Another story told by Jesus, this time with a man of noble birth going off for a while, and giving servants coins to 'put to use' while he was away. The story has some interesting twists - some are clear that they do not want him to be king, and the responses to the investors raises eyebrows. Some of the dialogue might surprise us.
We are told about 3 of the investors. Two do well, but one has hidden the money, claiming that he knew the man to be hard and harsh. The first two are well rewarded, but the man (now king) is not happy with the third. He reflects the servant's own words back to him ("You knew, did you, that I was hard ...") and so judges the servant by their own standards. Why have they not even put the money on deposit - that would have at least gained something? Hiding the coin away was the worst thing they could have done!
The king re-assigns the coin to the servant who has done the best and already rewarded. Naturally onlookers in the story ask about this, and the king talks about taking away even what those with little do have. That might surprise us! The final twist is with those who had campaigned against the king in the first place - they are brought to be executed: again an unsavoury twist for our western ears!
When hearing these stories we need to keep in mind that they are told to give us a clue about God and His Kingdom, but that doesn't mean there is an exact correspondence between any one character and God. It is a story rich with meaning, but it is a story.
For us hearing it, we for sure should ask ourselves what God has entrusted to us to put to work. What has God seeded in our lives, and how does He want us to go about our lives to use it. God has a purpose for each of us - what will we do with it? The words 'You knew, did you, that I was hard ...' are best heard by us sarcastically - God doesn't need or want us to live in (negative) fear of Him. Yes, know that He is God and we are not (the Biblical 'fear of the Lord'), but know that God is gracious, equipping and empowering too.
So are we going to invest or stick at opportunities put in front of us. Note that investing does not guarantee and easy life! Jesus promised opposition and hardship for the disciples - going the God-investment route may prove gut-wrenchingly hard, but of course will be rewarding in Kingdom terms.
We should also learn to distinguish between investing in earthly terms compared to Kingdom terms. That promotion at work, taking more responsibility (and prestige and salary) might be the God-given path for you, but it could also mean hammering your life leaving you no margin for Jesus and His Kingdom. In that case Kingdom-investment could actually mean not taking the promotion, accepting the simpler lifestyle, but having the space and energy to invest in Kingdom activities. We have to be discerning!
Finally a word about those executed. The stories of Jesus do make clear an eventual and final reckoning. Those who stubbornly insist on keeping their backs turned on God cannot be tolerated forever. If you are reading this message, then it is unlikely that you sit in that camp, but the challenge remains for you to think about what you are doing with your life - with all the things God has given you to put to good Kingdom use.