Matthew 25 contains three central parables/teachings of Jesus. The first speaks of the need to always be ready for when you are called upon (the parable of the bridesmaids). The second, the parable of the talents, drives home the point that we are to use and grow what God gives us for when we are called upon. The third focuses specifically upon tangible aspects of what we are called to do.
Yesterday (Sunday afternoon in Cambodia, early morning Sunday at home), we read and discussed the second of the teachings in this passage. Here is what it says from Matthew 25:14-30 (Message translation)
The Story About Investment
“It’s (the kingdom of God) also like a man going off on an extended trip. He called his servants together and delegated responsibilities. To one he gave five thousand dollars, to another two thousand, to a third one thousand, depending on their abilities. Then he left. Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master’s investment. The second did the same. But the man with the single thousand dug a hole and carefully buried his master’s money.
“After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’ “The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’ “The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’
“The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest. “‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’
This is clearly a very challenging passage especially the ending with the way that the Master receives the third servant’s actions. As our group discussed it, however, we kept coming back to the idea that we are not called in any way to be idle in what we have been given by God and instead to be actively working out those blessings. I many ways this passage served as a closing bookend to our journey here as we began the week with words in worship about Elijah’s need to be living with the assumption that God is going to work and God is going to provide, rather than sitting idly by.
That seemed to be a common challenge for us all in returning from Cambodia – living out the ways that God desires to use us. We are all deeply thankful for the opportunity to be a part, if even in a small way, of these ministries in Cambodia, and we prayerfully look ahead to how God will continue to use us as partners in ministry.