Investing, with a twist.

Homily 446 – 34th Sunday After Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
January 31, 2021
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.

Investing has been in the news lately – the Gamestop stock, mostly. A bunch of internet day traders outsmarted – some would say out manipulated – experienced hedge fund managers, causing a $13 billion hedge fund to go basically bankrupt.

It was a fascinating story for me, who grew up and worked extensively with finance and investing.

The Gospel today is also about investing.

Three servants. Each with a different number of talents.

The first two doubled their talents, and were praised by their master. They also were given even more responsibility.

But the third servant. That third servant. He took his talent and put it in the ground, and did nothing with it. Nothing!

His story – or should we say, excuse – was that he was afraid to risk what was not his. Yet his master reminded him – I am a risk taker! But even then, the master said, the lowest risk of all was the bankers, and you didn’t even do that!

It is obvious that we are the servants, and God is the master. And he has given us each talents. Maybe we should call them “resources” or “opportunities”, but in any event we have them.

We think of “talent” as a skill or ability – but here it meant money. A talent was equivalent to about 16 and a half YEARS wages. Today, that might equate at minimum wage to around $375,000.

And let’s not kid ourselves – had the servant taken the money to the bankers and put it on deposit, the Master would likely not have been happy with that, either.

The Master expected the servants to take risks – to earn a greater return.

Notice also that He gave to each according to the servant’s ability. He knew the third servant wasn’t as capable as the other two. So he didn’t give him as much. The Master didn’t have as much at risk with the third servant.

So we have to consider: What is Christ saying to us? Here and now?

He has given us talents. Some he gives wealth. Some he gives good works. Some he gives prayer. St. Paul tells us that some he made prophets, that is to say, those who deliver God’s message to his people. Some he made preachers, some administrators, some teachers.

But everyone has at least one gift. The greatest gift of all is the gift of life itself.

We can’t just exist, sliding through life not really doing anything except trying to preserve our gift. That is what the third servant did. He buried his gift.

Our gift of life, just like the other gifts given by God – because, beloved, everything is given to us by God – our gift of life must be put to use in the furtherance of God’s Kingdom.

Doing this isn’t easy – doing nothing is easy, which is why the Master calls the third servant “wicked and slothful”. Lazy. Evil.

What are we to do?

We put this gift of life to use by offering ourselves to others. We see a need and we address it if we are able.

And we all know how to address needs. We don’t often explicitly call it that. More frequently we call it being neighborly, or being compassionate, or being generous – even without money. Being generous with our time, with our encouragement.

This gift that God has given us, well, He expects us to put it to use. He will provide the increase, as He always has.

And He will reward us. “For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

That is the business that God transacts. Giving to the wealthy, that they might, in turn, give it to the poor. The homeless. The imprisoned.

Because when we do these things to the poor – we are really, truly – in absolute reality – doing them to Christ Himself.

Sharing our material blessings. Sharing our time. Sharing our love.

Because they aren’t really ours – they are, rather, entrusted to us by God.

But I want to be honest – there is risk involved. What if someone takes advantage of us? What if someone doesn’t return our kindness?

That’s the risk. It might involve pain, or embarrassment, or subject us to ridicule.

In fact, we can count on it.

All the saints throughout history experienced it. The Theotokos experienced it. We will experience it. Because the world, the dominion of the Evil One, doesn’t understand giving. The world only understands taking. The world only understands selfishness.

Even though the world will ridicule and embarrass us, God will, when He deems it to be right, God will say to us.

Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!