“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 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.’ 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.’ 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.’ 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.’ 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; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 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? 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. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 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. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
This parable has so many interpretations. Some look at it as a prosperity Gospel text – if you earn more, then God will bless you with even more. A get rich scheme. Some see God as the harsh master, punishing the slave that buried the coin. But Jesus never actually says it represents God. I’m choosing to look at the text this way. God wants us to take courage and use our gifts, knowing that we have something to offer, and living up to our potential. God wants us to use our gifts for the greater good, for God’s glory!
Y’all know me, I don’t like being still. I don’t like feeling lazy. I’ve created an indention on my bed that doesn’t match the other side – my baby tooth cracked in August and it had to be removed, COVID, fractured ankle, and tomorrow I get the implant. Lord have mercy. I have a definite fear of missing out and in more ways than I’d like to admit, my sense of worth is tied to my work. I feel like if I’m not producing anything or cleaning something or washing or folding clothes, then I’m lazy or people think I’m slacking off. Those are my own negative tapes and fears of not measuring up. I think it was fear that made the slave bury the master’s coin in the ground. Fear is a dangerous thing. It can put these ideas in your head, these tapes – you’re not good enough, you’re not worthy, you’re not…and it can twist your pictures of people. Maybe he was not a harsh master, maybe he didn’t do what the servant says he did. Maybe the servant’s own insecurity had colored his vision. Fear does that. It clouds things and twists things, so we don’t see clearly.
I’ve used this before, but I need to hear it every now and then. Marianne Williamson writes in Manifesting the Glory of God, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant and talented? Actually, who are you not to be. You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Sometimes we’re afraid to let go of our fear. It’s like stepping out of our most worn, comfy pajamas into “real clothes.” 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” We need to take courage, to take heart, Jesus overcame this world. Jesus overcame every single one of our fears and he’s ready to answer if and when we choose to listen.
Getting over your fear is hard. Its journey and daily choices along the way. It’s retraining your brain and relishing in the love of God. As Dorothy Day writes in On Pilgrimage, “Whenever I groan within myself and think how hard it is to keep writing about love in these times of tension and strife which may, at any moment, become for us all a time of terror, I think to myself: “What else is the world interested in?” What else do we all want, each one of us, except to love and be loved, in our families, in our work, in all our relationships? God is Love. Love casts out fear.” God is love. In 1 John it says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Perfect love casts out fear. And there’s no more perfect love than Jesus’ love.
Perfect love, Jesus’ love leaves no room for the enemy to weasel in. When we’re feeling down and discouraged, Jesus helps us say, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” If we profess that Jesus is Lord of our lives. We should mean it. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” If he’s Lord of our lives, Jesus can give us the strength to let go of our big and small fears, insecurities, shame – we can let go of all of the “stuff.” Once Jesus helps you let go of the fear, you can grab hold of all the gifts he’s given you! We all have something to give.
1 Corinthians 12:1, 4-7 1 “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
For the common good.
I heard Quaker theologian Parker Palmer tell a story about abundance once. The way I remember it is that Palmer was a passenger on a plane that pulled away from the gate, taxied to a remote corner of the field and stopped. You know the feeling: The plane stops and you look out the window and see that you’re not on the runway and the engines wind down and your heart sinks. The pilot came on the intercom and said, “I have some bad news and some really bad news. The bad news is there’s a storm front in the West, Denver is socked in and shut down. We’ve looked at the alternatives and there are none. So we’ll be staying here for a few hours. That’s the bad news. The really bad news is that we have no food and it’s lunch time.” Everybody groaned. Some passengers started to complain, some became angry. But then, Palmer said, one of the flight attendants did something amazing.
She stood up and took the intercom mike and said, “We’re really sorry, folks. We didn’t plan it this way and we really can’t do much about it. And I know for some of you this is a big deal. Some of you are really hungry and were looking forward to a nice lunch. Some of you may have a medical condition and really need lunch. Some of you may not care one way or the other and some of you need to skip lunch. So I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. I have a couple of breadbaskets up here and we’re going to pass them around and I’m asking everybody to put something in the basket. Some of you brought a little snack along — something to tide you over — just in case something like this happened, some peanut butter crackers, candy bars. And some of you have a few LifeSavers or chewing gum or Rolaids. And if you don’t have anything edible, you have a picture of your children or spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend or a bookmark or a business card. Everybody put something in and then we’ll reverse the process. We’ll pass the baskets around again and everybody can take out what he/she needs.
“Well,” Palmer said, “what happened next was amazing. The griping stopped. People started to root around in pockets and handbags, some got up and opened their suitcases stored in the overhead luggage racks and got out boxes of candy, a salami, a bottle of wine. People were laughing and talking. She had transformed a group of people who were focused on need and deprivation into a community of sharing and celebration. She had transformed scarcity into a kind of abundance.”
After the flight, which eventually did proceed, Parker Palmer stopped on his way off the plane — deplaning, that is — and said to her, “Do you know there’s a story in the Bible about what you did back there? It’s about Jesus feeding a lot of people with very little food.”
“Yes,” she said. “I know that story. That’s why I did what I did.”
She was living out of the “abundance of Jesus.” Being the hands and feet, walking and talking the talk. She made ready what it says in 2 Timothy 1:14, “Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.” You see we all have a good treasure entrusted to us and we are able to use it with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
We all have something to give. If we use our gifts to God’s glory, God will give us far beyond what we ask and imagine. It talks about “abundance” in this parable and if we all give what we have, what we are able to, that’s what it’s like to live in abundance. To give what you can out of the blessings that God has given you.
Luke 21:1-4, “As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” See, this is not a parable of prosperity Gospel. Jesus recognizes when we’re withholding our treasures and when we are giving out of our “abundant living” all that we have. Jesus sees potential in everyone and everything. He sees us as we could be without the fears and the baggage. When we let the Holy Spirit work and live within us, we don’t worry about hoarding our gifts. We give them freely. If we know nothing is ours, then we let our gifts freely flow through our fingers to where the Spirit needs and where the Spirit leads.
The story is told of a team of engineers who worked for Thomas Edison in his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. For many months, they pursued a line of research that ultimately led them nowhere. What had started out so promising turned out to be a blind alley. In fear and trembling, they went in to see the boss, to tell him of their failure.
Edison surprised them all by congratulating them. True, they had come up with no useful invention, but they had increased the scope of human knowledge. They had eliminated certain possibilities that would, in the future, allow others to direct their own efforts more effectively. Most of all, they had fulfilled their assignment. They had not buried their talent in the ground. They had risked much in a quest for great reward.
The problem with playing it safe is that, all too often, it means not playing at all. The call goes out, in the church, for people to pitch in and help in some way, either financially or by exercising other spiritual gifts. Too often the voice of fear in our heads wins out. “Not me,” it says. “I couldn’t do that.” Or there’s “Not now. Now is not the right time.”
Always, the immediate follow up questions should be: “If not me, who?” and “If not now, when?” Who are you to play small? You’re a child of the Most High King. Who are we to play small? We are the body of Christ? Jesus’ ambassadors on Earth, We have been entrusted with a treasure, our gifts and graces and the Holy Spirit here to activate them “for such a time as this.” What are we waiting for? Are we going to let our fear, the enemy’s whispers, stop us? Are we going to bury our talents in the dirt? No, with Jesus’ help, we are going to stand up and be who God created us to be, as the new creations that the Potter wants us to be and knows that we are.
To view the actual worship service, click here: https://vimeo.com/showcase/bethanyumcworship