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HOLY BOLDNESS

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작성자 최고관리자 작성일15-11-27 16:32 조회966회 댓글0건

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<Matthew 25: 14-30>

 

 

A student was taking a test in class.  Because he failed to study for the test, he had difficulties writing down the answers to the test questions.  Not having any good answers, he wrote the following down as his answers to the questions.  “Only God knows the correct answer to this question.”  Do you know what the teacher wrote down as the reply to this answer?  “You are right.  God knows all the correct answers.  Therefore, He gets an ‘A’ for His grade.  But since you do not know the answer, you get an ‘F.’” 


 During our lives of faith, we often misunderstand God.  We especially misunderstand the omnipotence of God.  Since God knows all and can do all, we often think that our own efforts and abilities are for naught, that they will have no bearing during the course of our lives.  Do you know why John Wesley, who learned so much about religion from the Moravians, ultimately parted ways with their way of thinking, their religious philosophy?  The Moravians thought that once one becomes righteous through faith, one needed not to exert any efforts at purity and holiness.  In another words, once one became holy or justified through the grace of God, one did not need to work towards sanctification.  Wesley could not agree with such spiritual indolence, and therefore parted with the Moravian school of thought.



 Upon reading today’s scripture, we can see that God also does not appreciate spiritual indolence, or negligence.  More accurately, God does not like passiveness among His people.  Koreans often say that “women need to be faithful, men need to be bold.”  God desires His people to maintain their faithfulness, their fidelity to God.  He wants us to maintain our spiritual integrity and fidelity so that we do not commit spiritual adultery, such as pagan worship.  Moreover, God wants us to have spiritual boldness.  Today, I would like to talk to you about spiritual boldness, the holy boldness.

 

 

The scripture we read today is famously known as the "Talent parable."  A wealthy man, before leaving for a journey abroad, calls forth his three servants and leaves in their custody several talents.  The three servants received five talents, two talents, and one talent, respectively.  Talent was a monetary unit in old Israel, the word itself having originated from the Greek word ‘talanton,’ which means ‘scale.’  It refers to a very large sum of money.  According to the Bible scholars, one talent was worth 6000 denaris in old Israel an amount comparable to 16 years’ worth of wages for an average laborer.  According to today's standards, one talent is worth about $360,000 or 430 million won in Korea.  In order for a laborer to earn two talents, he had to have worked for 30 years; for five talents, the length of labor increases to over 60 years. 

 

 

The lesson of today’s scripture is derived from what each of these servants do with the money.  When he left this huge sum of money with his servants, prior to his departure for his journey, the lord did not leave any instructions or stipulations regarding how to utilize this money.  Upon his return, after spending a long period abroad, the lord summons his three servants and calculates how his servants spent the talent.  Two servants received praise and were invited to rejoice with their master.  The third servant, meanwhile, is chastised and reproached.  The main character of today’s parable is the third servant.  What did he do to warrant such a treatment from his master?  Before we look at the third servant, let’s peruse the background of today’s parable.


  The master left money with his servants according to their abilities.  According to verse 15 of today's scripture, the lord left talents for each of his servants “according to his ability,” leaving one servant with five talents, another with two talents, and the last one with one talent.  Accordingly, God gives us gifts according to our potential.  We must note two things here.  First, God gives us precious gifts specific abilities to do certain, special things but only does so according to our potential.  Therefore, according to our potential, we can receive large, precious and numerous gifts.  Or we can receive relatively smaller, pedestrian, and fewer gifts.  The servant who received five talents had more potential, better capacity, to manage a larger sum of money than the servant who received two talents did.  The servant who received one talent had less potential than the other two servants did.  When God gives us talents, He allots them according to our innate, inherent potential and capacity; He gives us work and responsibility according to our capacity to manage and discharge them.  God never gives beyond our means or potential.



An important fact to remember is that the gifts when God bestows them upon us are not our possessions.  We are mere accountants, or trustees, that temporarily oversee the management of that capital, the gift.  The master, or the owner, of our gifts is God.  The accountants and the trustees have the responsibility of handling their client’s money, just as cashiers in stores handle money that does not belong to them.  Just because they handle or manage the money, it does not mean that they own that money.  The money we use does not belong to us.  God gave it to us as a gift to help our neighbors and glorify God.  We are not the masters of our gift.  We are mere cashiers that handle the money in God’s store.

