This week I am posting a speech I delivered at the May 3 graduation event at Wesley Institute in Sydney, Australia. IWU recently struck an agreement to acquire WI and work with them to create the first evangelical Christian university in Australia.
The manuscript has been lightly edited for blog publication. Part one appeared on Monday, and part two appeared on Wednesday.
Principle #3 — Don’t Give Fear The Last Word
Photo: Alan Cleaver
The third employee in Jesus’ Parable of the Talents is fascinating. I must admit, all too often I resemble the third employee more than the first two.
This employee puts his master’s goodness in a secret place “to keep it safe.” There it languishes.
There is nothing wrong in the motivation to keep a precious asset safe. The problem is that this employee neither understands his master nor the nature of the master’s wealth.
He thinks his master is a “hard man” because he expects his wealth to multiply. He thinks his master’s wealth is “inert” in itself, that if it multiplies it will be through someone else’s effort.
The problem is that the servant does not understand the nature of the master’s wealth. The master knows that the only thing his employees have to do is use his wealth. The wealth will multiply itself because that is the nature of the wealth.
This employee does the one thing that he should not do – he hides the wealth.
The goodness of this world, including the monetary wealth of this world, is not meant to be hidden or hoarded. To do so violates the nature of the goodness.
The world’s goodness is to be set free, invested, put to use. This is the way that God has designed the world’s goodness. It is like a natural seed. When it is put to use it multiplies. When it is hoarded it dies.
Several sad consequences emerge from this employee’s misguided action.
One is that he himself lost the benefit of his master’s goodness. When he hid it, it was lost to his own use. It was locked away safe in a secret hold.
Another is that those around him lost the benefit of his master’s goodness. It was locked away safe, lost to the use of those who needed it.
It turns out that the greatest risk we can take with the goodness of this world is to keep it locked away safely, to hide it, to leave it unused.
What motivated this employee to act in this way? The employee himself gives us the answer.
When he is called to give an account for his actions he said, “I was afraid.”
Friends, when we are faced with the opportunity to use what is in our account, we will struggle with two internal voices.
In one ear we will hear the voice that urges us forward: “Take the risk. Put the goodness in your account to use. Now is the time. Speak the word. Do the act of kindness. Use your creativity to suggest a solution, or create a ministry, or launch a business that will bless others. Say the word of kindness even while anger is still in the air. Offer forgiveness when hearts are still hard.”
In the other ear we will hear a fearful voice that urges caution: “Take care. Be careful now. Don’t do anything rash. You don’t know for sure what will happen. Don’t be wasteful. Wait for a better time. Try something more prudent. What will you do if you fail?”
The first is the voice of this life’s grand adventure.
The other is the voice of this life’s great fear.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said this about another of Jesus’ stories – the story of the Good Samaritan.
“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man what will happen to me?’ But the Good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”
The spirit of fear says, “What will happen to me if I take the risk?” Fear freezes our best intentions.
The spirit of adventure says, “What will happen to the world if I don’t take the risk?” Adventure frees our best assets to make a difference in the world.
Don’t give fear the final word.
Principle #4: Stay for the Party!
The fourth principle I notice here is that these employees remained faithful until their master returned. Because they did, they were invited to the party.
All too often our attempts to put the world’s goodness to work are short-lived. We lose interest before the game is won. We lose patience before the problem is solved. We expect more of a reward until the final party is called.
But these employees kept on putting their master’s goods even when his journey stretched far longer than they might have expected. They put his wealth to use and kept on multiplying the good at their disposal, right up until the day their master returned.
When he did, he gave them their reward and said, “Come on into my house and let’s have a party.”
Stay for the party!
Here, then, are three amazing facts and four wise principles.
The world is full of God’s goodness.
The world’s goodness can be multiplied.
The world’s goodness is entrusted to us.
So . . . .
Use what’s in your account.
Don’t wait to be great.
Don’t give fear the final word.
Stay for the party.
In conclusion, let us remember this great aspiration in the words of Edward Hale.
“I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”