once asked a class of students, at the end of the school term, what they each thought they deserved in his class. The students came forward one by one and gave the grade they thought they deserved to the teacher. Then, when the grades were posted, each student got exactly what they said they believed they deserved.
Now, if you were honest and really thought you deserved a “B,” then you got that, and should have been satisfied. But if you were clever and thought, “If this guy is going to ask, well then I’m going to say I deserve an ‘A’ even if I don’t, because perhaps I will be rewarded for my resourceful thinking.” After all, the worst that could happen in such a situation would be that the teacher would say, “You have got to be kidding, you delusional student, you’re getting a “C” and lucky to be getting that.” But other than that reprimand, what did the student lose?
Getting back to the parable, what would you lose by going ahead and saying that you see yourself as the first person in the parable?
Now I would still say that honesty is the best policy, but creativity and cleverness have their place in life as well. And I am going to give you an opportunity now to be creative, and perhaps even clever.
I wish I had the funds to do this in reality instead of in the hypothetical, but in your imagination I am going to give each of you $50 now, and you think about what you would do with it, because I expect you to do something with it and bring the results to me at the end of four weeks. Think about it. What would you do with that $50 in order to bring the returns back in a month?
Are you the first person in the story; the second person; the third person?
And let’s make this even better, let’s say that God, and not me, has entrusted you with money, with the $50. What would you do? For God, you know, has entrusted you with more than you realize.
It is interesting, of course, that in the reading in most translations, it is “talents” that are given by the master to the three persons. A talent would be worth, as I said earlier, about $1000 in our day. But it wasn’t lost on the youth that the word can also be used to speak of our skills, of things we are good at, of gifts that God has given us.
So, what God-given talents will you use in order to bring a return from the $50 that has been entrusted to you?
(Posted by Rev. David McAllister on May 9, 2016)
Forgiveness is such an interesting, and at times evasive, quality. We read about it repeatedly in the Bible. We pray about it often, in word and song: such as, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” - words, which I think at times hold great meaning for us, and at times stand in danger of becoming only words which we speak from memory and even in boredom.
Forgiveness. It’s hard to argue with it much. We long to feel God’s forgiveness ourselves. We want it. And, we hear Jesus’ commands to forgive one another.
There are really only two things that trip us up with forgiveness. The first one is, “Who can you not forgive? Who has done something, which is for you, unforgivable?” And the second issue with forgiveness is how many times we are supposed to do it. Peter asked that question of Jesus way back then. We still ask it. Even when we know the answer that Jesus gave Peter, which essentially was that the number of times is endless, we ask sometimes hoping that Jesus might give us a lesser number to achieve.
If Jesus ever had any reservations about the limits of forgiveness, he set them aside when, on the cross, he spoke words that echoed in people’s ears and hearts: “Forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Forgive them, because they have no idea about the consequences of their actions.
How often do we do things and then say, “Oh, I’m sorry, forgive me, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.” We too do things without thinking. We too say and do things without having an idea as to their impact on others.
Among those for whom Jesus intended forgiveness in those powerful words he spoke, was one who denied even knowing Jesus, and who did so three times.
Peter was scared. He was afraid for his own life. He was looking out for his own skin. And in some sense, he didn’t fully know what he was doing.
Jesus had told him, of course, that Peter would deny knowing him, three times before the cock crowed, three times before morning. Peter wouldn’t believe it, until of course he heard the cock crow and realized that Jesus’ horrible prediction had come true.
But with Jesus, forgiveness came naturally. Remember back earlier in his travels with the disciples, when the woman caught in adultery was brought before him? He didn’t negate the fact that she had sinned. Nor did he preach a sermon about sin and forgiveness. He simply invited the one who was there, who was without sin, to begin her punishment by casting the first stone at her. No one could do it. They all knew they had sinned in some way or other. Jesus didn’t condemn her either; he forgave her. Then he told her to go on her way, and to not sin again.
When we are forgiven, when someone graciously says, or God says, “I forgive you, because I truly believe that you did not know what you were doing,” then we are given a second chance.
And when we are forgiven, then what? We know, of course. We are to go about changing our lives.
Jesus told the woman whose life was spared to go and not sin again. Go and do things differently. Go and live differently. Go and be different.
And when we are forgiven, when we are given a second chance, then we too are to accept the gift and to go and be different. For truly, when we fully receive that forgiveness, when it touches the depths of our hearts, then we can hardly help but set out to be a changed person.
(Posted by Rev. David McAllister on April 5, 2016)