The word talent, aside from its monetary meaning, has a more common meaning, referring to special powers or abilities; in Korea, the word "talent" is used to refer to a TV actor or actress.  Last week, Mr. Hyung-joo Yoon visited our church.  He truly has special talents; he is a natural entertainer.  He truly received special gifts from God--beautiful voice, great conversational skills, and sophisticated stage manner.  As I was reading today’s scripture, I could not help but think of Mr. Yoon.  The reason why God gave Mr. Yoon so many gifts is that he has the potential and ability to fully utilize those gifts.  Not everyone can become a famous singer.  Not everyone can become a head pastor of a large congregation.  The responsibilities are given to those who are prepared to assume those responsibilities.  Mr. Yoon fully understood that his voice and entertaining skills belonged to God, not to himself.  That is why he actively participates in missionary work despite his busy schedule.  Remember the fact that you all are stewards, or managers, of God’s precious assets.


The master always settles the account with his servants. 


He comes back and settles the account with his servants, accounting how his servants utilized his assets.  Take a look at verse 19.  “After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.”  God always accounts, or calculates, how we utilize our gifts.  When Jesus advents on the final judgment day, He will settle accounts with us.  God will evaluate on how we managed those assets, or the gifts he left under our care.

 

 

The two servants--who received five and two talents, respectively--started their own businesses, using the money they received from their lord as capital.  As a result, they were able to increase their capital by two-fold.  The servant with five talents increased this amount to ten talents, and the servant with two talents increased his amount to four talents.  The two servants, who received money based on their potential, doubled the capital they had received from their master.  How did the lord treat these two servants upon his return?

 

To the diligent and prudent servants who used the talents wisely, the lord heaps praises upon them.  According to verses 21 and 23, "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your lord."  Here, the lord is referring to his two servants as "good and faithful servants," and since they "were faithful over a few things," he promises them that he "will make [them] ruler over many things," and gives them the privilege to "enter into the joy of [their] lord."  Even though they received different amounts of money, both servants maximized their potential and doubled their capital; hence, they received same praise from their lord.  Likewise, God does not concern Himself with the amount of gifts we possess.  Our potential and capacity determine the amount of gifts that God bestows upon us.  He does not care about how many gifts we have.  If we maximize the utility of these gifts, to the best of our abilities and potential, then the praise we will receive from God will be uniform, regardless of the amount of gifts we have.  When He settles the account with us, God does not look at the amount of “profit” we generated; rather, He evaluates our effort, our disposition and attitude.  Remember the fact that both servants one with five talents and the other with two received same praise from their lord.  The talents whether it is five, or two are nothing compared to the vast wealth that God possesses.   If we are faithful in utilizing our own abilities and talents to the maximum, we will be considered by our Lord as being faithful and good servants, who are deserving of greater responsibilities and worthy of joy and celebration of our Lord.



Let's consider the servant who received one talent.  In reality, the main character of this parable is not the two servants who received five and two talents, but the servant who received one talent.  Bible scholars stress that when Jesus spoke of this third servant, the one who received one talent, He had the leaders of Judaism, the scribes, in mind, that He was comparing the scribes with this servant.  The scribes received a very precious thing the word of God just as the servant received the precious talent from his lord.  But the scribes of Jesus’ era had no spiritual boldness and rendered God’s words as irrelevant through indolent religious philosophy (so called appeasement or peace-at-any-cost principle) and spiritual immobility.  They were the main catalysts responsible for keeping God’s word from bearing fruits. 

 

 

Let’s take a look at the third servant.  He did nothing with the money he was given.  Yet, the third servant was not a malicious person.  He did not do anything malicious or reprehensible with the money he was given.  It was not as if he did not have any respect for his lord.  Rather, his respect for his lord bordered on absolute fear.  This servant, however, lacked boldness.  He failed by not taking the risk to invest the capital he was given.  Although he only received one talent based on his abilities and potential, his responsibility in investing and utilizing this talent wisely was no less than the other two servants' responsibilities.  However, in looking at verse 18 of today's scripture, we can see that this servant "went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money." 


Why did this servant bury his lord’s money in the ground?  In order to find the answer to this question, we need to look at verses 24 and 25 of today’s scripture. “ Then he who had received the one talent came and said, "Lord, I know you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.  Look, there you have what is yours."” 

           

First, this servant misunderstood his lord and his intent.  Why did he bury the talent in the ground?  For one, he did not know his lord.  He took his lord to be a hard man.  In the KJV, the servant tells the lord that he took him to be a ‘hard man.’  In the NRSV version, he is a ‘harsh man.’  Regardless of difference in terms, the bottom line is that the servant understood his lord to be a harsh, austere man without compassion.  Furthermore, he understood his lord to be a man who reaps where he has not sown and gathers where he has not spread the seed.  What does this mean?  The servant views his lord not as an honest man, but a greedy, avaricious businessman.  He understood his master not as an honest, moral businessman of integrity who settles his account justly; rather, he viewed his master as a man who gains unjust and unwarranted profits through avarice, malice and lack of scruples. 

