Vol. 2 Issue 15 April 13, 2008
The Weekly Newsletter of True Potential Publishing
Money Part 4
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.” (Matthew 25: 14â€“15)
Remember the parable of the Talents? You can read about it in Matthew 25: 14 â€“ 30. Jesus told this and a few other parables to explain what the “kingdom of heaven” would be like “at the end of the age.” Interesting.
Hereâ€™s the story in a nut shell:
A man calls his three servants together before he leaves on a journey. To the first servant he gives “five talents of money.”
A “talent” is a measurement of weight. In the old days money, being made out of precious metals like silver or gold, was weighed out to confirm its value. Whoever made the coins could just stamp the value on the coin along with a likeness of his bossâ€™s head, but whoâ€™s going to take his word for it? It was safer just to weigh out the coins.
The weight of a “talent” varied over time, but when Jesus told this parable a talent of silver was about seventy-five pounds; worth a little over $20,000 in todayâ€™s money.
So, before going on his journey, this man entrusts five talents ($100,000) to one servant, two talents ($40,000) to another and one talent ($20,000) to a third servant. The expectation being that these three servants were to manage their masterâ€™s money while he was gone and give an accounting when he returned.
Well, thatâ€™s just what happened. The first servant doubled the money his master had given him. The second servant did likewise. The third servant broke even. He didnâ€™t turn a profit, but he didnâ€™t lose any of his masterâ€™s original capital either.
Investing money inherently involves some risk. Thereâ€™s a chance you wonâ€™t make a profit and thereâ€™s a chance you could lose your entire investment. The first two servants took some risk. They could have lost their masterâ€™s money. Then there would have been hell to pay.
At least thatâ€™s what the third servant thought. He knew his master wasnâ€™t an easy man. He expected his people to perform and he expected to profit from their work. The third servant just couldnâ€™t bear the consequences of losing his masterâ€™s money. It was a risk he wasnâ€™t willing to take. He dug a hole and buried the money.
By burying the money in the ground, he knew it wouldnâ€™t earn any interest, but at least he wouldnâ€™t risk losing his masterâ€™s original capital. His plan was safe; just bury the money and dig it up when his master returned. Nobody wins and nobody loses; canâ€™t get any safer than that.
But that wasnâ€™t the point. The master entrusted his money to his servants for a reason; to make a profit. By playing it safe, the third servant not only failed at his task, he disobeyed his masterâ€™s instructions. And he suffered the consequences. According to the story he was thrown “outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Bummer.
The first two servants put their masterâ€™s capital at risk, they had to; itâ€™s part of the nature of investing. But the possibility of turning a profit is also in the nature of investing. These two succeeded at their task and enjoyed the reward. “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your masterâ€™s happiness.”
So whatâ€™s the point Jesus was trying to get across? That weâ€™re supposed to turn a profit? Well â€¦ yeah. I think thatâ€™s exactly what he meant.
Now you can allegorize or spiritualize this whole thing by saying investing “talents” in the parable means investing the talents God has given each of us. You know, talents, like singing, or speaking, or teaching, or managing a business, or raising kids. Whatever your talents are, use them for Godâ€™s glory. Thatâ€™s nice.
But for todayâ€™s discussion, letâ€™s just keep it simple. Jesus said “talents of money” in the parable. Letâ€™s leave the allegory for another day and just talk about money. The parable fits; everybody gets a different amount of money, “each according to his ability.”
Some people get a lot of money. Some get less. Some get even less. Each according to his own ability. Thatâ€™s not a very popular concept.
Doesnâ€™t everybody deserve to get the same amount? That would be fair. Of course itâ€™s only fair if we all get a lot. The fairness idea loses its attractiveness if everybody getting the same amount means we get less than we think we deserve.
And we deserve a lot, donâ€™t we? We deserve whatever we want. More money, a bigger house, a newer car, a more important job; we deserve it all. At least thatâ€™s what weâ€™ve been told. Just watch the commercials; thatâ€™s what theyâ€™re all about, making us believe we deserve what we want.
Itâ€™s not just the commercials. We hear it all the time from guys who claim to be Godâ€™s spokesmen. Want to know how you can get your best life now? Just listen to the guy behind the pulpit. As a matter of fact you can measure how much God likes you by how much stuff you have. By the way, donâ€™tâ€™ forget to send in your monthly support check to the ministry.
Maybe theyâ€™re just commercials too (I know I beat this horse a lot, but it needs beating).
If you listen to Jesus, when it comes to money, we get what we get, “each according to his own ability.” The important thing isnâ€™t how much we get; itâ€™s what we do with what weâ€™ve got. And I donâ€™t recommend burying it in the ground. Weâ€™re supposed to turn a profit.
That brings up another point I believe Iâ€™ve mentioned before. Itâ€™s not our money. Weâ€™re just managing it for our master. Itâ€™s His money. Heâ€™s given it to us to turn a profit while heâ€™s gone. We he comes back, thereâ€™s going to be an accounting.
So letâ€™s boil down the parable into a few points we can put to use.
1. Jesus was trying to explain what the “kingdom of heaven” at the “end of the age” is going to be like. So we know he was talking about then and not now.
2. The man who was going on the journey was the one who owned everything. He entrusted his property to his servants (they stayed behind) to manage (turn a profit) while he was gone.
3. Each servant got the amount of money he could handle, not the amount he thought he deserved. How much each servant could handle wasnâ€™t up for a vote; it was up to the master â€“ it was his money.
4. Only the servants who actually invested their money made a profit. Investing is risky, they could have lost what they had been given, but they invested it anyway. No guarantees. The guy who buried his money in the ground had two guarantees; his capital wouldnâ€™t be at risk and he wouldnâ€™t make a profit.
5. There was an accounting when the master returned. And his focus was on how well his servants did with the money they were given, not the money itself. If they managed risk and turned a profit they were given more, a lot more. If one was risk averse, fearing the consequences of making a bad investment so much that he hid his masterâ€™s capital in a hole in the ground until he returned, the master wasnâ€™t satisfied to receive back his original capital. The servant screwed up, and the consequences were worse than he ever imagined.
Money is a funny thing. We think itâ€™s worth a lot, but it turns out that it really doesnâ€™t have any value at all. We think that more money will let us do more stuff, but is only what we do with the money we already have that matters.
Money isnâ€™t something you own, itâ€™s something you use. Itâ€™s been given to you to use by the One who ultimately owns everything. How you use matters more than how much youâ€™ve got to use.
Risk is inherent in everything. Thatâ€™s why youâ€™ve got to manage the money youâ€™ve been given. If you invest it in stupid stuff, youâ€™re going to lose it; and thereâ€™s a price to pay for that. If you bury it in the ground â€¦ well, we know from the story that thereâ€™s a price to be paid for that.
And, by the way, if you give your money to somebody that claims to be Godâ€™s spokesman but really isnâ€™t, heâ€™s not the only one facing consequences. You were given that money to manage; the accounting is going to come home to roost on your doorstep. If youâ€™re going to give money to folks who say theyâ€™re Godâ€™s representatives, youâ€™d better make sure they really are.
The most important thing I can say about money is that itâ€™s not about the here and now. Itâ€™s about the then and there. What you do with it here and now only counts then and there.
Next week weâ€™ll tackle a new subject – courage.