This Gospel often doesn’t inspire confidence in God’s love for us, it actually tends to make us feel uncomfortable. Here again we have a parable, where Jesus is describing what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like. A man, going on a journey will entrust his possessions to his servants. Once again, this person represents God. We are uncomfortable with the way the third servant is treated in the end. This servant seems to have lost the most precious gift, that is, communion with God. He is thrown out into the darkness, and no longer welcome. Is this really the God we believe in? At first glance, this Gospel makes us uncomfortable, because God seems harsh, unforgiving, and worse he seems unloving. We expect God to treat us with love and mercy, and so when it appears that God is acting in a different way we get uncomfortable.
This begs the question; can God be disappointed in us? Or is it okay if God wanted something more from us? I think to answer this question we need to ask ourselves what is the vice or the real sin that the third servant commits? Most would say laziness… but is it really? I think its something subtle, and worse. The third servant isn’t lazy. Notice, he makes a great effort to figure out what to do with the gift. He goes out into the field, is thinking about the gift, and knows he is supposed to do something, so he digs a hole and buries it. The chief vice here is not laziness…. It’s a lack of trust. The chief vice or sin is that this person sees their own insignificance and struggles and believes that God cannot overcome them. The servant has a great fear of failure. God can’t overcome my weakness. By believing that our gifts aren’t good enough, we subconsciously believe that God cannot heal, forgive, and transform – that his power cannot overcome my shortcomings. The sin is twofold, it’s a fear of failure and lack of belief in God’s goodness and power.
We all struggle with the fear of failure. One of my regrets in my childhood came in my freshman year of high school. You all know that I love sports, my favorite among them is basketball. Shooting free throws and baskets was a place that I would talk with God. The point is basketball was an important part of my life. In my freshman year of high school, basketball tryouts came, and I did not go out for the team. Why? It wasn’t laziness. It was fear of failure. It was fear of not making the team that made me erroneously believe that it was not worth the risk. My mom, in her infinite wisdom, encouraged me hoping I would change my mind. I wish I would have listened… My mom wasn’t angry, but she was disappointed. Not because I had done something horrible, but that I was letting go of something good that she knew I would miss. She knew me better than I knew myself. God is the same way. The first message of our Gospel is that we are culpable when we choose our fear as more powerful than God’s goodness and love.
So, the answer to our question: can God be disappointed in us, I think is yes. But God’s disappointment does not mean that he loves us any less. Maybe the only way to understand this is to put it in our human language. I think of parents who have a son that is smart. All the test scores show that he is capable of academic excellence. Then, the grades come back for the semester and the son is barely passing his classes. When the parents confront him and say, “hey, you can do better. We expect you to do better.” They may even decide to ground him from technology until he improves his grades. Would we accuse them of not loving their son? No of course not. Most of us would say that this is good parenting. Yes, they are disappointed, but they are disappointed because their son is capable. God knows we are capable of amazing things, and he hopes that we will accomplish them.
There is something amazing about this Gospel and I don’t want us to miss it. Notice, the great trust he has in his servants. Think about it, we leave things in the care of others that we trust will take care of them well. Parents, when you have a date night, you leave your children with family or friends whom you have great trust in, that they will take care of your most prized possession, your children. What I do not want us to miss, is the goodness and trust God has in each of us.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Knowing each of his servants well and their abilities God entrusts five, two, and one talent respectively to each of them. This teaches us three things about God. God knows each of us better than we know ourselves. He doesn’t ask us to do something we are incapable of. That is why one servant is given 5, another 2, and the other 1. God only asks of us that which we can give. And he doesn’t’ show favoritism. Both the one with 5 and 2 talents are given the same affirmation, “well done, my good and faithful servant.” God trusts each of us to use the gifts well. God is generous, he gives us his most prized possession.
Friends, this weekend is about what God expects from each of us. He has given us the greatest gift imaginable, the love of his son Jesus Christ. God also knows each of us better than we know ourselves. And he has given us each different talents and gifts. The talents and gifts are meant to be used to expand the kingdom of heaven. “the talents represent each servant’s knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven… being entrusted with the message of salvation entails great responsibility… the Lord who calls us to share his good news with the world … does not want us to give it back to him unshared and unfruitful.” God gives us, only what he knows we can accomplish. This Gospel is beautiful precisely in that it shows how much God trusts us. May we all respond and say, “Yes Lord, I will trust your trust in me. Just think, the amazing things God can do through each of us, if we allow ourselves to Trust God who puts his trust in us.
In Christ’s love and friendship,