The Two-talent Parable

The other students loved it. The teacher didn’t. And I was angry with the teacher–still am!

I’d just delivered my first “real” sermon in a college class on preaching. Though I’d been teaching the Bible since age 18, I’d always worked from a lesson guide. That day, I flew solo, bringing my insights to the arena. At least I called them insights. The teacher disagreed.

This was the parable of the two-talent guy. You know the one from Matthew 25 where the hotshot doubles the master’s investment as does the regular guy while the loser buries the coins in a field producing now return.

Being something of an ordinary person I felt, and do still, that one point to the story is that faithfulness is what counts in God’s economy. One hundred percent returns are fantastic, no matter where you started. From a different angle, it is doing what you can with what you have that counts and the only point of comparison would be whether, or not, you gave your best.

BTW, that teacher was a pastoral dropout who thought the parable was all about the five-talent superstar. Wrong!

This is akin to the parable of the loving father that people mostly describe as that of the prodigal son. Isn’t the point of that story the faithfulness of God? And when did the notes in the margin take precedence over the actual words of Jesus? The scripture presents the story without a title.

Losing Ground, Yet Faithful

Bring this to now. What are the implications for leaders struggling, even losing ground, during COVID-19? What did Paul do in Lystra, Philippi or Athens? How did he handle being maligned by people in Corinth?

Well, we’re living in a crisis. Lots of mistakes must happen as we fumble forward. Question: Are you one of the fumbling faithful? If so, good on you. Or maybe we could say something like, “enter into the joy of your master.” Thinking about quitting? Some are. You probably don’t want to fit into Jesus’ story as a quitter.

So what’s a pastor to do when life and ministry look bleak? Well, Churchill said, “Never, never, never… give in” (actually there were 11 “nevers” in succession in the original speech). His point was similar to mine. Perseverance wins in the end. Always has.

You may need to make some serious changes to the way you approach life and your call. With people dropping out of church, you may find yourself leading a microchurch or a string of them. You may have just become a microchurch pastor also furloughed from your income source outside the church. Not good. But has nothing to do with the faithfulness of him who teaches us to “abase” and “abound” (the old KJV sometimes says it best).

Toughing it Out…

Ordinary, struggling and sticking to it. Not bad in the teeth of a crisis analogous to two world wars and a similar problem in 1918. You do what you can. Do it as well as you can and try to sleep well.

Paul wrote, “men ought to regard us as servants of Christ… entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. …At that time each will receive his praise from God.”

Paul endured much worse than unemployment, wearing a mask or not getting to see friends face to face. Yet he was faithful. He may have been a five-talent super-apostle, but his words do apply to one and two-talent folks like most of us.

Did you find this post encouraging? Discouraging? I’d like to know. Please use the comments box to sound off. And, if you did find it encouraging it might be nice to send a link to someone else…