Can You Take a Risk?

I am amazed at some of the risks people take with their lives, investment, retirement, health, and even family. Jesus told a parable of a man who was going on a long journey (Matthew 25:14-30). The man called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one servant he gave five talents, to another two talents, and to the third, one talent, according to their ability. The man who received five put the talents to work and made five more talents. The man who received two talents also doubled his output. The one who received one talent dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. This was a common practice in ancient time.

After some time the master returned to receive the account. The one who received five talents went first and said, “You gave me five talents and I made five more for you.” The master was delighted and said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The one with two talents came in and said, “You gave me two talents and I made two more.” The master was delighted and said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The third servant came in and said, “I know you are a hard master, so I hid the talent in the ground, where it could be safe, and here it is.” The master was angry and took the talent and gave it to the one who made an additional five.

Notice the third servant who took his master’s talent and buried it because he feared failure. He was fearful of doing the wrong thing, so he did nothing at all. He was not going to take a risk or gamble with someone else’s money by buying speculative stocks and bonds. He was afraid of what people might think of him. I wonder how many of us fail to be the people God has called us to be because we are afraid of what people think of us, speak of us, and because of how they evaluate us.

The one with one talent was afraid of his master. “I know you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.” I do not see anywhere in the parable that the master was a hard man. In fact, he was very generous and gave compliments to the two other servants. The problem was that he was serving his master from fear rather than from love.

He played the “if only” game. If only I was given the talents of the other two men, then I could have accomplished something.” We like to play the game too. I would love to teach a Sabbath School class, if only I had her ability. If only I had his voice, I would sing in the choir.

“He must have thought my one talent would not make any difference.” There are a lot of people who feel that way today. May I remind you that the Good Samaritan who stopped to help a beaten victim on the road to Jericho that day did not resolve all of the social, political, and economic ills of the first century, but he did what he could. And that is the issue for us. Are we doing what we can, where we are, and with what we have?

The third servant, while acting prudently and cautiously, was not acting productively. Jesus did not like buried treasures. He did not take the side street or safe ways. Jesus did not teach His disciples to bury their faith for some distant future. Jesus taught His disciples to bear witness to their faith here and now. Jesus is not in the burial business, He is in the resurrection business.

Jesus insists that we bear, not bury. To bury our gifts, talents, and strengths is to waste His investment in us. How big a risk are you willing to take for God? Following Jesus means walking by faith, not fear. Following Jesus means trusting God. Following Jesus means maximizing the gifts He has given. Finally, we will hear the Master say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Leon Thomassian is the Atlantic Union Conference treasurer and Trust Services director.