Preached Sunday at CAC Friendly Baptist Church
(CAC Friendly is a church made up mostly of children — this manuscript was prepared for a 10-year-old audience — the actual congregation was more youth-aged, so my sermon Sunday morning was more grown-up, but based on the same ideas.)
How many of you like pizza? Have you ever been at a meal where you were told how many pieces you could have? I remember a lot of church events where we were told to “take only 2 slices so that everyone can have some.” Have you been in a situation like that? What would happen if you took an extra piece of pizza? If someone was watching, you might get in trouble – but something else would happen, wouldn’t it? Someone else might leave lunch hungry, because there wasn’t enough pizza.
In our gospel reading today, Jesus is telling a parable – a story. And this story might sound a little funny to us because it keeps using the word “talent.” When we say the word talent today, what do we mean? Something you are good at, right? You might have a talent of singing or of writing or of playing basketball. But a talent meant something else when Jesus told this story – a talent was a coin – it was money. And it was a LOT of money. Think you can guess how much it was? One talent was worth more than a normal person would make after 15 YEARS of work.
Jesus’ story is about a man with a LOT of money. He calls in his three best servants and gives them each talents – HUGE wads of cash – to look after. He gives one servant 5 talents – the amount of money someone would make in over 75 years! To another he gives 2 talents. And to the third guy, he gives one talent. He hands off ALL that money, tells the servants to take care of it and then he leaves!
The first guy immediately goes and “trades” with the money. Maybe he is gambling, maybe he is just buying things and selling them at a higher price. We don’t really know, but he DOUBLES his master’s money – he now has 10 talents.
The second guy did the same thing. He took his two talents and made two more.
The third guy buried the one talent in the ground. Doesn’t that sound funny? But have you ever heard pirate stories of buried treasure? You know, the ones with maps that lead through dangerous places and traps? All to end where “x marks the spot?” Back then, if you had something valuable and didn’t want anything bad to happen to it, you buried it. It sounds funny to us – if I came up to you and said I’d just buried all the money I’d made in the last 15 years, you’d probably laugh at me – and then go try to find it. But if I’d told the people back then, they’d tell me that I’m smart – that I was doing exactly what I should be.
So then the master comes back. He is really proud of the first two guys and gives them even more money to look after. But he gets really angry with the third guy – the one who buried the money. He says “you knew I was a harsh man who reaps where I do not sow and gathers where I did not scatter – in other words, that he was the kind of man who took money that he did not earn – why didn’t you at least try to make a little more?
And then he took the talent from the servant and threw him out into the darkness.
Who is the bad guy in this story? Some people say it is the third servant, calling him lazy. They say that God is the master in the story. But Jesus never says that the master in the story is God – and the master doesn’t sound like the God I know.
Remember how we were talking about pizza earlier? What if instead of pizza, there was only so much money to go around. What if you wanted more than your share of the money? What would that mean? It would mean that someone else wouldn’t have enough money, right?
The master in this story wants more money than is his. He tells the servant that he takes money that he does not earn – and he wants his servants to help get that money. This master is bullying the servants into bullying other people.
Have you ever been asked to do something that you knew wasn’t right? Or maybe no one asked, but everyone else was doing something – maybe picking on someone at school — and you knew that you could either join in on the teasing or everyone else would start talking about you, too? Has that ever happened? I’ll tell you a secret – it happens to grownups, too.
This story tells us we have a tough choice to make. Sometimes when we decide to do the right thing, we are punished for it. Sometimes – like at school with bullies – it can be really lonely to be the one person who does what’s right. But Jesus asks us to do the right thing anyway. He says that our actions can help or hurt other people. The third servant decided to do the right thing even though he knew his master would get angry. Will you be that brave?
Idea Credit — Dr. David May introduced me to this understanding of the parable.