In The Message, Eugene Peterson translates the third slave’s remarks like this, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’
Contrast his words with the actions of the other two: the third slave ‘knows’ the master to be:
1. Of high standards
2. Hating of careless ways
3. Demanding our best
4. Making no allowances for error
and his response to this way of seeing the master was fear. And out of his fear, he did nothing. He risked nothing. And he reaped nothing.
Knowing of the master’s high standards, two did their best and one did . . . nothing.
Knowing his requirement of excellence in the effort, two worked hard and the third did . . . nothing.
Knowing they were expected to give their best, two did and one did . . . nothing.
Believing they had to be perfect, two strived with all their abilities while the third did . . . nothing.
The well-known promise doctors make: First do no harm, comes to mind . . . refraining from hurting others is not the fulfillment of our duty to God and to others – it is merely the first step of that journey.
If we go no further than doing no harm, we haven’t even left the house.
It’s as if we drive by a man run over by a car by driving around him. We can claim no virtue simply because we didn’t run over him again, now can we?
John Wesley suggests that the point is this: not doing bad is not the same at all as doing good.
The third man was simply not invested in the kingdom of heaven. He thought to take no risk in order to suffer no loss. He was hedging his bets.
But what of the results? Are the three judged on their willingness to risk it all for their master? Or on the fact that two of them succeeded in their risk? After all, not all risks ‘pay off’. So which is it, do you think? Are we judged on our efforts? Or on our results?
I would suggest it’s both: as it points out many places elsewhere in scripture, we shall be judged by our fruits – the actual results (as opposed to our intentions or efforts).
But – and this is important – it also says time and again that our results, just like our talents, in fact, just like everything that we have and everything that we are, actually aren’t ours – they’re God’s.
So perhaps we might do well to think about it this way: we are to give our all, whatever our all may be. And ‘all’ means ‘all’. When it comes to God and doing God’s work, we are not to hold back. When we give our all, the fruits will come, because God will see to it. The results may not be as obvious as doubling our investments. But results there will be.
We are co-workers with Christ. Christ does his part. We must also do ours.
The kingdom of heaven is not a thing . . . we can’t just wait for it to show up so we can get on board. The kingdom is not the present Santa leaves for us to discover under the tree.
The kingdom of heaven is something we have to work for – right here, right now, for the simple reason that we are it.
The kingdom of heaven is God’s investment, God’s risk, in us. God has invested everything – in you . . . it’s time . . . you’ve gotten ready . . . you’re all set . . . now it’s time to go!
Go into the world with faith . . .
Go into your own lives with hope . . .
Go into the hearts of others with love . . .
Sisters and brothers, just go!