When Jesus told this story, he was in the middle of his own high-risk venture. He’s left Galilee for Jerusalem where in just a few days he will be executed on a Roman cross.
To help make sure his disciples don’t lose hope when that time comes, Jesus tells a series of eschatological parables; stories about what is to come.
Last week it was about Ten Bridesmaids. Today, it’s Three financial investors who are given a specific number of talents to invest.
When we hear the word talent, we often think of someone who has a skill or certain ability. But in Jesus’ day, talents were money. From what we know, one talent was roughly 15 year’s worth of wages for the average laborer.
For someone to give these men even one talent meant they were entrusting them with a good fortune.
As we’ve learned over the year, when Jesus tells a parable it’s often a metaphor for something else. Which tells us this parable isn’t about money or one’s ability.
So, what’s it about? I’m thinking it’s about trust.
Without giving them any instructions on what to do, the master trusts these three men with his investments.
The first guy takes it and invests in a high-risk venture. The second dumps it into the stock market. Both men do very well; doubling their master’s money. The third guy takes a very different approach. Instead of taking a risk he buried the money in the ground, a common security measure in ancient times.
Given the volatility of the market these days, and the uncertainties that are affecting the economy, it might seem like a wise investment plan. If only that were the reason.
Instead, he confessed he buried the money because he was afraid of the master. He had zero trust in the one who trusted him, so he took zero financial risk. And as a result, got nothing in return.
This parable isn’t about money or one’s ability to acquire wealth but about trusting God who first trusted us.
To be prepared for Christ to return, we need to trust God by doing God’s will. That’s what the first two do. They take a chance in their faith and as a result they both receive the same commendation: “Well done, good and trustworthy servant…enter into the joy of your master.”
I will go out on a limb and say, I think the master would have responded just the same had they risked it all and come back empty handed. After all, he doesn’t commend them for their profits, but their willingness to trust.
The master made it clear to the third one that he would have accepted anything – even the measly interest the bank would offer - had the intent had been motivated by faith rather than fear.
This story reminds us that fear has no value. It only drives us away from God, and towards our downfall like it did to this man. Faith on the other hand is invaluable. And leads us into the joy of God.
In giving his fortune to these investors, the master reveals his faith and trustworthiness. He’s not terrible and appalling like the fearful man saw him to be. In fact, it seems he’s more interested in the well-being of his workers than making a profit for himself.
The first two men see this and take the risk without any promise of gaining anything in return. They have some faith and run with it. The third guy has none. And he loses out.
Today we are faced with the same dilemma. God has given us life, so how will we invest it?
What will we do with the love God has given us?
More importantly, do we trust God’s faithfulness enough to be faithful to God’s love?
If you focus on your fears, allowing your worry and anxieties to make your decisions then your fears will be realized. If you focus on God’s faithfulness in you, then by your own faith you can step out of your comfort zone, knowing and believing and trusting God is in control.
You might recall the story of the disciples in a boat, full of fear because of a storm. (Granted, it must have been a big storm to make professional fishermen worried.) In the midst of the chaos, Jesus walks out to them, and calls Peter to get out of the boat to come to him.
Without giving it a second thought, Peter did what Jesus asked. And by his faith defied the laws of nature. But when he began to focus on the storm fear set in, and he began to sink.
Despite the challenges, doubts, and uncertainties we will most assuredly face, Jesus calls us to step out into Anamesa with a bit of faith.
Trusting in God’s faithfulness is like stepping out onto the water knowing we don’t need the absence of storms to do amazing things, we just need the presence of faith the size of a mustard seed.
With the parable of the bridesmaids, Jesus said come prepared to wait and the way we remain prepared is by having enough faith to get us through the long, dark nights. In the same way, Jesus wants to know if his disciples can trust God enough to remain faithful when times get hard after he’s gone.
Will the Twelve invest in the kingdom of heaven by investing their hearts in the gospel? Will they risk it all to care deeply and profoundly for all of God’s children?
We each must ask ourselves: Am I willing to risk it all – trusting the one who first trusted us? Can I faithfully and fearlessly love God, love others, and serve both?
As Jesus will further explain in the next parable, we enter into the joy of God by loving and caring for the least of these our brothers and sisters.
You see, faithful living requires taking risks, stepping out of your comfort zone, and getting involved with your heart and hands. It means taking God’s love and investing it in relationships that will yield a positive return.
As we come closer to the end of the church calendar, we near the end of our theme for the year, pilgrimage. This has been time spent walking with Jesus through Anamesa. Our theme for next year is “unlocking the space between.” Here’s a hint of what to expect: Jesus is the key. You see, Anamesa isn’t just a space to worship Jesus in, it’s a way to live like him.
I’m hoping we will discover, like we did in this parable, that faith isn’t just believing ideas about Jesus, it’s about trusting God enough to actually follow the Way of Jesus, to live in such a way that God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven so that we too will hear, “Well done, good and trustworthy child…enter the joy of God’s heart.”
The disciples will soon find out, the only way to really follow in the footsteps of Jesus faithfully is by trusting God so completely. In trusting God, the disciples go all in - faithfully and fearlessly - with the presence of Christ illuminating every dark space they find themselves in.
It’s a risky investment for sure. But one that has proven time and time again to pay out in abundance.
Each one of us must ask ourselves: How will I respond to the extravagant grace and generosity of God’s love that I have been given to live by?
Will I go out into the world with that love and live graciously and generously? "Or will I allow fear to dig a bottomless hole to throw in my talents, and crawl in after them?"
“Jesus gives you a choice,” argues Joseph Pagano. “You can choose to be like the fearful servant who gets exactly what fear has to offer: Nothing. Or you can choose to put your trust in God’s faithfulness and reap the rewards that come with being like God’s most faithful child.”
It’s a high-risk investment where the only ones who lose it all are the ones who dare to put nothing in.
Adapted from an original work, Trusting Fearlessly. November 15, 2020.
Bartlett, David L and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year A Vol. 4. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2011).
Hoffacker, Charles H. Trust, Not Fear. November 2014 (accessed on 11-12-2020).
Pagano, Joseph. Windfall. November 12, 2023 (accessed on 11-15-23).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”