Don’t Be Afraid, Give it a Try
“Don’t Be Afraid, Give it a Try”
by Rev. Mark B. Augusto
Bible passage: Matthew 25:14-30
Our church calendar marks the month of November as Stewardship Month. Today I invite you to reflect with me on our stewardship responsibility. Let us examine the parable of the talents. There are a number of lessons we could learn from this parable. For instance: this parable tells us that God has entrusted to us with treasures. The parable uses the word “talents.” A talent was equivalent to more than fifteen years of wages of a laborer. It was a large amount of money isn’t it?
This parable also tells us that we shall give an account to God who entrusted to us his resources. This is Stewardship. That is being a caretaker or custodian – one that is only entrusted with something. And therefore he/she is to give an account to the owner for the use of that something entrusted to him/her. It tells us to be ready for the time when we all give an account to God for how we took care of the time, talent and treasures he entrusted to us.
We also learned that to all those who have, more will be given. For example, the more a student reads more books, the more likely he is able to learn and understand his/her lessons; if one practices correctly and more often in the choir, the more he/she likely to learn the piece and sing the song correctly.
Perhaps there are many other more lessons we can learn from this parable but I would like to invite you to look closely into this parable using a different lens in appreciating God’s judgment to us as stewards.
Let’s go directly to the third servant in the story, the servant who gains nothing for his master. In fact, according to the narrative, he does not even try because he is afraid. And so, what he was entrusted with is taken from him and he is cast off the estate of his master. He is, in other words, fired. What then as Christians, are we to make of it, what lesson does it have for us?
Well, I have seen this parable interpreted as a frank and simple exhortation to work hard at developing the gifts and talents that God has given us. The message is – “if you aren’t productive with what God has given you, you will lose it.” Basically this method of interpretation focuses on the gifts that God has given and whether or not we multiply them.
However, while there is an important lesson in this method of understanding the parable, it misses an essential element of the story; and that is, the Christian faith. It is true that God wants us to use his gifts, and to multiply them for the benefit of his Kingdom. However, I believe that it is not true that we are judged according to the quantity of the work we do for God, nor even on the quality of that work.
As Paul writes, it is by grace, through faith, that we are saved, not by works, lest anyone should boast. If we reduce the parable of the talents simply to a matter of developing the gifts that God has given us, to a matter of how productive we are for God, then we miss what is so good about the Christian life, we miss the good news of Jesus Christ, and I believe that we will end up like the servant who failed to invest the talent. We will end up being afraid – worried about how well we will do, and whether or not it will please God.
For me, the parable of the talents is not a lesson about ability or productivity. It is a lesson about moral quality. It is about the faith and attitude we should have. Consider the servant who buried his talent. When he is asked by the master to give an account of what he has done, what does he say? “Master, I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.” The judgment of the master then falls upon the servant, and I want to suggest to you that it falls upon him not because the servant has failed to produce wealth for his master, but because he was afraid to try.
Friends, remember there is no sin in failure and in trying. There is only sin in not attempting to succeed, in not listening to God and striving to do his will. The man was afraid and so he did not try. This is the basis on which he was judged. And this is the basis on which we are judged.
So brothers and sisters, do we work with the resources that God has given us? Or do we focus on the fact that we might fail and so refuse to try? Do we remember that God will judge us and so become afraid? And in that fear do we forget the basis upon which God judges us? A basis that is not concerned with the quantity of the harvest but whether or not there has been an attempt to plant a crop in the first place?
The third servant in the parable was not just someone who failed to invest the item of value given him. He was someone who tried to disown any liability for it. But believe me; it does not work that way just as it will not work for us, just as it did not work for the servant in the parable. God holds us responsible for what he has given us, he expects us to try to work with it. And the lesson of the gospel is that: if we try, God will honor our effort even if we fail. God will not, however, honor us if we absolve ourselves of the attempt to try in the first place. Rather he will condemn us.
In life as it is in faith, we cannot absolve ourselves from the tasks that we are called to do and the gifts entrusted to our care. We cannot bury them and expect to avoid judgment. Some life’s unfavorable circumstances for example, problems and challenges we are facing, whether you bury them or blame others for them, the effect is the same, they do not get dealt with, they do not get worked with, because responsibility is not claimed. My friends many of the problems we have we are not to blame for, we did not cause them, nor did we deserve them. But, and this is a big but, we are responsible for dealing with them, just as we are responsible for using the good things that God has given us for the good of others.
Try to think of someone whom you perceived as a very strong person or those who are quite successful in life. Notice that they are those who looked at their problems rather than burying them. They have taken responsibility to work things out rather than just blaming others for them. And because they are not afraid to take risks, because they are not afraid to enter their pain and examine it and expose it to the light of day and go through it anew as they look at it, they are healed.
Friends, everything we avoid, everything we bury, everything we refuse to take responsibility for, be it a gift or a problem, has its effect on us. God gives us many things, and God allows many things to happen to us. And what is clear is that God expects us to try to develop the good things we have so that the world around us can benefit from them, so that those gifts might be fruitful in us, and add to the good things God’s world needs.
Remember, God in giving us his talents, in giving us his love, does not expect us to do all this work alone. God gives us companions, He gives us a church, He gives us friends and ministers, He gives us his Holy Spirit and his living Word, He gives us Jesus Christ so that we, like the servants of the parable, can together bestow new love and new hope upon the world. We have been given each other and we have been given God’s love.
God, like the master in today’s parable, trusts us to do well with his love, to develop the gifts he gives us. Do not fear failure – because even if we do not double the goodness in the world, even if we do not personally conquer all our problems, if we have tried to work with what God has given, then God will be pleased with us. Don’t be afraid, give it a try and God shall bless you more. Amen.