St. Matthew.jpg

The Lord Giveth

Matthew 25:14-30

The Rev. Jon Roberts

16 November

2014

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.’

I lift up my eyes to the hills, by Maha Rukab, c.2000

It is so important to lift up our eyes unto the heavens and give thanks each day for remember the saying, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. [1]

There was an ecumenical gathering where a local rabbi, priest and pastor met at a local coffee shop and discussed their congregations. They were good friends. The subject one day was, “What do you do with all donations received and how were they directed to local missions of the church?” The rabbi said every Sunday we draw a circle. We take the donations, throw them up into the air and whatever falls inside is what we give to our missions. The priest agreed with that method. He went on to say they use a similar method at his church whereas all the donations they raise each Sunday is likewise thrown up into the air and whatever falls outside the circle is what they give to missions. The pastor agreed with both methods and that they were very similar to his own, but with one difference. He said that they take the donations, throw them into the air and whatever doesn’t come down must mean God wants to keep for himself to use for missions.

It is important that we listen to the psalmist in the 123rd psalm as it relates to each of us. What is our focus in this psalm? It says I lift up my eyes unto the heavens for the one who lives on the throne. My eyes are directed to the hands of the master as the servant relates for our survival. Today we look for the courage to keep our eyes looking up. This takes a lot of effort. How many of us do this in our daily lives as we are so focused on where to find our keys, our checkbook, or the remote. These are things we can rely on to touch and feel. Jesus, when speaking to the people realized many of them were drawing the circles but not willing to let go of their fear and troubles. They kept their eyes focused on protecting what little they had left. Something that irritates us in the sport’s arena is to observe a “prevent defense” where a team bargains with the opposition, forfeiting turf in front just to protect what little is left. This is not what Jesus is saying. He went way beyond the 10% tithe. He said you put your whole life upwards and let God take what is His. The hardest decision is to forfeit our lives to Christ.

We put on the breastplate, the shield and the armor so we could remain strong.[2] Jesus knew their weakness. He knew the Pharisees could not let go of what they held so tightly. The multiplied human constructed laws were long fought principles they were unwilling to let go. They needed to preserve these laws for the day the master would come. They served for what they awaited. That is where their eyes were, on the arrival of the Messiah. But the Messiah was there in front of them, telling them they need to give all. This is why he used the parable of the talents. The one who could not let go, struggled and buried his talent.[3] Jesus tells us there will be risks but they are worth it. He knows this can be hard to do but he has faith in you, in your talents and how you will use them. Are you using them for the glory of God?

There is another relationship where the master relates to Jesus and we are the ones in the field, the church, which takes certain risks. The church is to move forward. In this season of the year many churches are working on the risk of creating a budget for the next year. Sometimes we feel it is like drawing a circle and that they are throwing in the air the previous year’s donations. Did we receive more on the inside or the outside of the circle? What is left to give to missions? What does God keep from us when we are not living by faith? These questions are important for the ones who hold the talents. Your talent is your faith and we budget for certain risks. We are unlike any other institution in this respect. We do not know what will come of next year, but we can decide where we will focus. Will our eyes look unto the hills? Will our help come in the name of the Lord? This day, as you discern what talent God has given you, consider the course of your life and all the times when things were given and when things were taken away. When were you closest to God? Perhaps this thing we call stewardship and this method we call a pledge is no more than an opportunity for you to be like the servants in the parable. Are you willing to invest and work with what God has given or do you bury it because you are afraid?

Just remember, it is so important to lift up our eyes unto the heavens and give thanks each day as the saying goes, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
[3] Matthew 25:14-30

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