November 19, 2023: Use It or Lose It

Desert in Judea to illustrate Jesus' temptation

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Use It or Lose It

Today’s parable challenges us with references to slavery, yet reveals a God of plenty who knows us and calls us to actions on God’s behalf. We do well to remember that literal readings of slavery in such biblical texts had a long history of being used by many Christians, in the United States and elsewhere, to justify the existence of slavery. So, surface literalism does not serve us well.

Despite this, we know that the needs of the enslaved persons should have been provided for by the man going on the journey. All the money given to them belonged to the enslaver, and would not have been necessary for their own well-being. Also, the money given to them was based on the enslaver’s knowledge of the abilities of the people he was enslaving. He knew what to expect. Soon after the man’s departure, two of the enslaved men begin trading the money, doubling their enslaver’s holdings. The third hides the money, takes no risks, and loses none of that which had been entrusted to him.

Are we like the third slave, so afraid of God that we are unwilling to risk and lose what God has entrusted to us? Do we keep what has been entrusted to us and hide it, not running the risk of losing it? We cannot do that, because Jesus tells us it will be taken from us if that is all we are willing to do.

Through this parable Jesus calls us to be brave with God’s money (and the time and abilities God gives us, we might also interpret). Put it out there. Let it work. What would an investigation of our personal accounts, our congregation’s budgets, and the interior of this bulletin say about our faithful risks related to our traditions and our talents?

Riddick Weber, faculty, Moravian Theological Seminary
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania