File this one under Greenbean’s failing memory.
Sunday (June 11) I preached the second of three sermons from Matthew 25. The sermons are about the end of the world, but not in an apocalyptic way, more in the cautionary narrative tone Jesus uses in this chapter which Matthew puts right after the frightening Olivet Discourse, which is apocalyptic end-of-the-world stuff.
The sermon was a basic working of the material where Jesus uses the tropes of a businessman who leaves investment capital, called ‘talents’, in the hands of three people. Two of them double the investment and one simply buries it. The Lord has great condemnation for the one who buries it. He applauds those who invest it wisely.
The sermon rocked along well and I had a good time with the word-study and narrative communication aspects of it — I feel at home in narrative sermons — and things were coming to the close. I had in my mind four summary statements to bring in one final exhortation swing for my beleaguered listeners. They were:
- The gifts do not belong to the servants, they belong to the master.
- The goal of gifts, or talents, is not preservation. Static preservation is a betrayal of the Lord who gave the gifts to be used.
- Talents, money, were left to the servants likely with the understanding the money would be used to upkeep the master’s estate, businesses, or family. To bury it means these things were neglected and left in disrepair — like many churches I’ve seen.
- The servant who buried the talent had a distorted view of the master.
I only was able to get two of these out of my thick head, 1– the owner of the talent, and 2–they are not for preservation. The other two completely left me. I mean, they abandoned me in my moment of need. I was able to wrap things up, but it shook me, because that last point, about distortion, is important.
If you read the text (and I encourage you to do so, Matthew 25:14-30) you see that Jesus paints the one talent man as parroting his belief that the master was, ‘a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid,’ (v. 24-25). The text doesn’t say the master was that way, but that is the view the failed man had. The other two clearly didn’t have the same view, for they were adventurous and daring, doubling their master’s investment. That would have involved risk and hard work. They were not afraid of condemnation for using the talents.
It is the distortion that bothers me. So many people have distorted views of God which keep them from using the talents God has given them for kingdom purposes. There might be many distortions involved in our view of God, but the one that is at play here I think is that we are afraid we might use the gift incorrectly, or mess up with it, and if that happens then the Lord will not love us any more. That is the essential same feeling as the one talent man. Some are called to preach but don’t for fear failure. Same is true for teaching. Or singing. Some other people are gifted with hospitality and welcomeness but they are afraid of opening up. Fear guides them, and fear is not of love, nor of the kingdom of God.
The teaching here is that at the end of all things we will be held accountable. If we have a distorted view of God and our place in the world and his church, then we will be guilty of not fulfilling our potential and promise to enlarge and grow the kingdom.