“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money” Matthew 25:14-18.
Years ago, I started piano lessons with Teacher, free of cost. I didn’t mind the “Sit up straight”, but I could not appreciate the sound and after-effects of the ruler on my knuckles. I abandoned the opportunity and have lived to regret it.
Have you ever heard the saying: “God will supply us with the opportunity, but it’s up to us to do something with it”? Taking advantage of our God-given opportunities is precisely the message of our text. The focus is on the servant who failed to use his opportunity and ended up losing the little he had.
The context of this Advent parable is the departure and anticipated return of Jesus. In this perspective, Jesus directs the listeners’ attention to the issues of faithfulness, preparedness, and risk, rather than to the obsession with speculating about when Jesus will come again. Waiting and watching for Jesus’ return requires being good stewards of our resources and opportunities. In the parable, two of the servants took advantage of their opportunities; the third did not. When viewed from this perspective, this is a disturbing story about what we Christians do or do not do with our opportunities while we await the manifestation of the Kingdom of God and the second coming of Jesus.
The three servants fall into two categories: faithful and unfaithful. The faithful servants took their opportunities and put them to work for their master. The unfaithful servant refused to use his opportunity. He buried it. Ironically, whereas his master expressed confidence in him, he judged his master to be a harsh man.
It is worth observing that the servant who buried his talent was not a dishonest servant who was out to get whatever he could from his master. There is no hint of fraud, deceit, or scandal. He seemed to have had no plans to embezzle the funds or to swindle his master. Furthermore, there is no indication that he was a philanderer or a prodigal out having a good time. Far from it! Discretion, caution, and deliberateness were his virtues. Unfortunately, his virtues became vices.
Friends, prudence can become impeding self-protectiveness and restraint. If we are not guided by a higher power and principles, that which is our strong point can weaken us. In this case, his inhibition turned to fear, and the servant ended up refusing to grasp his one opportunity.
By doing nothing, he committed a sin and robbed his Lord of service and increase. The Master reprimanded the servant for wasting his opportunity, and took this opportunity away from him, giving it to the one who had made the best use of his opportunity.
Opportunities are all around us: opportunities to witness for Jesus; to lend a helping hand to a child or to someone in need; to assist an individual financially; to say an encouraging word to a disheartened person; to tell of the goodness of God; to see and appreciate the beauty of creation, and many more. Only God knows why some people are given more opportunities than others. So having opportunities is not really the issue, because we all have been awarded something. Therefore, let us ask God to make us alert enough to grasp and use the opportunities given to us.
Thought: What we do not use for the Lord, we are in danger of losing.
Prayer: Providing God, help us to be aware of the opportunities you give to us, and to use them according to your good pleasure and your glory. Amen.
Bishop, The Rev’d Everald L. Galbraith
President of Conference