Ah, life in the home office. Or at least that is how I think of the Parable of the Talents from Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 25.14-30). The Boss is going away on a long trip to other places where he is needed and there is a need to keep things up here in the home office. So what will the troops be doing while the Boss is away? Well, in a real sense, it depends on who it is that we are talking about. The Boss calls a staff meeting and has his people join him. To one, he gives the responsibility of five bags of gold. To another employee, the chief gives three bags of gold. To a third person, the Boss gives a single bag of gold. He encouraged them to work hard and to do well with what they were entrusted and then the Boss left on his trip.
When the Boss returned to the home office, he called another staff meeting and brought together his staff to see how things had gone in his absence. The first worker came and brought came and presented 10 bags of gold. The original five bags of gold where turned over along with five more that had been earned. The Boss was very please and invited the worker to come along to the great return party that he was throwing. The second member of staff came along and with his three bags gave back three more bags of gold. The Boss was very please indeed to see the bags of gold that had been earned while he had been away. This second worker was also invited to come and join the party to celebrate the Boss’s return.
Then came the employee who had the one bag of gold. He had been afraid to use it, to do anything with it and so he kept it safely hidden and tucked away and put that single bag of gold back in front of the Boss. The Boss rose in a great rage and said to this employee, “You wicked and lazy worker. You knew did you that I was a hard person to work for? You knew did you that I expected more of you that simply to hide my money away? Even if you had put it in the bank it would have gained a little interest! Get out of my sight. You are fired!” And with the press of the button in came two burly men who took the lazy worker and flung him out in the street and into the night. The unemployed worker found and lamp post sat down beneath it and began to cry his eyes out.
Now let us remember that Jesus told this parable to show what is going to happen to the person who tries to live his or her life in a sort of religious paralysis. Jesus chided those who wanted to bury what God had given them so that when the time came, they could hand it back to God in the pristine condition in which they received it, leaving it unused. We need to in the Church stop and realize that we too can be guilty of such a thing. We think that our non participation in the life of the Church is okay and acceptable. Or we look at someone else and think I can participate because I am not like him or her. I could do such a thing so I won’t do anything. I am not good enough. I am not smart enough. I am not bold enough. We look for an easy way out and a reason not to act putting ourselves and thus the Church into a kind of spiritual paralysis.
This parable pointes out at least two important things to the Church. First it reminds us that all of us have gifts and talents that we can offer. And we are also reminded of where these gifts have come from – God almighty. God has gifted all of us that we might work together for the building up of the Church and to enable the coming of his kingdom here on earth. When some of the members of the Church don’t offer what they have to give or absent themselves from participating in the work and from the fellowship, it diminishes the work and life of the Church.
Second, the Church needs to remember that it is trusted by God to come and to fulfill the calling to which it is being drawn. Isn’t that amazing? We often think that we have to learn to trust God and we do. If we go even deeper than that, we are trusted by God to move, live and to be his people, his Church in the world. God trusts us. Such trust should engender the courage to act and to use what we have been given, so that we can extend the kingdom of God in this place. Not everyone is gifted with the same amounts or types of gifts, talents and abilities. Where we are equal is in the effort we can put forth in using those gifts that we have been given and use what we have to the advantage of God and of others. If we are afraid of being judged, does it not make more sense to work and to live faithfully, even if it means making mistakes and taking the risk that we might lose it all? Isn’t that the mistake the fired employee made? Moreover, isn’t true that the reward of ask well done is another task to do? This is not the time for the Church to rest and relax – this is the time to serve! The one who is punished is the one who refuses to serve. If you refuse to do it you cannot lose it. You will not risk it. You will not do anything with it. And everything that God gives is meant to be used to benefit others and to build up the kingdom. Whatever you have, whatever it is that you possess, be prepared and willing to offer it.
Or maybe you will end up like a young man who was courting a young lady. As they stood in front her parents’ front door and under the light of the door way the young man asked if he could kiss the woman. She beamed brightly and batted her eyes at her young beau. Uncertain of what to do exactly, the young man cautiously asked again if he could kiss her. And a second time, she smiled, hoping that he would lean forward. But he didn’t. And when he asked the third time because he had not sensed a response if he could kiss her, she responded, “ I don’t know. Are you paralyzed?”
That’s life in the home office!