24But the one who had received one talent came and said, “Lord, I knew you, that you are a hard man, harvesting where you didn’t plant, and gathering where you didn’t scatter.Â 25I was afraid, and went out and his your talent in the ground.Â Look, you have what is yours!” 26But the lord answered him, “Wicked and lazy servant!Â You know that I harvest where I haven’t planted, and I gather where I haven’t scattered?Â 27You should have given my money to the bankers, and when I returned, I could have received my own money with interest. â€“ Matthew 25:24-27
I’m interested in knowing just what meets God’s disapproval. We all have our ideas on this, which often involve truly despicable and perverted behavior according to our cultural standards. But sometimes the Bible will shock us and make us stop and think.
This thought was first called to my attention some years ago when I was reading 2 Kings 17:2. It says that King Hoshea did evil, but not like the kings before him. King Hoshea wasn’t as bad as his predecessors. Why should this be significant? If you’re interested in knowing what God disapproves of, you should bookmark 2 Kings 17. It’s the chapter that tells of the exile of the northern kingdom of Israel. Hoshea, the one who was not as bad as, was the king when Samaria was conquered and nation went into exile.
Now Jesus shocks us a bit with a parable. The whole parable runs from Matthew 25:14-30. I’ve just chosen the part when the one-talent servant comes back to report. He’s worried, but at the same time, I think he feels safe. He’s been careful with his master’s money. He hasn’t stolen it. He buried it in the ground and it’s safe. No risk taker here. He didn’t know for sure that he would be successful, so he stayed at home.
But the master has no good words for his care. He isn’t thankful that his talent has been returned well-preserved and unharmed. He doesn’t commend him for taking the safe route. No! He calls him wicked and lazy. He could have, and should have done something!
How many of us think like the one-talent man.
- We could have witnessed for Jesus, but we really don’t know how, and isn’t it better not to prejudice them? When the person who really knows how comes along, they’ll be ready to listen.
- I have only one dollar in my pocket, or perhaps a bit of change. I’m not going to put it in the offering plate. The clink of the coins or the sight of that one dollar is too embarrassing when others are giving so much. Besides, what is one dollar against the need? So I don’t put that little bit in.
- A Sunday School teacher is needed, but I’m not going to volunteer because people will think I’m proud and arrogant, and they’ll find out I’m pretty ignorant. The class would be better off without a teacher.
- I could speak an encouraging word, but I don’t really know the person who needs to hear it, and I might say it wrong. So I keep silent.
- That person up at the altar needs someone to pray with them, but I don’t want to seem pushy, and besides, any prayer is fine. I’ll just stay right here and nobody will know.
One talent Christiansâ€”or no talent Christiansâ€”in our own minds. We think we’re being humble, thoughtful, and careful.
Unfortunately for us, Jesus thinks we’re being wicked, lazy, and useless.
This isn’t about doing big things and great things. It’s not about doing what everyone else thinks you should. Other people can burden you with things God hasn’t called you to do. Jesus is talking about the talents he gave you.
I think that if you listen for the Holy Spirit, you’ll know when you’re truly being wise and careful, and when you’re busy hiding that talent in the earth.