We have here really just two Lessons. Those who have a lot of something and do something with it. And those who have just a little of something but choose not to do anything with it.
Certainly a Fitting Theme for Times Like We're In -- wouldn't you agree? But a Hard Pill to Swallow . . . .
Perhaps we would like to Sympathize for a moment with the Poor Soul who gave in to his Fear of the Master's Wrath or Disappointment -- if he had lost the Master's One Talent. Because of Fear, or because of uncertainty, this Servant didn't do anything. Actually, the Master upon his return calls him LAZY. So there's something to be
said for Physical and Mental Action when we're left to do a task. If we're going to get anywhere in life, in society, or in economics, something has to be INVESTED! Something has to be worked at!
If you Accept the Master's Challenge in Jesus' parable and take the Talent and Try to Invest it . . . not being able to predict what the Market may do. You stand to lose a part of, or possibly all of your investment, especially with the ups and downs of Wall Street right now. On the other hand, you might use your own time and
energy to invest the Master's Money and you could Gain something on it -- Maybe a little or maybe a lot! Guess we call this sweat equity these days.
I remember when I was in farming, to plant a crop meant a certain financial investment had to be made up front. I could spend a couple hundred dollars on seed, fertilizer, fuel and something for the cost of machinery. All this had to be thought out and worked out on paper, this was my initial investment. Then there were the risks
to consider: What would the Weather do? What kind of Price would the Market Bring? A hail storm can wipe out a whole field of squash or Tomatoes! The Market price might be at giveaway prices or maybe at a reasonable profit.
It all depends on supply and demand. In between all of these variables is the question of how hard I was willing to work??? That was something I could make or break–it was within my control.
The 16th century economic scholar, Adam Smith is credited with describing the Capitalistic System we claim to adhere to. "Smith did not view sympathy and self-interest as antithetical; they were complementary. "Man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their
benevolence only," he explained in The Wealth of Nations.
Charity, while a virtuous act, cannot alone provide the essentials for living. Self-interest is the mechanism that can remedy this shortcoming. Said Smith: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest" (ibid.).
Someone earning money by his own labor benefits himself. Unknowingly, he also benefits society, because to earn income on his labor in a competitive market, he must produce something others value. In Adam Smith's lasting imagery, "By directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of greatest value, he intends only
his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention."
In Jesus' Lesson of the Master who Leaves these Investments with his Servants--We can wonder why the Master Scolds (that sounds too mild) the one Servant who did nothing . . . but we can see how the other servants, in their own self-interest (!) were actually doing much more Good than the Servant who Thinks only of himself . . .and
supposedly--plays it safe!
What a Turn Around.!
The one playing it safe is the selfish one! He's not willing to invest the Talent entrusted to him/her. But instead hides it–not sharing it! Not allowing it's value and usability to grow and benefit anyone. This is the TALENT WASTED! The beauty never seen, the charity never given, the dream never even started.
A dear friend of mine's daughter, Bryn, wrote: "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." What a great insight from a young person. We all have dreams and visions and so we are rightly called Dreamers, Flower Children or possibly Fools. But
those have been shown as the wise ones who began to invest themselves in their worthy dreams. Who planted seeds of justice and hope by stepping out courageously beyond segregated communities or who returned to school at a later time in life or who have worked for peace or understanding between arguing spouses or warring nations. Such
Talents invested bring a return.
Often we think of Money and Big Business as the Root of all evil, however, we can also see how these agents can play a role as Societal Saviors!
The one who was given five talents invested them in whatever way they did. That slave was freed to go out and invest the talent. He might have bought some grain and had it milled into flour, taken it out and sold it to people who did not have a good crop that year. Did he do crooked thing? Was this evil business? No. Did he make
money? Yes. Did he benefit the people who grew the grain? Yes. Did he provide a service to those who bought the grain? Yes!
Ok, lest we feel too vindicated in what has been our Primary Market System. Let's play one more scenario. What about those whose crop repeatedly failed or who suffered sickness or injury or loss by no fault of their own. And these had no crop to sell, neither did they have money to purchase the milled grain? These are the ones who
They have to sell all they had just to survive. They might not know another trade to work at . . . and so they need help. Who will help them? Will the Private Sector? That would be nice . . . but not likely. Will the Private Business Man or Woman concern him/herself with the plight of the poor? Yes, they could, but, pragmatically
speaking they won't.
So whose responsibility is it when there are people Destitute. Or for those who can no longer physically or mentally manage their lives, let alone earn a living?
In another Passage and slightly different situation, Jesus told his disciples "YOU FEED THEM!" In another era, Luther said that it was the responsibility of Government, the Prince or King (or President) to make sure that the Poor are provided with ample food, shelter, education, health care. And so – a system of help that has been
called "welfare" supported by taxation becomes a necessary part of society – it only works because of the authority of overarching government. I know that's not what we want to hear, but it's the same old story from long ago . . . .
Sure it needs constant reform and can backfire. But it is a small price to pay for the otherwise, Free-Market! Which, left to its own devices, turns inward and can make poor decisions. On the other hand, where there are treasuries *(Luther referred to The Community Chest), there can be more Talents invested . . . and more good can
come of it.
I will conclude with this thought for us in these difficult days. Let us be a resourceful People in Christ. Let us Consider the Means we each have, whether in Business or with our meager Fixed Income or with the wealth of our Minds, Bodies or material goods. Consider how you are best investing what you have.
Consider our Church, with this beautiful building, these classrooms these pews . . . how might we best serve our Master and show him a Return on this Investment. Shall he return and only see the building in good condition? But empty? Or will the Master come and see souls learning to love God and appreciating neighbors of all colors
and languages. Will the Master's return see us practicing Peace? Will he see us Investing Ourselves in the Lives of Others? . . . even those with whom we do not agree?
The Payoff is the kingdom and those complimentary words from Jesus, "'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'" Let us commit ourselves to be the best we can be for Jesus . . . Amen