The Kingdom is like "Shark Tank"
"Parousia" a three-week sermon series on Matthew 25, and Jesus’ words about the coming kingdom of God, week 2 of 3, preached November 15, 2020 for the 9:30am Worship
For these last three weeks of the Christian year before we turn to Advent, we are hearing three different parables of Jesus from Matthew 25 that describe the Good News… the arrival, the presence, the Parousia of the kingdom of God.
Last week, Jesus imagined the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven is like the Bachelor, ten bridesmaids wait for the groom. Five prepare by bringing extra oil for their lamps. Five do not. We learned whenever we gather as church, we are here to remember the good news, that’s God’s promised community is good, is real, and is coming, and, God’s kingdom is new, meaning different, will surprise us, and require us to change. Jesus calls us to prepare for it, to conserve our oil and trim our lamps back when things are not going well and be ready to burn our lamps bright when things turn toward hope, wholeness, honesty, and compassion.
Today, we hear the next parable from Matthew 25. Let’s pray, then listen for the word of the Lord from…
Scripture Matthew 25:14-30
14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents,[f] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents.
18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return, I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to the one with the ten talents.
29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Sermon The Kingdom is like Shark Tank
There’s a TV show called “Shark Tank.” On it, a panel of successful business persons invites contestants to pitch ideas and prototypes of inventions, products, or services to the panel. The contestants try to convince the panel to invest in their fledgling ideas. With that investment, the inventors could get the capital they need to launch and market their new idea, and the panel of Sharks get a portion of their future business.
Some of the ideas are laughed off the stage. Some are interesting but get no investment. Some do get willing investment from the sharks, but not every product that gets investment pays off. Some become popular products on TV or store shelves.
This week, Jesus says, the Kingdom of Heaven is a bit like Shark Tank. The Master decides to invest in three different contestants. They aren’t given the same amounts, and we aren’t told why. The Master chooses to invest 5 talents in one servant, two talents in another, and one talent in the third.
Now, talent means money. When Jesus really wants to get our attention, he talks money. He knows that's our soft spot. We can debate theology or politics and go home unchanged. But if Jesus starts meddling around near our wallets and accounts, we pay attention.
To make sure this parable about the Kingdom of heaven gets our FULL attention, not only does Jesus use money, but a large amount, a talent. Imagine a single day’s wage. That’s called a denarius. A talent is worth 10,000 denarii. So, let’s imagine someone works five days a week, fifty weeks a year. That’s 250 days a year, every Monday-Friday, with 2 weeks off for vacation... Now do that for 40 years. 250 times 40 is 10,000. A talent is 40 years of pay, a lifetime of earning.
For whatever reason, the Master decides to leave one servant with 5 lifetimes, another with two, and the third with one full talent, one whole life's wage.
Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like this. The first two immediately put those monies to use. They begin risking them. They interact with others, meet strangers, have conversations. They begin trading, finding things of value to other people and bringing those items back into their own community, and showing them the value of their wonderful new discoveries.
The first two of our contestants double what was given them. When the master returns, they report. “You gave us generous amounts. We used them as best we could, and we doubled them. Here you go, master.” The master is appreciative and congratulates the first two on wise dealings, and even promises more trust and more investment and responsibility going forward.
Now, the third. I wonder what was going on inside as he watched the other two make their reports. Maybe a whisper or a thought or two, something like, “Why didn’t I try something? Why didn’t I do something with it?”
Thoughts like that hurt. They feel like shame, guilt, even when they are just honest reflection and accountability. We human beings hate feelings like guilt, and we often fight them back with self-defense mechanisms.
“Well, at least I didn’t lose anything, and, and, and it’s not my fault! The only reason I was scared to try something is because of what I’ve heard about the Master… harsh, high expectations, takes more from us than he gives, absent until it’s time to collect. So yeah, Master, here! Here’s your one talent back. It's not my fault I didn’t grow it. It wasn’t enough. At least I kept it safe.”
The master IS disappointed, not in the lack of return for the master’s accounts, but in the accusations of the servant, and in the servant using those false accusations against the Master as an excuse for not risking, not trying, not trusting.
Is that why the third was given the least, because of the lack of trust? The other two servants were given more to try with and were willing to risk it all because they trusted the Master. The third servant was given less and wasn’t even willing to risk that because of his aversion to change, his fear of failure, his mistrust of the Master.
Remember, Jesus tells us this parable as what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Why would God do kingdom, holy community, this way, risk putting some of God’s gifts under our care, with the expectation and hope we will not be afraid to try, to risk using it and investing it to change the world for the better, to be more like Kingdom? Why wouldn’t God just give Kingdom to us? If God wanted us to have Kingdom, holy community, couldn’t God give it to us?
Perhaps we can remember times in our lives when something needed doing, and we felt it would simply be easier to do it alone. It can feel harder to accomplish even little things if we have to involve other people who may not agree, may not understand what we are trying to do or why, or may not want to work as hard or as fast. But, each time we do a task alone, it becomes less holy. It looks more like our way than God’s, more like our own little Kingdom and less like God’s Kingdom.
Those times when we dare to include others, to wait for them to see it with us, to dreams options and ways forward with us, and to walk it together, we become church, and the solution is usually better and we are better because we have done it together.
And of course, we can probably all remember times when something needed doing, and we didn’t. We walked away and left a need unmet, a problem unsolved, a relationship unreconciled.
In the Kingdom of Heaven, God gives us only a limited number of lifetimes. God begs us to use them, to risk them to help change the world to be more like Kingdom. God pleasure and delight have very little to do with profits or accomplishments, but everything to do with learning to trust God and try doing community God’s way with the lives we’ve been given.
It's no coincidence he uses the value of a life’s wage in this parable. Jesus is saying the kingdom of heaven is a life’s work. It isn’t about someday, later, after life is over. It’s about today. Don’t assume the Kingdom of heaven is what happens at the end, and put off trying, risking, changing today. Some take the one life they are given and hold onto it, protect it, conserve it, and at the end expect that to have been enough. God doesn’t want profits, but does want us to risk the lives we’ve been given to help grow the Kingdom now for all people, not just hoard it and hope it for ourselves.
We are not called to be God’s children, disciples, servants so that we can take our one talent, our one life, and hoard it for ourselves. We were not given this one talent, this one life, to conserve it. God gave us this one life not so that we grow profits for God. God can do that without us. God gave us this life to live it, to share it, to risk it and exchange it and give it away to others and let them give away theirs for us. Our purpose in life is to help bring about the kingdom on earth as it is already in heaven.
Imagine if Jesus had taken his one talent’s worth, his one life, and preserved it. He didn’t. He gave it up, he gave it away, freely, for all of us, for the whole world. And in so doing, he found he had not only kept his original, but he had multiplied life countless times for others.
May it be so with us as well. To this God be all glory and honor, now and forever. Amen.
Now, Blessing, laughter, and loving be yours, and may the love of a great God, who names you and holds you as the earth turns and the flowers grow be with you, this day, this night, this moment and forevermore.
Rev. Joel L. Tolbert
Pastor, Presbyterian Church of Chestertown