God’s Venture Capital

Homily 580 – 35 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
February 4, 2023
Epistle – (258) Colossians 3:12-16
Gospel – (105) Matthew 25:14-30

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

I don’t know if you feel this way, but as I read the parable, I get afraid.  Afraid that God will not be pleased with what I have done for Him, and that I will be cast out.

Being cast out of the Kingdom of God is in fact worth being afraid of.  But that fear has to be mitigated in the light of God’s love for us.

In the parable, there isn’t just one person who gets cast out – there are two others that are rewarded!  So have hope!  Maybe we can find something there.  I think we can.

First of all, let’s look at what they were given initially.  One given five talents, one given two talents, and the final given one talent.

It may be our initial reaction to think about talent as a gift or ability, and that may be true.  In Christ’s day, however, a talent was a quantity of money.  Today, we might call this “seed capital”.  This portrays God as a kind of venture capitalist, which couldn’t be further from the truth, but for the purposes here, we’ll let that slide.

A talent was equal to 6,000 denarii, and a denarii was worth a laborer’s day wage.  In Iowa money, it would be worth maybe $65.  So a talent would be worth about $391,500.

Now the amount doesn’t really concern us much here.  What we are really interested in is that the individual the man gives his money to – that man is called “slave.”  This money still belongs to the master.  But it doesn’t belong to the slave, it is only in the custody of the slave.

The amount gets lower, according to the master’s assessment about what each individual slave could handle.  The first got $1.5, nearly $1.6 million.  The second got around $750,000.  The last one got $391,000.

That last one was suspect.  The master didn’t evaluate his ability very highly.  But, he was still entrusted with something.  And we know the first two put the money to use, and earned more – double – for their master.

The last one, however, buried his in the ground.

Now, the question that I have is what gains value in the Kingdom of God?  This parable is describing the Kingdom, so what does “increase” mean in the Kingdom of God?  The answer is in caring for the poor, the sick, the widow and orphan, the imprisoned.

That is what we see throughout Christ’s teachings – the value proposition, what God expects, is that the things we are given are used for the benefit of others.

So, it stands to reason that the individual, that third slave, who buried his talent in the ground – we might say “hid it in his mattress” – didn’t use the money for the benefit of others.  In all likelihood, he used it for himself.

Instead of providing food and clothing and shelter and companionship to the needy, he spent it on things that he could maybe enjoy until the day of accounting – then, he could give them to the master and say “here is all the things I bought for you.”

In other words, he was selfish with what the master had given to him.  And this is what angers the master when he returns.  Not that he still has the value, but the value didn’t get put to use – at all!

The slave is called wicked and lazy.  Not like the other slaves that did what they were supposed to do and returned a greater amount.  Those were called “good and faithful” and were given even more.

It is the selfish, fearful slave that is wicked and lazy.

Obviously, or maybe not, this principle applies to everything not just our finances.  We are slaves.  We are these slaves.  And whether we are given much, or little, we know what to do with it.

We give it away.  We put it to work for those in need.  We deposit it in the storehouses of God, which Blessed Theophylact in one of his commentaries calls “the stomachs of the poor.”

Even when we don’t have much to give, like the third slave.  Because even not much, in modern day America, is a lot more than some have.

And you all have heard from me by now that the idea of sharing is undervalued.  I love the idea of sharing because we too can share in the abundance.  If we give it away, and nothing belongs to us, we can’t have any of it.  There are no fees charged by slaves for managing resources.

But if we share, we join with the poor and the needy of our world, and we too can partake with them, of one dinner – because we are poor too!

Saint Paul, in his epistle to the Colossians that we read, outlines that act better than I ever could.  Clothe yourselves with a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility, and perseverance.

Consider others better than us, more needy than us.

We know how much we have, and, if we are honest with ourselves, we know how unworthy we are of everything we have.  Everything comes from God.

What Christ is telling us here is that in the midst of our unworthiness, we make ourselves worthy by giving – by sharing.

And adding what St. Paul says, walking in love, the bond of perfection.  Walking in peace – meaning, knowing that whatever we have been given is sufficient for us.  Not requiring more.  A common synonym for peace is to be content.

Love all, be content with what God has given, share what you can.  And finally, St. Paul tells us, be thankful.

Because none of it is ours.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.