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Sure To Multiply

Matthew 25:14-30

The Rev. Jon Roberts

15 November


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ 21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ 23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Sure To Multiply

Parable of the Talents, by Willem de Poorter, 1608-1668

When you bury your talents, you are just trying to get by.
But when you exercise your talents, they will surely multiply.[1]

There once was a father who bought bass lessons for his son. The 1st week the father asked him what he had learned. The son said, "On my 1st lesson we learned about the E string." The 2nd week came and after the lesson the father asked what had he learned. The son said, "On my 2nd lesson I learned about the A string." The 3rd week came by and the father said to his son, "You know these are expensive lessons what have you learned this week?" The son said, "I quit the lessons I already got a gig."

On one hand we can say the son was resourceful, applying what he had learned with just two basic notes learned. On the other hand we can say the son did not live up to his potential. What would it be like to play two strings for the rest of your life? What do you say? Did the father’s son learn how to get by, or did he exercise what he learned to multiply?

In the Gospel today we hear the word “talent.”[2] It was not used in those biblical days as we use it today. Today, we liken it to an athlete, a musician, a singer, or an artist to name a few. If you have talent, that means you have something that is rare. It means you have something desirable in which others wish they had but don’t feel they can achieve. It often appears that the person gets it naturally. They seem to hardly put any effort into it, but as we all know, from their own testimonies, they work hard to get good at what they do. It takes a lot of practice. Doctors and attorneys, even priests are talented and often they refer to their administration of skill and time as a practice. Talented people are often given opportunities to exercise their talent, mainly because their giftedness is for hire and rewarded financially in professional circles. It can be lucrative, to be talented, but that is not the type of talent Jesus is referring to in his parable. For Jesus, it is important to see a talent as a measure of calling by God to those who listen by faith.

Many sons and daughters in our world today are actively looking to explore their talents. They want to be secure financially and they want to be awarded success personally. They are asking themselves, “What talent do I have?” Steve Harvey, a talented comedian and gameshow host gave a bit of advice to these young seekers of talent. He said, “Your career is what you are paid for. Your calling is what you are made for.”[3] It can be hard to distinguish the difference sometimes between capital gains from personal gains. Talented people seem to go so far in life, while the little guys may feel they are going nowhere. Sometimes that is the reason we cling tight to the little we do have. We fear letting go because we do not know if what is lost will be replenished. We may also be lazy, not wanting to learn a new string to play because what we have is good enough. God did not make us to get by. God made us to multiply.

A few key understandings are in order. In Jesus’ day there were slaves. Not as we think about them from our American history. In the Greco-Roman periods, slaves were actually bonded for active duties that were well respected and they even held respectable positions in society. In older versions they translated the Greek word “doulos” as servant, but the word slave is more accurate.[4] They were paid by a system of talents, and one talent was equivalent to about $5,000 today.[5] So when Jesus spoke about the man in the parable who gave his slaves a talent, what is extraordinary is that the first two doubled the amount. The man was going on a journey and believed his money would work harder if invested in talented folks who could turn it into a greater profit. This was long before the banking institution, interest bearing accounts, mutual funds and stock markets took hold. It was also a time when securing money was hazardous. Someone could steal it from you. This is why many people would bury their gold and silver. This is the reason why many of our museums benefit from stockpiled discoveries that have been unearthed. This is why the one slave buried the money. He buried his talent.

What about today? What talent has God given you and what are you doing with it? Are we supposed to stockpile what God has given us? For those who feel like they have lots of talent, with athleticism, voice, hands and eyes and such to excel, are you using them the way God intended? Are you multiplying it or maybe it’s not enough and with all your millions you feel like you are just getting by. For those who feel like they have little or no talent, what are you doing with the little you have? Well, God gave you the capacity to care for others, to help someone through the door and spend time listening to other’s needs. That is real talent. Don’t pass by what has been given to you from the beginning. You are given the talent of looking out for others. The challenge God gives you is to live by faith and care for others but you can’t do that unless you care for yourself first. You have to love who God made you to be. But there are so many who cannot get to that place. They cannot love who they are because they have been stingy with God. They have lost out because of the number one thing that gets in the way, and that is fear.

St. Paul says God comes like a thief in the night and the fear stems from what we feel could be taken away. He warns of those who seek safety and security in materialism. Jesus says, “Well done my good and faithful slave,” because often we are fearful of the safe place of just getting by; the security in the little we have and fear of letting go. God wants you to use your talent. Have faith because when you depend on God by the exercise of your faith, look at what happens. There is an amazing opportunity to look for the next place he wants you to go, the person you need to meet. That one-talent man used the excuse that he was applying a safe and secure treatment of what was given him, but instead it prevented him from living by faith. Faith is a vulnerable talent. It is risky to exercise. Dearly beloved, remember you are no different than those three in the parable. When you bury what God has given you, you are just living to get by, but when you exercise your talent, it is sure to multiply.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Matthew 25:14-30
[5] The Interpreter’s Bible, Matthew 25:19, p.559 (Goodspeed’s translation, 1940)

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