Monday, September 17, 2018

Peace and Fear: Empathizing with the Servants in the Parable of the Talents

In August and September each year, I do my annual sermon planning.  I search the scriptures, listen for God’s leading, and draft a plan for what I will preach for the next year.  It is, of course, subject to change. 

For the past 12 years, I have preached the Parable of the Talents at least once each year.  Usually, I work it in more than once.  When I set forth my plan for this year, I did not include the Parable of the Talents, but thought, it will come up somewhere.

It did.  As I looked at where we had been with love and love and action, and where we were with peace, I thought, “How on God’s green earth did I leave the Parable of the Talents out of this discourse on peace?”  I have mentioned peace in passing but never focused on it with regard to this parable.  We will fix that today.

The parable mentions many things put does not address peace directly, so we will have to empathize with the 3 servants.  The first two took their master’s money and put it to work at once.  They were prepared to be trusted with more.

They put their master’s money to work with urgency.  Was there risk?  If they wanted to make more money, there was some risk.  In fact, there was risk in doing nothing.

Did they have to deal with fear?  Everyone must deal with fear.  They just did not let fear debilitate them.  They might have even had the savvy to turn it to their own motivational advantage.  In any case, fear did not govern them.

They acted with urgency and therefore I contend that they had purpose.  Urgency comes with purpose, otherwise it’s just busyness.

In their urgency, I proffer that they had peace.  When you know your purpose and know what you are to do, and you are doing it, peace happens!

I might get me some shirts made with a smiley face and the words PEACE HAPPENS.

If you know what to do and do what you know to do, peace happens.  It’s hard to explain but you get in a zone, in a rhythm, in sync with everything good. 

If you are just busy but not purposeful, peace doesn’t visit too often.  Inactivity is not peace.

We know what happened in this parable.  The master returned.  The first two servants were excited about the return on investment they had to show their master.

The master responded with words anyone would want to hear: 

Well done! 
Good and Faithful Servant
You did great with what I gave you.  Now, I am putting you in charge of more.
Come and share your master’s happiness.

Who would not have joy at getting all these accolades, a promotion, and treated as family by your boss?  But I don’t think that either of these first two servants was surprised. 

Remember, each was given money in accordance with his ability.  The master knew what each could handle.  They had surely been in charge of smaller trusts before and did very well.  They knew if they did what they knew to do and did it to the best of their ability, they would produce a good return.

I doubt that these two had doubts about what to do.
I believe that they had peace while they put their talents to work.  They had joy upon their master’s return, but I put before you that they had peace while he was away.

The third servant was a different story.  He buried the talent trusted to him in the ground.  He dug a hole and buried it. 

Many speculate that it might have been in the floor of his own house.  Some houses had dirt floors. 

It could have been out in a nearby field, surely in a place that was not cultivated.  Either way, you must have some system of checking on it.

If it’s out in a field, you must find a way to nonchalantly stroll by and glance at the ground to make sure that it has not been disturbed.  Of course, if it has been disturbed, it’s probably game over.

If you go by too frequently, people wonder why is this guy hanging out there so much?  If you don’t, you wonder if your money is still where you put it.

If you buried it in the floor of your house, you likely felt like you were on house arrest.  Every time you left your house, your mind was on someone breaking in and finding your cache.

How much peace can you have when you are worried about what has been entrusted to you?

The first two servants were glad to see their master return.  They wanted him to see what they had done with the money entrusted to them.  The third servant was glad to see his master return.  He could finally get rid of this burden given to him.

The third servant was afraid.  If he invested the money, he might fail.  If he invested the money, he might succeed, and then more might be expected of him.

If he had put the money in the bank, it would have been safer than anything else he came up with, and it would have earned a little interest.  It would have been better than burying it in the ground.  It would have taken less effort than burying it in the ground.  He would have had some peace.

But fear ruled in this servant.  Fear ruled, and I suggest to you that this man had no peace.

Fear and peace don’t play well together.  In fact, fear is something of a bully.  Now, they won’t let you teach this in school these days, but the best way to deal with a bully is to punch him in the nose.  I don’t know how that works with cyberbullying, but here is how it works with fear.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Fools despise wisdom and instruction.  Here’s the thing.  You must choose whom you will fear.  You can’t be afraid of everything.  If you fear the world and its ways, you don’t fear God.  That makes you what the Bible calls a fool.  You have chosen to deny the truth.

If you fear God, you will not fear anything else.  God grants you wisdom and provides instruction and disciplines you when you get off course.  Remember that God disciplinesthis is not punishmentthose he loves.

How do we deal with fear and function fully in this life?  We choose to fear only the Lord.  But there is more.

We are told that God did not give us a spirit of fear.  So, when fear comes upon us, we recognize that this is not a good gift.  All good gifts are from above.

Fear has to do with punishment and we are not people subject to wrath.  We live in the Lord’s favor.  God grants us power, love, and a sound mind. 

When we act out of fear we feel powerless, unloved, and feeble minded.  This verse from Paul’s second letter to Timothy proffers a dichotomy.  It’s either fear or power, love, and a sound mind. 

Think of the Lord’s words to Joshua.

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

These words were important enough that Joshua heard them again two verses later.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Here is another dichotomy.  Be strong and courageous or be afraid and discouraged.  This dichotomy comes with the promise that God is with us. 

So here is our choice as we deal with the fear bully.  Trust God or give in to fear. 

Trust God and know peace or fear the things of this world have no peace. 

We will have trouble in this world.  There is risk.  Fear is a real thing.  We will have storms, but will we have peace in those storms?

Two servants in this parable took what their master had given them and put it to work at once.  They were ready to be trusted more by their master.  They anticipated greater trust.  They wanted to please their master so much, they could not delay in putting his money to work.

I think that they worked as hard as they had in their entire lives, but I also believe they lived in the perfect peace of the Lord.  How could they not?  They were doing exactly what they knew to do.  The words, Well done good and faithful servant, were of greater value than any of the money they would produce as a return on their investment. 

Their daily return on investment was peace in knowing what they were doing would please their master.

And one servant—one who gets the label wicked and lazy—was governed by fear not by the desire to please his master.  Fear ruled in his life.  Fear is real but must not be given command.  It must not be in charge.

Our return on investment when our mind is governed by fear is that we will have no peace.  I will add that is a good thing.  Remember my recent message on Disturbing the Peace?

If we who know God and say we are following Jesus do not have peace in the decisions that we are making and the life that we are living, we need to inventory the things that govern our lives.  If we find fear among them, kick fear to the curb.

The only fear that belongs in our lives is the fear of the Lord, and remember, that is the starting point.  Our destination is perfect love which casts out fear because fear has to do with punishment.  We will not know God’s wrathWe live in his favor.

We discard fear and receive power, love, and a sound mind.  Within those three we know peace.

We know peace.  We often look at the Parable of the Talents as a what happens at the end sort of lesson.  It is, but I challenge us to consider that during the long time when the master was away, two of these servants enjoyed peace because they poured themselves into doing exactly what they knew would please their master.

Are we ready to do what pleases our Master and enjoy his peace while we do it?

Are we ready to kick the fear of the world to the curb?

Are we ready to be faithful in the things appointed to us now?

Are we ready to live bringing glory to God and enjoying his peace?

I say that we are!  Let’s bring glory to God and enjoy his peace!


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