Everything that we have is a gift from God that we have been entrusted with. But these gifts are meant to be given away.
We begin today’s sermon by reading Matthew’s parable of the Bags of gold found in Matt 25:14-30. At the end of this parable, the servant who was only given one bag was told that whoever has will have more, and he who does not, whatever they have will be taken from them. At first blush, this master does not sound very Christlike! He sounds more like a ruthless head of a Wall Street investment firm, where insufficient “returns” are punished. Some preachers use this passage to push for evangelism (where each convert is counted). But this reading of this parable is inconsistent with character of God found in Christ. As we have learned before, it is okay to ask questions when we run into a difficult passage. It just means we need to dig a little.
Our culture doesn’t speak in parables much. So they can get misinterpreted, because we don’t always know what to look for. The way Jesus used these is that it is a story based on a situation in the everyday life of his audience. The story’s situation is just used as prop to make a teaching point. Sometimes we the modern listener get caught up in the details that we aren’t supposed to. It’s like a joke, where if you have to ask about the meaningless details, you are missing the joke. The only point is the punchline. The setup is just a prop.
An example of this is found in Luke there is a parable where some guests show up unexpectedly and the host doesn’t have any food to give them. So she asks her neighbor for some bread to give to her guest. The neighbor is cranky and says no but the woman keeps pestering until the neighbor finally breaks down and gives her what she asks for. The point of this parable is not that God is like a cranky neighbor who doesn’t want to be bothered– the point (aka the punchline) is in Luke 11:9 — we should ask persistently. A common practice in Jesus’ day was to lend bags of gold, so that is the setup. He is not commenting on this. The punchline is if you are faithful with a few things, you will be put in charge of many. If we invest with the master’s will that which is entrusted to us, we will receive more. But if we hoard it, we will not.
How do we apply this to our life? Think of the positive things you have. Eyesight, hearing, food, shelter, the breath of life itself. Now ask: did you do something that would explain why you have this gift and others don’t? Since we as Christians do not believe in reincarnation and karma, then for most things the answer is no. It is an unmerited gift! And all good things come from God. (John 3:2, James 1:17) These gifts we possess have been entrusted to us.
//Entrusted: to give a trust or responsibility to; to place in trust for protection, care or handling.//
Every gift comes with a responsibility to give it and use it. It’s not just for us. Gifts are meant to be used and multiplied, to be given to others. We will be most fully alive when we are imitating the self-giving God. This is the whole point of this passage. It is also what is meant when Jesus says “Lose your life and you will find it.” The mantra of our Western culture is individualism –“what’s mine is mine.” “Live your best life now” and “It’s my life I can do what I want” While this is legally true, it is biblically false, it’s actually anti-biblical. In reality, the Master owns our wealth, our gifts, and our life. He has just entrusted us with it. It is a loan, whose purpose is to be given away.
This is all part of becoming like God — because we are made in the image of God. And the fact is that if God wasn’t pouring his goodness into his world, there wouldn’t BE any goodness. Because this world is fallen; People’s will and the will of spiritual entities can and do frequently thwart his will. So it is right to thank God for every good thing. Our goal is to develop the capacity to become more like him by pouring our goodness (which belongs to him) into the world too.
Now, this doesn’t mean your shouldn’t have boundaries. Cherish and take care of yourself. But the purpose of our gifts is to give them away. Only then do we find the joy of the master.
Here is the an exercise to battle depression/anger about life….
(obviously if your doctor prescribes Prozac, take it. But either way, try this…)
1 – Think of every positive thing in your life. Then look around and see all those who have less. Give thanks for those things. They are all gifts given to you. And making a regular practice of giving concrete thanks is powerful.
2 – Get your focus off yourself. Find something to pour yourself into. Think of your gifts and then find a place to give them away to. Watch what that does to you. Joy will start to creep into your life. Because now you’re living in the pattern of the self-giving God. Another way to say this is Use it or lose it. This applies to everything: Use your brain, move your body, exercise empathy, learn a language. Everything is meant to be used.
In summary, you are a gift! And gifts are meant to be given away.
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