I love meatloaf.
There is something unique about it. Something you just do not expect when you first experience it. Something that catches you off guard and leaves you wondering what it really was.
I mean, really, who among us has not been shocked that an overweight and sweaty guy could belt out rock ballads like he was singing on an opera stage?
By now, I think you know I am not thinking about the meat dish, though I am a fan of that as well. I am thinking about the rock artist Meat Loaf. I’ve been a fan of his for some time. What I find enjoyable about his music is that it as unique as the meat dish that he derives his stage moniker from. You never know what to expect with Meat Loaf.
One of my favorite songs is a classic from the early 1990s entitled “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).” The song is a long-winded ballad about the lengths one person would go to express their love for someone, but also a recognition that there is a limit to their love. In all my times listening to the song, I have yet to figure out what that one thing is that Meat Loaf would not do for love.
Imagine, if you will, that the song applied to our faith in God. What might that one thing be? I think that one thing might be how we often respond to our love of the Lord. We will show our love of God in numerous ways, but many of us refrain from doing anything too difficult for the Lord. How many times have we said something like, “God, I will do anything anything to show much love for you. I will come to church (when I have the time). I will sing the song (as long as I know the lyrics). I will read Scripture and pray. I will even serve on a committee. But please, Lord, do not ask me to be stretched or to do anything too difficult. That I will not do.”
When we respond to God with the one thing we will not do in response to our love, we are kind of like the third servant found in Matthew 25:14-30. In this parable, we are told of a servant who is given a talent from his master, or landowner, and he wants nothing to do with it. Much in the same way, we want nothing to do with serving God if it is difficult or challenging. The fact is that Jesus often calls us to use the talents we have been given to do the difficult and challenging in our community. As we await Christ’s return, Jesus calls us to be faithful servants who do just that. We each have a calling, a responsibility, to be faithful servants who put our love of God into action in ways that grow the church and God’s kingdom.
We see this developed in the parable, which is the third of four parables between Matthew 24 and 25 that help us understand how we are to wait on Jesus’ return. These parables are stories that remind us of our responsibility as followers of Christ in this period of waiting. Last week, we said that in this waiting period, Christ calls us to prepare our hearts and to live with a sense of anticipation for the Lord’s return. Today, our passage builds on this by calling us to a live as faithful servants who seek to grow the church with what has been given to us.
This parable is classically referred to as the “parable of the talents.” A landowner is preparing to go on a long trip of an undetermined length of time. He brings together some of his servants and gives them shares of his finances. He gives one five talents, another three, and the last servant one. A talent equalled approximately 6,000 denarii, which was a coin used in the Roman Empire. Workers would typically receive one denarii for a day’s work, so 6,000 denarii would represent about 20 years of work. It was a huge trust that the landowner was placing in these servants with the assumed expectation of doing something with what was given to them.
Each responded to the gift in differing ways. Two of the servants put the money to work, though we are not told how, and made double what was given. When they meet with the landowner, they are told that they will receive his joy and be given more responsibility. The third servant however, the one who reminds us of us, does something different. He hides the money. Knowing that the talent is a big responsibility, the servant decides he wants nothing to do with it and buries the gift. When this third servant is confronted by the landowner, he begins to make excuses. He says the responsibility was too much, the landowner’s request was too hard, and he wanted nothing to do with it.
Truly, this third servant reflects how we often respond to God’s gifts in our lives. Each of us have been blessed with many gifts and abilities. Gifts of prayer, leadership, wisdom, hospitality, service, teaching, music, and so many others that God desires us to use to glorify the Lord and to share Christ’s love with others. Our passions, talents, and abilities are all gifts from God and are examples of how the Lord created each of us to reflect his love and grace.
What we have been given by God has been intended for us to use in order that we can respond to our love in ways that grow God’s kingdom and the church. It is difficult work, and work we can easily run from. When we know God desires something of us, we often go to the Lord with excuses of why we cannot do what God asks of us. We say things like, “God, I am too busy and do not have enough time,” “God, I don’t know what to do,” or “God, it’s too difficult and I will likely fail.” Much like the third servant, we respond to God with excuses that are really about our fear of being used for God. A fear we allow to prevent us from sharing Christ with others.
The landowner expresses his disappointment to the third servant, much in the same way God expresses his disappointment towards us when we allow fear to prevent us from growing the church and serving the Lord. The disappointment is there because God does not want our service to be defined by fear. Instead, he wants us to be people known as faithful servants who share Christ’s love and grow the church by our words, actions, and deeds.
What God desires is for our faith to be like the two servants who put into use the talents they were blessed with. God wants us to be faithful in our love of the Lord by using what we have been given, not for our own selfish gain, but to make disciples who share the love of Christ in ways that transform the hearts of those within our community. God desires for us to have a faith that is not a noun or an adjective, but a verb. A living, breathing, active faith that has the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ in all seasons.
All of us, no matter who we are, are tasked with being faithful servants who respond to our faith in Christ. We do this, I believe, in three basic ways. First, we love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. A faithful servant is someone who responds to God with our full heart. That is what the third servant missed. He had no love for the gift that was given to him or the one who gave it to him. We must be defined by our love of God and respond to others through our love of Christ.
Second, we must be faithful servants who grow in faith. It is not good enough to simply say we are saved. We are called to a daily renewal of our mind and heart that directs us to grow closer to Christ in our words, thoughts, actions, and deeds. The journey of faith calls us to a renewal of our heart that reflects the character of God in every aspect of our being.
Finally, we are to be faithful servants who love others in our service to Christ. We have a responsibility to use our gifts to make a difference in our community and to grow the church. None of us are exempt from building the church. Some of us are to be those who pray for the church. Some of us are to be those who use their hands and feet to meet the needs of others. Some are called to be people of grace who share God’s love with others through words. All of us have a part in being faithful servants who grow the church and transform the community around us.
The faithful servants who respond to the trust God has placed in them in love will be those known as “good and faithful servants.” They will be the ones who will be blessed by the joy of the Lord and will experience the fullness of God’s fellowship. As well, they will be the ones who will grow the church by their witness of hope into the world.
So, let it be us. Let us be a community of faithful servants, who through our various gifts and talents, will commit ourselves to growing the church. To be people who do not allow the fears of our hearts prevent us from growing the church and being the church God desires here.
It’s easy to be the servant who hides what we have been blessed with and run in fear. It’s more meaningful to being the faithful servant who accepts the difficult and the challenging, knowing that God has trusted us with a great mission and purpose. God has given us the tools and talents to do the work of growing the church.
Let us join our hearts together to be about this great work. Let us no longer be defined by the fear of the unknown, but to go boldly into the work God desires of us to make disciples, to change our community, and to grow the church.