Many of us
divide our lives into
There is the spiritual part—
AKA, the “good part”
that inhabits the world of Church
the world of prayer and sacrifice
and general “holiness”
i.e., thinking lofty thoughts,
doing good deeds,
keeping our hands clean
and our minds on spiritual matters.
And then there’s the secular chunk
that hovers apologetically
over just about everything else…
You know, the grubby,
“unholy things” of life.
There are some topics
we just don’t like to talk about
in the sacred spaces of Church,
is often on that list.
Should the Church accumulate wealth?
Is money “strictly secular?”
or can it be holy?
And what about the passage
claiming it's easier for a camel to go through
the eye of a needle,
than it is for a rich person to enter heaven? (Mt. 16:26)
it’s just easier to avoid discussions of
Even on Stewardship Sunday,
we envelop the message
in such a fluffy cocoon of
“time, talent, treasure” talk,
that sometimes, we forget that
is actually an important part of that equation.
Most of us avoid reading the parish Finance report,
perhaps without malice or intent—
Churches try to balance the
of the annual budget
on the backs of the lay staff,
who shrink from discussions of economic justice,
We hire outside fundraisers
at great cost
so we can expand the sanctuary
or upgrade the school,
that’s because we aren’t skilled
in heady world of capital finance
and long term pledges,
it’s also because we aren’t really comfortable
We prefer to translate the Greek word,
“Talents” in this passage
as “gift” or “skill” or “talent as in talent show”
money, money, money.”
And, it’s really not surprising.
There are so many cautionary tales
about religious financial abuse,
Greed masquerading as Grace.
do we really want to know
about the workings of the Vatican Bank?
For those growing up
in the Buckle of the Bible Belt,
the sound of televangelists
proclaiming the Prosperity Gospel
was as common
as the sight of their wives’ big hair
and tear-streaked mascara.
For many Christians,
weaned on a steady diet of the Gospel of Wealth,
the message received is,
The Bigger the Offering, The Holier the Giver.
The Greater the Take, The More Power in the Preacher.
The Deeper the Pocket, The More Graced the Life.
And of course, the cosmetic corollary …
The Higher the Hair, the Closer to Jesus.
Some preachers have proclaimed
the Gospel of Money and Prosperity
and so well,
that if we aren’t listening carefully,
we might just start to believe that Jesus
was really an investment advisor,
or a financial guru,
or a gumball machine giving out shiny prizes,
rather than the Savior of the world.
avoiding talk of money in Church
focusing on money obsessively
the Bible talks a lot about money and work
and Jesus often speaks of money and possessions.
Multiple sources claim that there are over
2,000 verses in Scripture
and that nearly 15% of what Jesus discussed
had to do with money,
Is this true?
I’m not sure.
But there is no escaping the fact
that Jesus spoke often of
money and commerce.
His parables frequently touched on
themes of investments,
Possibly because he knew
how much we struggle to reconcile
finance and faith,
wealth and the Church,
work and holiness.
Possibly because he realized
how hard it is to see "our" possessions
as God’s gracious gift.
Possibly because he understood,
“where our hearts are,
there is our treasure.”
We may not realize just how common
these passages are
because we so often “abstract” them—
gloss over the practical meaning
in favor of a lofty,
Today’s Gospel reading is a perfect example.
How many times have we heard
preachers explore this passage
How many times
have we heard homilies on Matthew 25:14
that never even mention money,
but rather urge us to
“Use our God-given abilities
to build up the Kingdom.
Don’t hide your gifts,
don't allow them to tarnish or stagnate,
but offer up your talents for the community!”
And this is certainly a good message.
But those who
want to discuss money,
or material resources for mission
miss the mark
as wildly as those who preach a
never-ending Gospel of Prosperity and Wealth.
Because in this passage from Matthew,
Jesus is talking about
Not the ability to play the violin
or entertain a toddler—
Not the talent of
or spiritual direction—
Coins of the realm.
We can abstract this parable if we want,
but what happens when we face it
In modern English,
the word, “talent”
has come to mean skills or abilities.
But this parable is about money,
specifically about investing it.
Matthew’s audience would not associate
the Greek word “talent”
with gifts and abilities.
They would have been thinking,
And lots of it.
was a monetary unit of 6,000 denarii.
A denarius was the standard day’s wage,
so one talent
equaled 6,000 days--
or 16 and a half years of labor
for the average man or woman
the wages of 16 different people,
each working for a year.
Any way you parse it,
it is big bucks,
about $1,300,000 in today’s terms.
A servant who was given five talents to invest—
or even one talent—
was being entrusted with a fortune.
And this specific master wanted his servants to
put his money to use,
Christians speak as if growth,
return on investment,
is something a bit sketchy--
something we do because,
we’re human and we love money,
but it’s certainly not a topic fit for
But this parable
challenges that viewpoint.
This parable invites us to consider
that God is charging us to
invest our skills and abilities,
to invest our wealth,
our material resources,
our silver “Talents”
whether that sum is large or small
for the needs of God’s kingdom
and for the needs of God’s people.
This parable invites us to see
the whole of our lives,
dedicated to worshipping God.
Not just on Sunday,
in the sanctuary,
but on Tuesday and Friday as well,
in the marketplace and boardroom,
on the securities trading floor.
Perhaps it invites us to consider
that our actions in the financial world
will have an impact on the Kingdom.
The Hebrew people had a word,
that is used 289 times in the Old Testament.
It is variously translated as
depending on the context.
A word used for work
is also used for worship.
“Avodah” reminds us that our work,
whether it is direct ministry to others,
or investing the financial assets of clients,
can be a way of honoring God;
a way of serving God’s mission;
a path to holiness
in the midst of our daily lives.
A man dedicated to alleviating hunger
among the poorest of his neighbors
is doing God’s work.
But so is the young female entrepreneur
whose tech start-up provides
much needed jobs and services.
The Master in this parable
entrusted his servants
with precious resources to steward.
Two of them rose to the occasion.
They accepted the challenge,
invested the Master’s talents,
and returned 5 for 5
and 2 for 2.
The third servant,
frightened of failure,
allergic to risk,
paralyzed by the challenge,
simply dug a hole,
and buried his million in the ground.
And that was the one action
Jesus condemned in this parable.
The servant who buried both investment
and self in the sand,
wringing his hands
and hoping for the best
was called out for being unfaithful.
The servant who played it safe,
God invites us to invest and multiply
our abilities and skills,
our wealth and our resources
for the community
and for the work of the Kingdom.
This work includes proclaiming the Good News,
and caring for the hungry,
the lost and suffering.
This work takes money.
It takes material resources
as well as time,
The life of discipleship is truly a life of adventure.
Along the way we will see
opportunities for multiplication
where others might only see danger.
Along the way,
we can take risks,
or we can dig a hole,
wring our hands,
and hope for the best.
God invites us into a life where
that can serve the Kingdom.
And God invites us to be faithful.
In great things and in small things,
in ventures valued at millions
and in ventures so small,
they are known only to God,
we are invited to be faithful.
Share your Master’s joy.”