Thursday, November 13, 2008

This is the third year we have done a message series focused on finances. Every year we have done the series I have learned more about Christ’s teachings and understood more deeply the connection between giving to God and receiving divine approval and blessing. Parables I have heard in Church all my life have delivered new and richer meanings as I have learned to see with eyes of faith. The genius of the Gospel and Jesus’ teaching is that we can return again and again to them and find deeper meaning and perspective. This is why each year we do a series on our finances. Without a continual return to Christ’s teachings on money, we will not see the connection between our finances and our relationship with God. We won’t know deep in our hearts, the rewards of surrendering our finances to God and using our money according to the teachings of Christ.

The passage from Matthew we read today is one of Jesus’ best known parables and if you are a churchgoer, you have no doubt heard it before. It is commonly called the Parable of the Talents. Three servants are given three different amounts of money from their master. Two servants invest the money and are rewarded by the master, but the third buries the money, hoping to keep it for himself and so suffers greatly. The parable so correctly describes our feelings towards our money. Just as the master appears distant to the servants, God seems distant to us, as if he doesn’t even care about how we handle money, but Jesus makes clear that no matter how it may look or feel to us, God will return one day to settle our account. One day he will ask us how we used his money. In that moment, we will see clearly whether the use of our money has led to unspeakable joy or unimaginable pain. Our culture obfuscates this very clear truth Jesus communicates in Matthew’s Gospel, so it is in our benefit to continually refocus our minds on what Jesus, and not what culture says, about our finances. For me, the take away from this parable is not the fear of punishment, but to use my money so that I can experience the joy the Gospel describes, the joy of being told by my heavenly Father, “Well done, good and faithful steward. Come and share your master’s joy.”

CS Lewis writes in the Weight of Glory, “The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some us, that any of us who really chooses…shall please God. To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness, to be loved by God, not merely pitied but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son – it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.” The Parable of the Talents tells us that if we invest our money to build God’s kingdom, the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth would not only applaud us, but also allow us to share in his joy. It is simply amazing. Why wouldn’t we surrender our finances to his control for that unbelievable reward? Why wouldn’t we give away green pieces of paper with pictures of dead men so that we could taste that reward? Why not give up stuff that eventually is going to be in a junk yard to receive praise from our heavenly Father? Can you really think of a better use of your money? Neither can I.