I sort of feel a bit sorry for the 3rd person in Jesus’ parable today. It seemed that his intentions were honourable. He thought he was doing the right thing. He thought the task that he was given was to protect his master’s possessions. So he protected it by hiding away from everyone else. Like you might hide your valuables in a safe hidden in the floor or behind a picture. Or you might hide your money under the bed. But why did he “hide” his master’s possessions? Because his relationship with his master was one that was based on fear. “I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground”.
So this parable by Jesus is about looking at our relationship with God. Is our relationship based on trust or on fear? The master trusted all of his servants but only 2 of the servants trusted their master and one feared him.
Again this parable, like last week’s parable about the 5 wise and 5 unwise bridesmaids is about the coming judgement. And something that we learn from today’s parable is that judgement is not about punishing but about God honouring our free will. This 3rd servant was not punished for what he had done but rather the master honoured the relationship that he had. 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. In turn, the master replies: You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?
The Christian faith is not about obedience but about relationship. God’s love for us is not dependant on how we live our lives in obedience to his commands. No, Paul says in Romans 5 – God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And neither is God’s love exclusive in that he only loves those who love him: As John says in his first letter – This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. It is easy to be distracted from an important message in this parable if we only focus on the third servant. Do you get this picture in your mind from the 3rd servant that this master is a harsh man? Reaping where he did not sow? Gathering where he did not scatter? The only image we have in this parable is of a generous and trusting master. As he said to the 3rd servant, this master could have banked his entire wealth and received interest.
We sometimes miss just how trusting this master is. One talent is believed to be worth 15 year’s salary. The average salary in Australia is $90,000. So to the first servant he gave almost $7,000,000 So this is a very generous and trusting master. And when the one with 5 talents doubled it – he let him keep it to work with and gave him the talent from the 3rd servant. So this parable reminds us that in our relationship with God we do not live in fear. Do we always get things right? No. Does God punish us when we get things wrong? No. God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world through him.
St Paul gives the same assurance to us in our 2nd reading today. He does not deny that there is a coming judgement day but he says that those in Christ have nothing to fear: He says: The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. There will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.
God did not create us for a life in this world as some sort of waiting room where he have to sit tight until the headmaster calls us into his office. No, he wants us to live our lives and enjoy the life that he gave.
Enjoying all that his creation has to offer and not looking over our shoulders like a frightened employee who shouts out to his colleagues – look busy the boss is coming. No, Jesus shows how this master who represents God trusts his people and lavishes on them his wealth. They weren’t rewarded for how much they made but for their trust in their relationship with him.
‘Well-done, good and trustworthy servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master. It was his trust that was rewarded. And like the 3rd servant who pronounced his own judgment so did the first servant. He trusted his master so his master trusted him with even more. Likewise, God is not keeping a tally on what we are doing. He is living in a relationship with us as we are with him. So if we want to get better in our prayer life then let us pray. We reap what WE sow. We might not produce eloquent words or know what to pray sometimes but that’s how our prayer life grows same as reading God’s word.
God has lavished on us his riches but too often, we bury them. We worry about how bad our prayer life is but we do not take time to pray. We are embarrassed about how little time we spend reading God’s word but do not make time to read God’s word. But let’s also remember that while we might judge ourselves, God does not.
The 3rd servant pronounced his own judgement on himself. Let us not do that to ourselves. St Paul says: God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. God is trustworthy and generous in all he does for us. He doesn’t want us to live in fear of him but as Paul says: put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. Faith, hope and love – the same 3 gifts Paul talk about in Corinthians:
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. God’s love
So as we look at the world around us let us not live in fear of God or anything but in trust. Trust in God’s love and care for us. Let us live in faith and hope as we live in the love of God knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Remember that Jesus is with us until the end of the age and when that end comes, we will hear that wonderful invitation: Well-done, good and trustworthy servant; enter into the joy of your master.
Until that day may the peace of God that surpasses our understanding keep your hearts and minds forever in Christ Jesus. Amen