Church of England Diocese of Birmingham Frankley

Making the Best of what We Have Been Given

15 Nov 2020, 2 a.m.

We are blessed and have a responsibility to use all the gifts God has given us, whether they are gifts of time, talents, family, friends or material wealth for his glory.

Jesus gave all he had for us. We are called to live our lives for him

Matthew’s parable pictures the Lord’s return when there will be separation between those invited to enter the Kingdom and those who are not.

Jesus tells the story just before he is going to endure the horror of crucifixion and journey through, death, resurrection and ascension to be with his heavenly Father in heaven.

As the man in the story entrusted his property to his slaves, so Jesus entrusted his work on earth to anyone who would follow him.

He was also speaking to the religious elite giving them a clear invitation to follow him and use what they had been given well.

The man in the story is generous and caring. He gives to each of his slaves according to their ability. It’s not that he has favourites and hates others. He knows the abilities and personalities of his slaves well and what they are capable of and what they would find difficult.

One talent alone was worth the equivalent of twenty years wages for the average labourer so five talents equivalent to 100 years work. It represented a huge amount of money.

The master’s understanding of his slaves was accurate. The two slaves given the most use their talents wisely and double their money. The slave that was given the least hid his talent

Sometimes when we look at others we and their abilities we can be overcome by fear, jealousy and all sorts of negative emotions

We can even be angry with God, for not giving us the same abilities, wealth or opportunities in life as others.

God loves all of us, whatever our background, race, gender or abilities. He can use us whatever age we reach, in sickness and in health.

There was a time when I was depressed and couldn’t cope any longer with teaching. I felt a failure and couldn’t find the energy to keep sending sick notes in. I was ashamed.

Several years later in my curacy I was confronted by a group of people who were mentally ill, who couldn’t relate to successful leaders at all.

The breakthrough which enabled us to minister to each other was the sick note which I had kept. It was an unlikely talent and I could have chosen to bury it. If I had done so I would have missed God’s best for me.

This parable teaches us that all we have are gifts from God, freely given for a time. The end comes suddenly, (Thessalonians says like a thief in the night). The master will return and we will have to give an account of ourselves.

Our gifts and all we have belong to God, whether we offer them freely in his service or not.

The master in the story was angry with the slave who buried his talent. He told him that if he at least had put it in the bank, it would have earned interest. Today, when you put money in the bank you might preserve some of it but it will devalue rapidly. Jesus is not advertising banks here. He’s telling us not to waste what we have been given.

The two slaves who doubled their money weren’t compared with each other. They were both commended as good and trustworthy and they both received the same reward.

They hadn’t been faithful in everything. They had only been faithful in a few things. However, they both received their master’s well done and were put in charge of many things.

Trustworthy, good people develop enabling them to take on more responsibilities. The faithful slaves were rewarded with more and their master’s approval. They were invited to enter into the joy of their Lord, a place of happiness, peace and blessedness.

This parable appears to be about using our potential. Rewards are given the same way they are given in the workplace or at school.

We do not get to into heaven through our works however but through God’s undeserved love.

This is made clear when we look at the response of the slave who had one talent. He had a false view of his master and sees him as a man who reaps where he does not sow and gathers where he has not scattered, aggressively seeking to expand his estate to make a profit.

The slave buried the money because he was afraid.

I wonder what we are afraid of. What stops us using our gifts to extend God’s Kingdom?

Using our talents to the full requires courage. We all meet setbacks.

Jesus doesn’t automatically take our fear away. Some things we have to do afraid in the knowledge that our fear will be cast out both by God’s love for us and the love he places within us for others. When we love, our love grows.

The religious elite were so keen to preserve the law that they had buried it hiding it’s true purpose. They hadn’t put it into action. Instead of growing in love for God and their neighbour they were growing in hate.

Instead of entering into the joy of their Lord they were plotting to kill him.

COVID 19 has changed our world. Rich nations such as the UK and the USA have suffered hugely. We need to labour with our Lord for a world that is better than the one before; a world where love and justice reigns, where getting the biggest profit and hoarding isn’t revered by others.

Thessalonians shows us that dark times are like a pregnant woman’s labour pains. Painful suffering comes upon us suddenly. Without God placing new life within us and helping us we cannot give birth to the new. We labour together with the Lord for the birth of a new creation.

Until that day we are to live as if the new had already come. We walk in the light of the Lord’s presence because in him we are already citizens of the Kingdom of heaven. God doesn’t see us as slaves but as children of the light.

We are to keep awake and be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love. When we are under attack, our defence is Christ, his love for us and our love for him and others.

Because of Jesus we have hope so instead of despairing we are to put on as a helmet the hope of salvation.

We can have confidence in God’s love. However awful things are God has not destined us for outer darkness. He has destined us to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ that whatever happens we will live together with him.