Faith Over Fear

Written by Joel on November 14th, 2011

Nov 13, 2011
Proper 28
Matthew 25:14-30 “Parable of the Talents.”

The traditional understanding of this parable is: Take what God gives you, according to your ability, and make more. Often we hear that word “Talent” which is a transliteration from the Greek (that means, it was a Greek word that is left untranslated and simply written using English letters) and we hear our English word talent which refers to a skill we may have; such as speaking, serving, counseling, teaching, evangelizing…So we understand the parable to mean that we should take these kind of talents, work really hard at them to expand God’s kingdom. Or sometimes, this text is used on stewardship Sundays to talk about the importance of giving to the church, and how the church needs to wisely manage it’s reasources. Yes, God wants us to use the gifts he has given us for the good of his kindgom – to multiply them; yes it is important to be good stewards of both our personal and church resources. But, I don’t think that this parable is mostly about money or self-help improvement of your own God-given talents. This is a parable for a church facing the end times and facing persecution. This is a parable about how to live by faith and not by fear until Christ returns.

This parable comes right in between two other parables, which certainly shed some light on the Parable of the Talents. This whole section of the Gospel is at a part when Jesus is talking about the end times, and the coming of Lord. Begining with chapter 24 of Matthew, Jesus begins to talk about signs of the end times. The day and the hour are unknown! And then our three parables. The parable of the Sheep and Goats, which follows our reading this morning (and will be next week’s Gospel reading) is about the separating out of true Christians from false Christians based on their actions through life. Those who cared for their neighbor are sheeps and those who did not are goats.

Immediately before the Parable of the Talents we have the parable of the 10 madiens. The kingdom of heaven will be like 10 madiens who were told to keep watch for the bridge groom. The wise ones brought extra oil, the foolish ones did not. By the time the bridegroom arrived, the lamps were out of oil. The foolish ones had to go into town and buy more and they missed the party. But the wise madeins who had extra oil were there to greet the bridegroom. Keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour!

I think, that in light of this context, the parable of the Talents is not simple financial advice or self help guidance for how to live a better life. This parable is about how Christians, the church, ought to live our faith inbetween the time Jesus went to heaven, and when he will come back. again. Keep watch – be ready. Expand what God entrusts to us. And serve your neighbor. Its a way of living the faith in spite of fear which wants to twart faith.

Scripture remains silent on the motivations of the first two servants who were successful in doubling their master’s investment. But we are given a glimpse of what is going on in the mind of that third servant. So maybe we may want to avoid those same movitivations? This third servant knew his master to be a harsh man; he was afraid so he hid his talent. Basically, he wanted to absolve himself of the responsibility of managing his master’s resources. So he put it somewhere safe and forgot about it. When the master returned he said “Here, take what is yours.”

He was afraid. Afraid of what? Perhaps he was not confident in his business savy to do well in the market place. He was afraid of losing what was given to him. He was afraid to risk. Afraid to lose. Now, its not the fear that got the servant in trouble, it was when he let that fear win. He chose to hide that talent in a hole; that is when he was called “wicked and lazy.” He acted in fear and put an end to the master’s will. Fear over faith.

Does the church ever get afraid? You better believe it!

Do you all remember in April when we had our two fish fry dinners? I think that was a parable of the talents, faith over fear moment for us. Remember we had two dinners? The first dinner was small “scale” (remember that joke?). We only invited members and friends. And then I suggested why don’t we do another one? In three weeks and we’ll advertise and invite everyone, we’ll serve the community, it will be great! And most everyone said “ehhhh, maybe we shouldn’t…” I think we were afraid. “We’re too old,” “We’re too tired,” “It’s too much work.” “There’s no money in it.” “What if no one comes and we lose all the money we’ll spend?” “What if too many people come and we run out of food?” “What if we make someone sick?” “What if the health department shuts us down?” “What if them young people don’t know how to pull off a church dinner?” Those were lots of really good reasons not to have the dinner. In that case we did not let fear get the best of us. We went out in faith, bought $500 worth of fish and put out a ya’all come. We served over 100 people (members, friends, and complete strangers). We turned that $500 into a $500 profit. Good and faithful servants. Sure it was scary, but there we let faith win.

Its not just about multipling money or resources. It can be scary to share the faith God has given us (even though it didn’t cost a thing it is quite valuable, worth many many Talents). Fear of what others may think, fear of rejection, fear that we don’t know the faith ourselves, fear that we don’t have the right words. Its scary to go out there and share our faith.

You folks who went to the orchard with me, where you afraid to go? I’ll admit to being afraid. It is scary to go somewhere that no-one knows who you are and what you’re doing there. When I went last Sunday, Grace Covenant wasn’t there. I went alone, and my Spanish is still pretty weak. I was really quite nervous. I could have took my faith and dug it in a hole – kept it to myself, be satisfied that I personally know the Lord. I share this with you not to tell you how great I am, but how great God is. I did not let fear win, I let faith win and I went. Nearly the instant I got out of my truck a man saw me in my collar and ran up to me, I believe he said “I want to talk to God.” I tried my best at a prayer, and caught myself repeating a few times “Dios te ama, Cristo te ama.” God loves you, Christ loves you. He showed me into the kitchen. I brought a Spanish Bible with me, and not knowing what else to do I opened it to the third chapter of John and asked him to read. And the man proclaimed the scripture as he read: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Before I left he asked for a prayer for his wife at home far away. Certainly, I was awfuly limited in how effective I was (mostly because of our language barrier), maybe I would have been the servant in the parable who only earned interest on the Talent God gave me. But, I’ll tell you one thing- it sure was a greater result than if I keep my faith to myself.

How else do we fear in the living of our faith at the county line? In our personal lives? For as long as we wait for Jesus to come back, do not let fear hide your faith!

Churches and Christians may bury their Talent (many do), hide their faith and keep it to themselves. This happens when churches opperate from fear rather than faith. Being The Church is going to be scary until Jesus comes back. But we can not let that fear put out our faith.

Well done, good and faithful servant. Faith is the opposite of fear.


 

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