Based on the RCL for Sunday, November 15, 2020
Jesus tells a parable of investing in relationships: a man goes away and leaves each of three servants with something to care for based on their abilities. Two of them take what they’ve been given and “traded” with it – I imagine a bustling marketplace, the hub of society and human interaction in their world. If you’ve ever been to a local market place in places like Guatemala, you know what I’m talking about. Market day is the central focus of the community. It is the time the people both earn money and find what they need. Relationships are cultivated through the interactions and exchanges. When we go to Guatemala, we regularly return to the same stalls for what we are looking for, remembering the people by name.
Sorry, got sidetracked a bit … we didn’t not make it to Guatemala this year (the first year in 8 years) and I’m desperately homesick for my “other” country and the wonderful people there.
Back to Jesus’ story: Two of the people made use of what they’d been entrusted with and what they started with increased.
The Greek word we translate to ‘talent’ means the scale of a balance or that which is weighed (Ref: Strong’s G5007). It is often assigned a specific amount of money.
With the parables, we need to look at the interactions though the lens of God’s Kingdom, where ‘treasure’ is relationship based – love, compassion, justice, mercy, etc., not material goods. The abundance we are promised is the never ending supply of these. God’s love for us is unconditional and unending. When we base our own value on God’s love for us, we come to understand that the more love we give, the more we have to give.
The servant who hoarded away what was given, had the ability to give it away, too, but he let fear rule the day. And in his fear, he rewrites the narrative to justify his fear driven action (or lack thereof). He recreates his master to be an angry, manipulative thief.
Jesus tells us over and over “do not be afraid” not because he wants us to deny the fear we feel but because he is asking us to trust God’s presence and promises. When we find our greatest security in the size of our bank accounts, we can never have enough because we live with the fear of losing it all. When we find our greatest security in the image we portray with the “right” clothes, cars, houses, friends, or job, we must always struggle to have the latest and best. But when we find our greatest security in God’s love, we never need to be afraid of losing everything because God’s love is everlasting.
(I like the word ‘everlasting’ so much more than ‘eternal’. I think we get stuck in thinking ‘eternal’ means sometime in the future (it doesn’t). To accept God’s everlasting love means that regardless of what we do, God’s love will endure.)
When we invest God’s love for us by loving others, we will always have more than we need. Our treasure will not be in money or cars or material things. We will value our relationship with God and others more than anything else.
When we begin to see life relationally rather than transactionally, we find the freedom that the Gospel message gives us. We don’t have to work to earn God’s love. We don’t have be good enough or wealthy enough or pretty enough. You don’t have to drive the right car or live in the right house or wear the right clothes. God loves us. Period. Full Stop. And God desires nothing from us but to be in relationship.
God entrusts us with immeasurable love so that we will trade it with everyone we encounter in the every day circumstances of our daily rhythms and routines. Trading love makes it grow. The more we trade the more we have. Well done, good and faithful servant.