GOLD TO INVEST Matthew 25:14-30

Notes for a sermon with the congregation of Christ Church, Kingston, November 17, 1996

by Robert Brow (

This is one of Jesus' many parables that are not explained. We are left to interpret it as we can. So let's start with the man who was given 5 big bars of gold. In Jesus's day a talent weighed 34 kilograms (75 lbs). It was the equivalent of 6,000 days of work for a laborer. I will leave you to figure out on your calculators how much that would be in our day. I make it half a million dollars. So this five talent man was given 2.5 million dollars in gold..

Now notice the money was entrusted to him by a tycoon going off on a world trip, and he was left to decide what to do with it. "A man going on a journey, summoned his slaves (servants) and entrusted his property to them, to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one. Then he went away" (Matthew 25:14-15). By the end of the story you can see that the tycoon expected a profit. "You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow. 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" (25:26-27).

What would you do if you were given 2.5 million dollars by Conrad Black to invest any way you chose? This five talent men could have invested in vineyards for a wine business, or a five star hotel in Jericho, or whatever. Let's imagine he decided to invest in a ship to sail from Ezion Geber (Elath) on the Red Sea. It would go to the west coast of India, and bring back a load of the spices and perfumes which were in great demand in Damascus and Alexandria. Within three years he had doubled his investment. And the tycoon was very pleased. "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."

What would have happened if the ship had gone down in a hurricane, or been taken by pirates? Obviously Jesus is the tycoon in the story, and I think he would have said "I liked your courage and spirit of enterprise, and you have learned a lot, so I will put you in charge of a bigger part of my business." It's OK to fail in Jesus' Kingdom. King David and Peter did!

Now let's look at the two talent man. He was given two bars of gold worth a million dollars. What would you do with a million dollars to invest? I imagine this man built a grain terminal in Jericho and a string of camels for the grain trade. He also doubled his investment in three years, and the tycoon was pleased.

The third fellow got one bar of gold worth $500,000. He wasn't a bad man. He could have blown the lot in a far country with wine, women, and song. He did think about a raisin, olive, and delicatessen store by the Damascus gate in Jerusalem. But, as he explained, he might fail or get robbed. "I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours." The Tycoon was furious. At least he could have put the money into Guaranteed Investment Certificates and made something on the investment.

He hope he learned his lesson. "As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness." Which meant he was thrown that night over the south wall of Jerusalem, and landed on to the gehenna rubbish dump which was stinking with excrement and crawling with maggots. Possibly after a night of "weeping and gnashing his teeth" he managed to get home the next morning.

So what does this story mean to you and me? I think it is a parable about the talents of love that we are given. Love is the gold of Jesus' Kingdom. Some have a five talent capacity for loving. Most of us have one or two ways we can express our love in the business of the kingdom.

Like the men in the story, we can invest our love anyway we choose. There are thousands of ways of making money, and thousands of ways of loving. We can love our friends, our neighbors, and even our enemies. Mother Theresa invested her love among the dying on the streets of Calcutta. Marie Warner began hospice in Kingston, and then took the risk of getting ordained as an Anglican priest. Some visit jails, and hospitals, and shut-ins at home. Taking time to pray is a costly investment in loving.

But love is risky. A lover is a risk taker. Loving children is risky, marriage is risky, loving people of other nations is risky, and loving people in church is most risky of all. The more we love the more we are likely to get hurt. Jesus took the risk of loving and was crucified. But what is not acceptable is for us to hide our talent for loving in the ground and refuse to take the risk of loving.

Like the third man in the story, we can decide to keep our nose clean, and never do anything that might get us into trouble. We don't break any rules, but we withdraw from loving. And of course if you don't use it you lose it. Slowly the capacity to love drains away from our life.

Whatever you think is the meaning of this parable, it would be good to take stock of the talent or talents you have for loving. Thank the Lord for giving you such responsibility. Look to the Holy Spirit to see how you could invest your gifts. Begin with your family and brothers and sisters in church, your city and the world beyond. Then go and do whatever is in your heart. Greet a newcomer. Visit someone. And the more love you give, the more you will be given. But don't be surprised if you get hurt. Christian maturity comes when we decide it is OK to get hurt and still keep loving. It makes life very exciting. That's what Jesus did.

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