Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost Sermon
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
What would you do if you won the lottery? What would you do if you won a huge sum of money, let us say 10 million dollars? I know that much money is hard to wrap our minds around, but really, what would you do with it?
Would you pay off all your debts? Would you buy a boat, a house, new clothes, a car, or a truck? Would you go on an extended vacation? Where would you go? I can see the gears turning in your heads right now.
Well, how about if you were given 10 million dollars, not as a prize, but as a trust? What would you do if you had someone else’s money in your care, and you were responsible for handling it on their behalf?
How would you treat that money if you knew the rightful owner would come back for it later? I bet you would handle the money a lot differently than you would if it was your money.
In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus told a parable, known as the Parable of the Talents. A talent was a unit of measurement in the Biblical world, or a unit of money.
Now I am no expert in ancient currencies, and depending on how you crunch the numbers, you can come up with different modern values of a talent.
But one thing is clear, the money we are talking about was a lot of money. It was the kind of money that an ordinary person would earn over a period of twenty or more years. It was the kind of money a regular person would never hold in their hand.
Our text begins “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.” For each one of these individuals, it must have felt like winning the lottery, like holding one of those oversized checks written out for 10 million dollars.
But of course, in the parable the slaves are not given the money as a gift but to hold until their master returns. And that is why when the master does return, things take a dark turn. The first two servants used the money they were given to earn even more money. We are told that they doubled what they had received.
But the last servant buried the talent that he had received in the ground, where it retained its original value. And the master is angry and throws the slave into the outer darkness. The master states “To all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
I do not know about you, but this is one parable where I am hesitant to say “Thanks be to God” after I read the parable. Why? Because the parable is both unsettling and upsetting. Especially if we are the servants and God is the Master.
Question… Does the parable tell us that God will take away from those who have nothing?
Does the parable teach us that God will punish those who do not earn a good return on His investment?
No, I do not think so, because this concept does not sound like it would come from the same guy who said, “Blessed are the poor” and “Blessed are the meek.”
The concept does not sound like it would come from the same guy who turned the tables on the temple money changers or who told us not to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear, because God will provide for us.
If we think this parable is about money, then I think that we are missing “Christ’s Redeeming Activity” in the parable. The parable is not about the benefits of taking financial risks or throwing caution to the wind when it comes to our finances.
And the parable is not about handling our talents or skills or our abilities and gifts that God has given to each one of us.
For you see the parable is not about the Little Drummer Boy who did not have a gift to bring to the baby Jesus so he played his drum the best he could because that is all he could offer to Him.
No, rather, the talents (the treasure) entrusted to us represents the gospel itself. The treasure is the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Matthew ends with the Great Commission to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Mathew 28:19-20
Jesus has entrusted to us a great treasure, and we are to go out into the world and proclaim the Good News to all people. Earlier Jesus had taught His disciples “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all the house.”
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Or, as many of us learned it as a child “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
If one lights a lamp and hides it under a basket, it does no good. Hiding the light defeats the purpose. If you bury money in the ground, it is true that it will not lose value. But if the talent in the parable is a message of Good News, then hiding the talent does bring harm.
Jesus tells us to let our light shine. Jesus tells us to proclaim the Good News. Jesus has promised us that If we go out and share the message that we have been given, it will multiply and go places that we cannot even imagine.
So, go my friends and let your light shine. Go and spread the Good News that you have received, the Good News of Jesus and His love.
Let us pray: O God, you have prepared for those who love you joys beyond understanding. Pour into our hearts such love for you that, loving you above all things, we may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.