Invest now!

This message was offered at Lee Memorial United Methodist Church on Sunday, November 16, 2014.

ReadingMatthew 25:14-30

Let’s pray.

Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear that together, we might be inspired to not only speak but to live your Word in the world starting today.  It’s in that most holy Word’s name—Jesus the Christ—we pray.  Amen.

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Most of Americans live paycheck to paycheck; or, worse, we live paycheck to paycheck and are racking up so much credit card debt that we can barely pay the minimums.  Some of us have learned financial basics such as budgeting, saving, and managing debt.  But, the reality is that most have not; so, when the idea of investing is thrown out—the idea of setting aside, locking away, limited resources to hopefully see a gain or profit—the idea seems absurd.

Many people think that investing their money involves taking a risk that they cannot afford. Investment is not gambling on an uncertain outcome. True investing oftentimes yields a profit rather than a loss. It all depends on the way the investor chooses and uses their types of investment options.[1]

Investing is essential for long-term financial stability.

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Today’s reading reminds us that investing leads to more than just financial stability, it leads to a life full of joy.

A wealthy man leaves for a long journey.  Before he goes he distributes his wealth to three of his slaves: to one he gives five talents, to another two talents, and to another one talent.  While the amounts don’t seem like a lot—5 talents, 2 talents, and 1 talent—the gifts were huge.

To be clear, a talent, here, is not referring to a skill.  In Jesus’ day, a talent was a monetary unit that equaled about 15 years’ worth of earnings by a day-laborer.  Think of it this way: the minimum wage in Connecticut is currently $8.70 an hour.  A single talent would be like giving a minimum wage worker in Connecticut $271,440 (8.70 /hr times 40 hrs/wk times 52 weeks times 15 years).  Five talents equates to $1,357,200.  Receiving one talent, two talents, and five talents was a lot of money—a huge, generous gift.

The man leaves his wealth in the hands of his servants—three people unaccustomed to handling so much abundance—offering no advice nor instruction except that he’d return one day to “settle his accounts.”  The man leaves.

The first servant, the one with over 1.3 million dollars, immediately invests it all in a high-risk venture.  The second does the same.  That approach was too risky and uncertain for the third servant who was much more cautious.  The third servant chose what seemed the safest; and, in the first century, this would have been common practice.  The third servant, a cautious investor, buried his master’s gift in the ground.  In an uncertain economy, the man did what seemed wise.  Let’s be clear, this third servant isn’t bad, he’s simply being careful.  We can all relate to that, right?

When the master returned, he called for his servants.  It was time to settle the accounts.  The first two servants saw a doubling of their investment.  The master smiled, “Well done.”  The third servant brought his gift back to the master.  He was proud that in such a slow economy he’d been cautious, keeping the gift completely intact.  He handed the gift back to the master just as he’d received it: “perhaps, a bit dirtier than before,” the third servant laughed, “but I assure you it’s all here, every penny of it, safe and sound.”  The master is furious; and, in one of the harshest rebukes of the entire New Testament, the master replies, “‘You wicked and lazy slave! (Matthew 25:26a, New Revised Standard Version).

That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

…get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’ (Matthew 25:26-30, The Message)

You have to wonder how the story might have been different if the first two slaves would have lost everything.  What if the risk they took didn’t pay off?  Would the master have been harsh on them too?  I don’t think so.  In fact, he

…might even have applauded their efforts.  The point here is not really about doubling your money and accumulating wealth.  It is about living.  It is about investing.  It is about taking risks.

The greatest risk of all, it turns out, is not to risk anything, not to care deeply and profoundly enough about anything to invest deeply, [not] to give your heart away and in the process risk everything.  The greatest risk of all, it turns out, is to play it safe, to live cautiously and prudently.[2]

Our reading for this morning reminds us that the safest thing a follower of Christ can do is risk it all in service to his or her Lord.  The most dangerous, risky thing we can do is play it safe.

So, I’ve just got to ask: how safe is your faith?  When was the last time you risked everything in service to God and neighbor?

When was the last time you risked sharing your experience of God with a family member, a friend, a stranger?  When was the last time you dared to give of your time, in a regular and meaningful way, to serve the needs of others? perhaps at our Community Meal, Sprague Community Center, St. Vincent DePaul, or another ministry that serves the needs of the community?  When was the last time you made a conscientious decision to sacrificially give of your resources instead of indulging your own needs and wants?  When was the last time you took a chance in sharing your skills, vocation, and career in service to God?

In our reading for today:

Jesus invites us to be his disciples, to live our lives as fully as possible by investing them, by risking, by expanding the horizons of our responsibilities.  To be his man or woman, he says, is not so much believing ideas about him as it is following him.  It is to experience renewed responsibility for the use and investment of these precious lives of ours.  It is to be bold and brave, to reach high and care deeply.[3]

It’s an invitation for us to be disciples of Jesus: to invest our lives that God’s Kingdom might be made as real on earth as it is in heaven.

Dear friends, invest now that the love of God you know in Christ Jesus our Lord might be multiplied and made real in the lives of others throughout the whole world.  Risk it all.  Invest now.

Amen.

 

[1] “The Beginner’s Guide to Investing,” by Kelly Anderson, Mint.com <https://www.mint.com/the-beginners-guide-to-investing/> Accessed November 15, 2014.

[2] [2] “Matthew 25:14-30: Pastoral Perspective” by John M. Buchanan in Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year A, vol. 4 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), p310. Emphasis added.

[3] “Matthew 25:14-30: Pastoral Perspective” by John M. Buchanan in Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Feasting on the Word, Year A, vol. 4 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), p312.