           

 It is very important to understand God.  Too many people, through their lack of understanding and knowing of God, fall into spiritual adultery, heresy, and difficulties with their faith.  When we correctly understand and know God, we can have the right faith and correctly carry out our beliefs.  God is not a ‘hard man,’ not severe, austere, nor incompassionate.  Rather, He is opposite a warm, benevolent God.  He does not reap where He has not sown, gathers where there is nothing to be gathered.  He is a just and righteous God; the One who expects beans to come from places where the sprouts were sown, and tomatoes from where the seeds were planted.  He does not demand things of us out of greed, outside the norms and common sense.  The reason for the reproaching of the third servant by his lord is simple.  The servant did not know his lord.



Second, he was not bold or audacious.  The servant was caught up in trepidation based on his understanding of his lord who he deemed as severe, hard man.  He lacked boldness.  Naturally, he was afraid of failure.  When he received the talent from his lord, the servant was immediately afraid.  He was worried about losing some part or all of his lord’s talent.  He was afraid of failure.  He viewed this opportunity that his lord bestowed upon him not as an impetus for great success and advancement, but as a potential pitfall that might bring failure, blames, and destruction.  He did not see the talent as some special privilege or trusted responsibility, but as a potential obstacle that can result in disaster and blame should something go wrong.

 

 

Boldness and audacity can easily turn into imprudence and recklessness.  Boldness does not guarantee safety and victory.  Often, it leads to imprudence.  But spiritual boldness, holy boldness makes God joyous, and heaven’s praise and glory awaits those who are bold.  In truth, we are often passive and indolent in our lives with our faith.  We do just enough to get by and not be criticized by others, erstwhile not even considering using our gifts and continuing to lead a passive life of faith.  Do you desire to gain true success in your life of faith?  Do not be afraid of failure.  Take a risk.  All success entails some price, some risk we must be willing to take.  God would rather see us try and fail than to have us lead passive lives devoid of boldness. He would rather see us challenge and give our best efforts, even if we fail, than for us to sit idly and timidly, afraid to do anything. 


Third, the servant did not do anything.  Looking at it from today's perspective, burying money in the ground is a foolish thing to do; however, in those days, in accordance with customs and habits of the day, it was a perfectly logical and legitimate thing to do.  During the days of Christ, the most secure way of storing one's valuables was burying it in the ground.  Further, in accordance with the Hebrew Rabbi tradition, a regulation existed that absolved the overseer of valuables from all responsibilities if the overseer buries the valuables in the ground.  By burying the money in the ground, the servant thought that he could secure his lord’s assets safely while absolving himself of all responsibilities should something happen to the money he buried.  He was, in effect, killing two birds with one stone.

 

 

In verse 27, the lord tells his servant that rather than burying the money in the ground a purely passive, indolent thing to do he should have deposited the money with the bankers so that the lord could have gained interest on his principle.  In old Israel, during times of Christ, banks run by Romans existed.  On deposits, the banks paid about 6% interest.  If the servant had deposited the talent with the bankers, he could have brought back an enormous sum as interest against the principle.  Depositing it in the bank would have greatly expanded the capital that he was given.  But because he was paralyzed by the fear of failure, he failed to do even this simple task of depositing the money in a bank.  The only thing he thought about was how not to fail, not how to invest the capital.



As a result, however, the lord chastises and reproaches this servant from verses 26 through 30.  The lord calls him a "wicked and lazy servant” and the “unprofitable servant.”  He was a wicked, lazy and unprofitable servant.  He failed to understand his lord, and was unable to make any profit against the capital left under his charge.  If the two servants, the ones who received five and two talents, were good and faithful servants, then the third servant is a wicked, lazy one.  He truly is useless and unprofitable.  He did not think of his lord.  He did not love his lord, and he was preoccupied only with his own well being.  His ultimate goal lay in preservation of his own safety, rather than serving his lord faithfully.  As a result, the lord instructs the talent to be taken from this lazy servant and given to the servant with ten talents.  He further curses him by ordering him into darkness, where he will cry and gnash his teeth.



 Loving members of our congregation, which servant are you today?  One with five talents?  One with two talents?  Or are you the servant with one talent?  Are you, like the servant with one talent, unwilling to take risk out of fear of failure?  Then confess and repent.  God wants us to maximize our gifts and invest it wisely, while praying earnestly for success.  He charges us to reap great rewards and fruits through our efforts.  He wants all of us to be responsible and active in our lives of faith.  He wants us to have the holy boldness that the two successful servants had.  He wants us to be the faithful servants.  He does not want us to be the wicked, lazy servant.



  I pray in the name of our Lord that all of us, with undying sense of responsibility and faith, maximize our gifts through holy and spiritual boldness. 

Amen.

  “Those willing to risk nothing actually risk losing everything.”

 

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