Reflection: “Risky Business”
Our God is right into taking risks.
That’s obvious, isn’t it?
Otherwise we human beings, unstable creatures as we are, wouldn’t have been left in management positions on his precious planet.
This strategy, the degree of free will God has permitted us, is a high-risk undertaking.
It means that God is prepared to even hold back on applying his divine power, so that we might have such freedom.
That’s really quite a dicey decision on his behalf.
God chose to live dangerously in order to open the opportunity for his “many earthly children to come into glory”, as the bible says.
In dark contrast, the temptation for believers to “play it safe” may be one the smartest items in Satan’s box of tricks.
Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like: a man going abroad, called his servants, trusting all his capital to them.
He gave 5 talents to one, 2 to another, and to one have gave 1 talent. To each, according to their ability.
Over many generations, preaching and teaching has focussed on how well Christians used the gifts God has given them.
It’s stressed our need for good stewardship.
The amounts of money that were mentioned - 5, 2 and 1 talent - have been likened to our special abilities, thus the meaning of the word “talent” changed; no longer does it mean just a unit of currency, but it now includes the special gifts we have been given by God.
What was the value of a talent, you may well ask?
Well, that depends on where you grew up.
It seems that for the Greeks, a talent weighed about 25 kilograms of silver or gold.
But for the Jews, it was about 50 kilograms of either silver or gold.
The point I’m making is that it was a large sum of money.
So, let’s not feel sorry for the servant who was given only 1 talent.
Okay, the others got more to manage, but even one talent was a huge amount of money. In silver, it would be substantial - the equivalent of 15 years wages for a labourer.
In gold, it would be a small fortune.
What the master did, before he went away, was to entrust them to trade with these large sums of money, and to try making a handsome profit for him.
He didn’t specify whether they should utilise wine, oil, grain, textiles, pottery, land, shipping, or whatever.
He just took a big risk and allowed them to make their own decisions.I guess he expected them to take a similar risk.
They were to put what was entrusted to them to good use.
Trade and commerce, like human life itself, can be a precarious business.
There’s always the possibility of setbacks or losses.
Trading is high risk.
But the master knows all about that; he understands.
He wants them to try; to give it their best; have a go - that’s what counts. Let’s recognise the key element in this parable: The Lord truly places the responsibility in the hands of his servants.
This is not make-believe stuff.
He was serious.
He doesn’t even stay in the background, like a back-seat driver, giving gratuitous advice, or tut-tutting when things aren’t going well.
Nor is he like a driving instructor, with calm nerves, yet with a separate brake pedal for him to employ in an emergency situation.
No, the Lord in the Gospel fully trusts his servants.
He leaves his country and travels abroad. It’s now entirely up to them whether they succeed or fail.
A high-risk strategy indeed!
The first two servants honour the trust placed in them.
They take some risk and put the money to use.
Their talents became highly productive in the commerce of this life.
Both of them make a 100% return over the period that the Master is absent overseas.
These two receive the Master’s gratitude.
Those who are faithful receive a two-pronged reward.
1) Immediately there is the sheer joy of celebrating in the Master’s presence and:
2) Then comes more trust and responsibility.
Those who do well for Christ Jesus are not given a “golden handshake” and allowed to sit on their backsides, preening their pride.
They are given larger tasks.
This idea of extra trust is a sobering thought for us, isn’t it!
In the many generations since Jesus told this parable, among Christians there has always been a tension between those who want to play it safe and those who are prepared to take a risk in the name of their Master.
That is true in the way we either hoard or share the Gospel with the world.
Some opt for exclusive religion.
Groups like the closed Brethren, who keep to themselves and take no risks interacting with the outside world. They turn in on themselves, maintaining a tight knit fellowship, using their talents for each other, yet never risking them in the evil world outside their community.
In contrast, some other churches and individuals are more of the risk taker kind.
These groups quote Jesus when he said: “Go into all the world and make disciples of all men.”
These take many risks and, in doing so, maybe at times relate too closely with the world and its secular values.
At the present time in the Uniting Church In Australia there are some who feel keenly that in social justice matters we have taken some large, and even foolish, risks, which may have been gravely influenced by the outside world.
But only God can judge whether our church has exceeded acceptable risks or not.
So - playing it safe, or talking the risk?
Well, for my part, I’d always prefer to take the calculated risk for Christ’s sake.
Better that than becoming constricted like that one talent bloke who went and buried his master’s treasure.
He is the big disaster in this story.
Of course, we need to be careful and minimise the risks - to be wary at times.
In fact, all believers are called by Jesus to be “harmless as doves, yet as wise as serpents.”
We have no commission from the Lord to be foolhardy in the way we use our lives and our gifts, or in the way we employ the treasure of the Gospel.
But I encourage you - risk it, for God’s sake!
Don’t be afraid.
I guess none of us can look back over the years of our Christian experience and be completely satisfied with how much we have achieved.
Most of us have some regrets.
But fear certainly isn’t an appropriate strategy.
It was the over-cautious servant who was the one who was afraid.
Yes, one of the three servants DOES claim to have been ruled by fear.
And look where it got him!
Our stewardship of what God has given us and those calculated risks we take in utilising our talents, should never be exercised under the shadow of fear.
Ours is a God of perfect love, who is always on our side.
No room for fear.
As it says in the first letter of John: “Perfect love casts out fear.”
The God who is love, is a risk taker and we’re called to be like him, for loving is always a risk.
Yet it leads to the greatest bonus of all, immeasurable in the hard currencies of this world:
“Come and enjoy your Master’s delight.”
Trusting the love of God in Christ Jesus, I implore you to live a bit more dangerously.
Risk it, for God’s sake!
Think hard about the talents that God entrusted you with.
Are you taking risks in utilising them, and multiplying their impacts, on the people you meet in your daily life.
We need to be showing them how God’s love has impacted our lives and sharing the good news with them – that they, too, can share with us in God’s kingdom.
Maybe it’s the money God has graciously allowed us to accumulate, but I think that for most of us, it’s just the abilities we have. Instead of locking them away and keeping them just for ourselves, let’s get out there and put them to use, furthering the Kingdom of God here on earth.
You must determine for yourself, through prayerful consideration, or in consultation with others, the talents God has entrusted you with and how you can best use them to bring glory to him.