[Jesus said to the disciples:] “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.’ ” (NRSV)
Grace to you and peace from God our creator, from Jesus Christ our redeemer and friend and from the Holy Spirit, our sustainer and guide.
When I was stationed at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, I was part of a team that taught a class called Cancer 101. It was for any person who was newly diagnosed with cancer, to learn how to navigate the confusing medical system, what services were available to them and what they might expect during their treatment. It was designed to calm some of their anxiety and help them let go of some of the fear that a cancer diagnosis brings. I would introduce my part with this story:
Long ago in a village far away, an old woman sat around the campfire with her children and her grandchildren. “Tell us a story, grandmother.” begged one of the little ones. “OK” she said. “Inside each of you are two wolves. They are hungry wolves, always hunting. They hunt in every part of who you are. Wolves are territorial animals and when they encounter each other they fight. One wolf is called Faith and one wolf is called Fear. They are both powerful. They are both necessary. But only one can be the leader of the pack. And they are always fighting to see which one it will be.” The little one asked, “Which one wins, grandmother?” She said, “The one that wins is the one that you feed.”
There is a lot to be afraid of in this life, not just a cancer diagnosis, so it is important to learn how to feed faith so faith is the leader of the pack within you.
In our gospel parable today, the third servant was bound by fear and it did not serve him well. He was afraid, so he hid the talent in the ground. He returned it, protected but unused, to the master. We don’t know what instructions the master might have given the servants when he entrusted his wealth to them, but we do have his reaction upon his return.
Now remember, a talent is of fabulous value. Don’t confuse it with talents like singing and dancing and baseball playing. Those can be of great value too, but this is different. One of these talents is a brick of gold with a handle on top weighing about 75 pounds and worth about 6000 denarii. Remember a denarius is a day worker’s usual daily wage. So 6000 denarii is about 19 years worth of salary working 6 days a week. Some of you may handle budgets bigger than that, but not many of us do. So those servants had a big responsibility. But it was also a big opportunity.
But when you think about it, we have all been given fabulous wealth to use in this life. Not all of it is in our bank accounts, of course, but it is ours to use while we are here. There is this beautiful world we live in. You might say, “OK, I own my home, but the rest of it is not mine to manage.” I would beg to differ. We are obligated to care for all of it. To keep it clean, by not littering, but also by holding the companies that make our consumer goods accountable to not pollute our world, not just in this country, but wherever our consumer goods are made. It is up to us to recycle and to use our natural resources wisely, not wastefully. It is up to us to push for renewable energy to protect our planet.
The next place where we find the fabulous wealth we have been given is in the lives of our family and friends, the people in our neighborhoods and the wider community. How we handle our relationships is part of it. There are lots of ways to “make money” in our relationships. Make sure we tell the people we love how much they mean to us. Thank those who have reared us, taught us, blessed us and in any way are part of our lives. Forgive freely and ask for forgiveness as often as we have stepped on the toes of another. Notice and acknowledge it when another has done something kind or brave or good.
Another place we find we have wealth to manage is in our very own selves. We have this body we have been given to live in. It may be the very most valuable thing we have. Without it, we cease to be here. It is the container in which our whole life happens, so we need to take care of it; to protect it, to fuel it, to keep it healthy and help it restore its health when we are sick. My oncologist says the most important thing I can do to take care of my body is to drive carefully. After that, get enough rest and eat right. Exercise is good too.
Then this is where those ‘other talents’ like singing and dancing and baseball playing come in. Your talents will certainly be different, but we all have something we are naturally good at and can be developed even further. These also are worth investing our time and energy in to make them the very best we can.
In all these areas, we have a choice. Will we feed fear or faith?
Fear is a powerful wolf. Fear that we will not have enough makes us want more. Fear that we will not be enough makes us use things and people to give us status or power or prestige and influence. Fear has some cousins. Fear’s cousin arrogance takes over when fear seems weak. Arrogance is fear’s bouncer. Fear’s cousin apathy takes over when it is all too much to think about and we feel helpless. But all of these fall away if we feed faith.
In a way, the very best thing we can do is live all of life to the glory of God. That feeds our faith. If glorifying God is our focus, taking care of our bodies, tending our relationships, guarding our planet all fall into place. All means all, so how we care for the planet becomes an act of faith. How we use our resources becomes an act of faith. How we treat our families is a witness to our faith. How we take care of ourselves is a practice of faith as well. The more we practice faith in our daily living, the stronger it gets within us.
Faith has some cousins too. Faith’s cousins hope, love and mercy work together to build us up. They strengthen faith by proxy when we live them as verbs, actively putting them to work. Keeping our priorities in order, living up to our standards, making wise moral choices will all maintain faith. Knowing the scriptures and being able to see the connections in them to our own life will grow our faith. Having an active prayer life with a running conversation with God helps too.
So my friends, feed faith so that faith is the leader of the pack in your life.
Please join me in prayer..
Holy God, come into our hearts and increase our faith. Inspire us in serving your people and being the church for the good of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Blessings to you,
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.