Gold and Faith

Matthew 25:14-30

I’ve always struggled with this passage. I didn’t understand why the one who buried his Master’s gold (called a talent) would be punished. In my mind, he kept it safe, not taking chances with it. It’s like keeping “Mad Money” stashed in a secret drawer like my previously mentioned Grandma. In my mind, I likened it to depositing in a bank, because I didn’t think about the Roman financial system of the time. It seems like responsible behavior. How could that be wrong?

Well, recently I’ve been told by different, unrelated people (who I respect and who I have given authority to speak in my life) that I am “blocking my own blessings” and I am “the only one holding myself back.”

I’m at a crossroads in my life. I’m afraid to grow. I’m afraid to take a risk. I’m afraid to let my family down. I’m afraid to make a wrong move and to make my family suffer as a result.

So here I am reading this passage, and some things struck me.

The man who didn’t invest wisely, first of all was only given 1 bag of gold to start. His master didn’t expect much from him. It says in Luke 12:48 “To those whom much is given, much is expected.” Had the man “failed” in his investment, it wasn’t a huge portion. The Master didn’t trust this man with a large sum to begin with. It was an opportunity to grow and multiply and the man didn’t take it.

The man who didn’t invest wisely was afraid of his Master. He didn’t understand the expectations. He saw his Master’s bountiful gift for prosperity, “harvesting where you have not  sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid. .  .”

The man did nothing. He sat on the gold. He buried it.

Is it possible the Master didn’t communicate his expectations? Or is it the man who didn’t listen with the intent to understand?

I feel like that man sometimes. I’m given “talents” of shepherding, service, music, teaching, fellowship, connection, intuition, love; and I’m terrified to use them. I don’t use them in small ways, I don’t use them at all. I hide them. Because what if I use them wrongly? What if I displease God with those uses? This parable makes it pretty clear that it’s better to invest them even a little rather than not at all.

The master admonishes the man, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.”

(Note: Oh! Banks did work then as saving accounts with interest!)

Is this story really about using our “talents”? Or is there something bigger happening?

Is this about faith? About being assured of our Master’s ability to reap blessing from nothing? About a willingness to take a risk because we know our Master can redeem the possible failure?

The Bible repeatedly refers to faith in God as something that can grow exponentially and as something with precious value.

Faith is the hallmark of Christian salvation. It is the only method of salvation, in fact.

So when the master says “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

This issue isn’t about wasting a talent. It’s about a lack of faith. The man’s condemnation springs from knowing some things about the master but not believing in the Master’s ability to redeem and save.

The time is coming for my faith to grow fully, covering me as flowers and leaves cover a tree, and give me courage to step out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No one knows

Matthew 24:36-51

No one knows the Lord’s specific plans. Jesus says in v42:”Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

Anyone who says they know is misguided at best and lying at worst.

I am reminded a bit by police speeding traps. I virtuously follow the speed limit. For the most part. I tend to not panic when I notice a police car in my rear view mirror because I know I’m reasonably within a proper range. A friend who shall be nameless might remember a time driving me on a trip. We passed about 4 police cars, spread out approximately 20 minutes apart from each other. Every time, my driver would hit the brakes kind of hard and worry. I finally said, “CLEARLY the police are concerned about speeders today. Instead of panicking, why not just drive slower?” Even with a clear indication that law enforcement was targeting speeders, my driver found it difficult to slow down!

This breaks down because God isn’t in the business of setting people up to fail. In fact, God sent Jesus to cover for our weaknesses and provide surety for our sins.

In vs 45-51, Jesus introduces us to the idea of a servant who is not only given charge of other servants but also the master’s resources to provide for those servants. If the servant is managing the household and personnel properly, the master will be pleased when he returns. If the servant has misappropriated the food for himself and abuses and neglects the servants, so the master will pay a surprise visit and severely punish and kill the servant–assigning him a place with the hypocrites.

Later, in Luke 12:48, Jesus says, “But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

How does this apply? Am I a wise and faithful servant to the Lord? Am I managing the resources He has given me to honor Him? Have I recently inventoried these resources and blessings? I Feel compelled to privately list my talents, resources and blessings, compared to how I serve my God. I fear it will turn up severely lacking.

The servant in the story didn’t spare a thought for the master’s return, living a life in clearly dualistic philosophy: “the master’s not here, he doesn’t care, I can behave however I wish with no repercussions. ”

My prayer is that I will see God working all around me, that I may sense the prompting of the Holy Spirit and obey. May I follow unashamedly and with no regard for anything other than pleasing the Lord.

 

Hypocrites with Large Phylactories

My church produced the musical “Godspell” when I was in high school.

I was cast as one of the Pharisees. I reveled in my role, acting smug and sanctimoniously ugly as “Jesus” sang Alas for You. I stood on a ladder, wearing a robe and large phylactory, ( (I love that word) tossing my hair, updating my lipstick, and rolling my eyes at his anger. At the end of the song, he knocks over the ladder and I pretend to fall off. It was my shining moment. I loved it.

Watch Chris Hayhurst’s passionate, excellent performance in Alas for You.

The inspiration for this piece comes from Matthew 23:1-39.

As I was reading the NIV version of this, I was stuck with the anger and despair Jesus felt as he raged at the Pharisees. Particularly 23: 15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”

They made a production out of wealth, out of giving, out of righteous living. They focused on converts, seeing them as tokens to win them standing in society, convinced that this is the way to righteousness and sanctification.

The problem was that though their actions may have followed the letter of the law, they neglected the spirit of the Law. As Jesus continues (emphasis mine): 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”

If we are missing the most important matters of the law, our actions don’t bring Freedom, Justice, Purity, Joy. In fact, they perpetuate Injustice, Slavery, and Despair. I think it’s important to take time to examine the true intentions behind my actions.

Am I doing something because I look good in the eyes of the Church? Of other Christians? Of non-believers? How does my participation in a project, activity or purchase impact others? Do I want to “fit in”? Am I serving the Lord by this participation? Truly, my own intentions are sometimes hard to discern. The waters are muddy in my heart as I sift through my longing for acceptance. Sometimes I do good things for the wrong reasons. I pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to cleanse my heart and give me pure desires.

Until that day comes, I read verses 37-39, as Jesus’ desperation and sorrow culminate:
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’[a]

I don’t want a desolate house left to me. I want a home of joy and freedom. I want a home filled with the life giving hope of the Holy Spirit where everyone sings with joy and love towards Jesus, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”