Thought for the Day 15 Nov 2020 - 2nd Sun before Advent – Matthew 25:14-30
In my Bible, today’s gospel reading is called the ‘parable of the talents’. When I looked online for the reading, I was surprised to see that it’s now called the ‘parable of the bags of gold’. Not a problem, I thought. After all, in Bible times, a ‘talent’ was used as both a unit of weight and a unit of money. In Jesus’ day, a talent was worth several thousand pounds.
If, like me, you’ve been going to church for quite a while, you’ll have heard the story often. The boss is going away on a long business trip. She calls her staff Dave, Sonya and Hank together and hands them each a Jiffy bag stuffed with banknotes. “You know the business”, she tells them. “My most important resource is you. Your skills and hard work are what makes this company great! Oh, and of course my second most important resource is cash. That’s what’s in your packages, and I’ll leave it to you to do what you do best!” And then she was off to Heathrow.
Well, Dave starts buying and selling stuff on eBay like there’s no tomorrow. Before long, he’s doubled his boss’s investment. Sonya calls Ladbroke’s and puts the whole lot on a dead cert in the 2.30 at Kempton Park. Yes, you’ve guessed – she’s doubled his investment too. Hank sticks the Jiffy bag in his desk drawer and takes the rest of the day off.
“How long do you reckon she’ll be away?”, says Sonya. “Dunno”, says Hank. “Here she is now!”, says Dave. She calls them together and opens her spreadsheet.
Well, we know the rest, don’t we? Dave and Sonya get ‘Bravo certificates’ for their effort and success. Hank is put on a disciplinary with HR, where there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
So what is Jesus’s parable about? Is it about money? Is it about using our talents? We can read the story about both those. And I think we’d agree that we should use to the limit both the money and talents that God gives us. But there’s more to it than money and talents.
I think it’s about doing something with our lives and energy rather than nothing. Maybe it’s better to do anything rather than do nothing. It’s better to try something and fail rather than do nothing and succeed. Have you tried anything new recently? Jesus told a number of stories about managers going away and leaving others in charge, waiting for the manager’s return. Because he has ‘gone away’ and will return himself. There is going to be a day of reckoning, and we don’t know when.
This isn’t to suggest that we earn a place in the kingdom through our effort. We know that’s not right because it’s by grace that we’re saved through faith, not works. But we will be called to account. And I’d rather be one who did something with what I’ve got, and tried something with courage and effort, than one who, through fear or laziness, did nothing. Are you ready for the boss’s return?