Eschatology: The Talents
What are you willing to risk all for? What would you die for? What have you given up for God, Family and Country?
How do you invest your savings? Do you invest in the stock market? Do you have Treasury Bills? Do you have a 401K or a Mutual Fund? Are you a high-risk or a low-risk investor?
This morning’s Gospel from Matthew is again included in the section about Eschatology, the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind. The story is about a landowner, perhaps a non-resident landowner, who is turning over the care of his possessions to others. He splits up his wealth and property as he perceives their skill in managing it. To one he gives the equivalent of 75 years of wages, a lifetime of wages, to another he gives 30 years of wages and to another he gives the equivalent of 15 years of wages. He is taking a risk, a big risk; they may lose all that he gives them.
Upon the landowner’s return the first two have doubled the initial amount given to them. Think about this. They have doubled the amount. This is no small accomplishment! Have you heard of the “Rule of 72”? I had not. Using this rule you can estimate how long it will take to double your investment. If the interest rate is 5% then 72 divided by 5 gives that it will take about 14 and a half years to double your investment. If you are investing in high risk ventures you have a one in five but more likely a one in ten chance of doubling your investment, but in the other nine cases you lose everything, everything. There are no guarantees. So for the first slave to double the five talents to ten and the second to double the two talents to four talents is no small feat. The third slave knows this and is afraid of the consequences if he loses the talent he has been given so he buries the money in the ground for safekeeping. This was a common approach in the first century. And the landowner asks why he didn’t at least put it in the bank so that he would have received interest. He is disgusted that the third slave was unwilling to take a risk and takes the talent from him and gives it to the one with ten talents and casts the third slave out of his employ.
Jesus is the landowner. He is giving his ministry to his disciples, to the members of the church. Jesus knows that he will be killed in Jerusalem and is expecting his followers to continue on with his ministry. Some will find his request, the risk to their personal safety unacceptable and fall away. Some will look for personal gain. Some are willing to risk all, even their lives, to share the Good News of the Kingdom of God, to teach what Jesus taught, to oppose the political and religious authorities, to leave home and family to travel to distant lands, to baptize, to care for the poor, the marginalized and the stranger and to heal the sick.
We have each been given certain skills and gifts of the spirit. Some of us are loving parents; some of us are great researchers searching for the cure for Alzheimer’s Dementia or Muscular Dystrophy or Cancer; some of us have a gift for music or teaching or organization or investing or cleaning or faith or carpentry or electrical wiring or cutting hair. Some of us have an eye for seeing injustice or a child or an animal in need or an environmental issue. We have all been given skills and gifts; the question is whether we recognize and accept them, using them for the betterment of society or whether we choose to use them for our own benefit or if we choose to ignore them. Our skills are different, but all come from the Holy Spirit as a gift. I pray that you see your career, your vocation, your work, your life as part of the building of the Kingdom of Heaven, for the Glory of God.
As we anticipate the Advent season and the celebration of Jesus’s birth, we also anticipate the return of Jesus Christ and the full implementation of the Kingdom of Heaven. In this in-between time, this time between Jesus’ birth, death and ascension and his glorious return, we, like the slaves in this morning’s gospel, have also been given different talents and gifts of the spirit to further the work of the Kingdom. Can you see the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit in your life and in our community? Do you recognize the gifts you have been given? Are you willing to take the risks required to multiply those gifts or are you burying your gifts?
There are risks associated with using our gifts. We can wonder what would have happened if any of the slaves in our gospel had lost all of their investments. Would the landowner have been disappointed, but satisfied that they had tried and failed or would they also have been cast out into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth?
Some think I was and am a fool for giving up my corporate job, my corporate salary and benefits to be a priest. Some think the young man and woman who marry and have children are fools for giving up their best years and the opportunity for making wealth. What have you given up for God, Family and Country? What risks are you willing to take for the advancement of the Kingdom of Heaven? Amen.
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Mother Darlene Kuhn
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