There were times when Jerry Beamer could be downright irritating. What was his problem, anyway? Why did he always have to be so negative? “We’ve never done it that way before …” was always his ultimate defense. Peter Braden sat, silently fuming, reviewing his notes while the other members of the board carried on the animated discussion. Establishing a ‘drop-in center’ in the Sandhurst Industrial Park was certainly a radically new idea for the relatively small congregation, but, in discussion with other members of the board, Peter knew that there was a consensus of opinion indicating that it was definitely ‘doable’. Still, Jerry Beamer pulled a lot of weight with the ‘old school’ members.
‘Sandhurst Industrial Park’ was a recently renovated low-cost housing development in the north-end of the city. Since it had been revamped, it had been renamed Sandhurst Estates but everyone still referred to the area by its original designation. Until five years ago, the area had been infamous for it’s derelict warehouses among the abandoned railway yards. After a major fire destroyed three of the old structures in one night, the city council decided to redevelop the area in a manner that would help to solve the existing housing crisis. Regardless of the facelift, and the city’s ad campaign declaring the virtues of urban revitalization, the district still carried the stigma of the past.
Pastor Harvey Bernatti had been raised in a similar environment, and, more recently, had been impressed with the need to establish an outreach into that community. Of course, the initial response was one of genuine fervor, but, in the past few months, the idea had drawn increasing criticism. Tonight, the pastor sat with his board, discussing the methods of achieving such an undertaking.
“Why should we be concerned about that area of the city? We’ve got enough to worry about just keeping our heads above water as it is. And just who do we expect to run this thing?” Jerry’s voice was bordering on sarcasm.
“George Barker has offered to organize this operation for us”, Pastor Harvey reminded him, “and with his experience, and his testimony, I believe that the Lord will bless him for his efforts.”
“And not only that”, Peter interjected with obvious excitement, “North-end Properties has offered us space in the old Macdonald Building for only one thousand dollars a month!”
For the first time that Peter could remember, Jerry Beamer was speechless. He looked at each of his comrades in turn, trying to detect a trace of humor on anyone’s face, but all he saw was genuine sincerity. “George ?” Jerry finally sputtered, “what would George Barker know about a ministry like that? And a thousand dollars a month? Where is that going to leave us financially?”
George Barker was a relatively new addition to the body of believers. He was in his late twenties, his Sunday appearance was extremely casual, to say the least, and his personality was definitely laid-back. Some people thought he was almost frivolous, but Pastor Harvey knew that there was a spiritual depth and an evangelistic fervor to George that few people ever saw. As for the price-tag on the project, though it sounded risky, most people conceded that it could be done. When the final vote was taken, there were three affirmative votes, and one dissenting. And so it happened that Agape Center was birthed.
It was almost a year since the tension-filled meeting had occurred. A young man with shoulder-length hair, dressed in a fleece top and jogging pants, sat beside June and Keith Proctor, obviously comfortable with the time of praise and worship. June and Keith had been the first-fruits of the Agape Center outreach. In response to George Barker’s patient ministry, their crumbling marriage had been repaired, and the Lord was evidently using their new-found love to give birth to still more ‘babes in Christ’. Pastor Harvey was once again overcome with gratitude to God for His love and grace to the little flock. Agape Center had certainly proved to be a good investment, with visible returns in response to the fervent prayers of the faithful. As for Jerry Beamer, at the annual meeting, the congregation had not renewed his appointment to the board. In his place, George Barker had been installed as the newest board member, and continued to serve the Lord, as well as the congregation, in the new direction that God was leading His people.
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods... In the parable that followed, Jesus taught his disciples a valuable lesson in stewardship. It is a parable that causes much soul-searching in an attempt to find the answer to the question – “What have we done with what we have been given?” We can understand the spiritual application, when we think of the differing levels of ability that the landowner recognized in each of his servants. They were not all entrusted with the same amount. Rather, Jesus said, they were each given according to their ‘several ability’. Notice that the Master had already determined their ability, and fully expected that each of them would perform to their greatest potential. We often think that, within the Kingdom, everyone is on an ‘equal footing’. Though Jesus taught that we are equal in our eternal value to the Kingdom, He did recognize that, in each of our lives, there are differing levels of individual capabilities.
Having assessed the capabilities of each of his servants, the landowner left them to their duties and went on a journey. Though no specific instructions were given, it is apparent that he fully expected each servant to act in a trustworthy manner in his absence. The one who had received the five talents proceeded to earn five more talents through his prudent efforts during his master’s absence. Similarly, the one who had received the two talents was able, through practical endeavors, to produce two more talents. However, we know the story of the servant who had received only one talent.
Obviously, the object of the exercise was not to increase the wealth or social standing of the servants to whom the amounts were entrusted. Rather, the intent was to enhance the wealth of the master. Similarly, we can understand that the gifts that God gives to us in our present circumstances are definitely not for our personal advantage. They are to be used solely for the purpose of furthering, or adding increase to the kingdom of Heaven. Perhaps, knowing that he stood to make no personal gain in the effort, the servant who had received the lone talent determined that he was not going to make someone else rich from his own endeavors. The ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ mentality caused him to simply bury his lord’s money in the backyard, waiting, unprofitably for the master’s return. In a moment of self-examination, we should all, periodically, ask ourselves if such is not the rationale that often keeps us from acting to further the Kingdom of Heaven. Do we hesitate to take certain risks, realizing that, ultimately we stand to gain no ‘special merit badges’ for our efforts?
Indeed, the very heart of the servant is exposed in his defense to the master’s scrutiny. “I knew that you were a stern man...” the servant begins, “...so here is what is really yours”, as he hands the master only the amount of the initial investment. Can we detect a hint of accusation there? In his mind he has already judged his master’s motives to be less than perfect. Because of his biased estimation of his master, he conducts himself in a manner that is in direct opposition to the purpose of his position. One could speculate that perhaps the master already knew the heart of his servant, and consequently limited the opportunities for the man. Certainly, if he had entrusted this man with the five talents, the master would have incurred a much greater opportunity loss. Whatever the rationale, it was apparent that this servant had proved himself to be untrustworthy.
“Even if you didn’t want to assume the risk...” the master rephrases the servants defense, “you should have, at the very least, put the money in the bank. That way I would have earned simple interest on my investment”. It is sobering to think how many of us will hear only the Master’s rebuke when it is revealed that we have taken what has been entrusted to us, and merely hid it in some inconspicuous corner of our lives. Rather than using it for the advancement of the Kingdom, and at least attracting the interest that builds up over such an investment, we have concealed His blessings in some ‘spiritual safety-deposit box’. There it remains, without benefit to us, and totally unprofitable to the Kingdom of Heaven. Recognizing that ‘every good and perfect gift is from above’, and that ‘we are not our own, but have been bought with a price’, should motivate us to act wisely in order to increase the Kingdom of Heaven. When we have experienced an increase of the investment that the Master has made in our lives, then we can be assured of His approval. On the day of reckoning, then, we will hear His commendation - “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter into the joy of your Lord”.
For to everyone that has, Jesus concluded, more shall be given, and he shall have abundance. In a valuable lesson in spiritual economics, we learn that the one who “has” or “lays hold of” the riches of the kingdom will be given more to the point of “abundance” or overflow. Conversely, to him that that has not, shall be taken away – even what he has. If we fail to lay hold of the riches of the kingdom, choosing to accumulate them for ourselves rather than using them to increase the kingdom of Heaven, we stand to lose even the little morsels that we have hoarded.
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