Gifts vs Talents

'Lost and Found' by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission.
“Lost and Found” by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission.

November 20, 2022

November 19, 2017

Matthew 25:14-30

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“It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’[Then] the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’

Today I woke up and it was my Mom’s birthday. And I came to the realization that, for the first time in my life, I was not going to be able to call my Mom on her birthday because we lost her in May of this year. And the sadness of that isn’t so much that my Mom was relieved of her broken body here, but that she was very much the woman described in Proverbs. She was a good wife to my Dad; she was a wonderful mother. She was someone who could just make you feel better with a hug. She was a wonderful cook. She was also somebody who could listen to a 14-year old boy whose heart had just been broken and know exactly what to say at the time to make him feel better.

So, she had all these wonderful gifts. She was also the President of the Altar Society that helped to build the church we attended when we were young and lived in my little small hometown. So, she did many, many things.

Today is my son’s birthday. I learned very early that my son had gifts. He’s a musician. He’s a very, very intelligent kid – can pick up any instrument and play it immediately. But I learned very, very early that his greatest gift was the gift of bargaining. He was one of the greatest negotiators this world has never known. I learned very early that whenever I would tell him I needed him to do something, when our eyes met that it was on. And it might take minutes, it might take an hour, it might take a couple of hours. But at some point, I would finally give up and say, “You gotta do it because I told you so.” He never lost a negotiation with me -I just used my power to be able to do that. And, so, I have not called my son on his birthday today because I don’t want to negotiate how Happy Birthday is going to go.

But everyone has gifts. Everyone sitting in this space right now has gifts. Some of us have more gifts. Some of us have less gifts. Some of us have very, very few gifts. But the fact is that all of us have gifts. And I know this because of our experience recently with a storm – Harvey. When we had so many people to come to offer help to do things that is became so chaotic, that we had to send people away because people were running into each other, and trying to do the same thing at the same time, but in different directions.

But amazingly, leadership showed up. Those with the gift of leadership moved forward. And after them, those with the gift of being able to organize came forward. And the next thing you knew, everything just began to flow, at which point we were able to invite back all of those people who were help. Their greatest gift was helping. So we were able to invite them back to be able to provide food for whose homes had been destroyed, to help muck out their homes, to do so many things to help their brothers and sisters – people they had never even met.

So, gifts are very, very important. But Jesus is talking about talents today. And I think we make the mistake of thinking that the talents are the gifts. The talents are actually monetary units. And we looked it up. One talent would pay for 16 years of labor for a laborer. It’s equal to about $30,000. So, the gifts that are so prevalent are there, but you can’t do anything with the gifts without something else – something very, very valuable, something that can only be given by God. That’s opportunity to use your gifts.

And, so, whenever Harvey came in, that was an opportunity for us to be able to do for others. There are many things that happen in this community. We’re able to reach out.  Our Mercy Ministry is built on that completely – to be able to help when the opportunity is presented. 

So, we need to understand that even though you may have great gifts – a great number of gifts – you’re going to get greater opportunities. Those who have less gifts will have less opportunity. And those who have very few gifts will get very, very few. The fact is that we have to take advantage of those opportunities, because if we don’t, then those opportunities are going to be going away.

But this community, I have always been since I have been here, I have been overwhelmed with what this community does. This is not like any community that surrounds us. This community is very, very special. It is very, very gifted, and we do have many opportunities to serve. But I do believe that we hide our talents in one particular place. Its not always, but I do believe that we are not perfect and that we do make this mistake because we are afraid sometimes to take a risk.

So, let me actually give you a situation that was posited to us by one of our own parishioners. A young family moves into Northwest Houston, and they are looking for a church home. So, they are a mixed marriage, husband is Methodist, wife is Catholic. They have 2 children: 4 and 6 years old – have not been catechized at all at any of their church stops before.  And so, the wife asks the husband, “Can we go find a church that we can attend as a family?” And he goes, “Yeah”. The husband has zero desire for a church life, but he agrees because he wants to make his wife happy. And, so, she talks to people around and she hears from different people about this wonderful oasis. It’s called Prince of Peace. Its so loving, its so welcoming. And so, she looks on the web site. She gets the Mass times. And she tells the husband that they’re going to be coming to Mass.

And so, as happens from time to time, children cause delays. And so, they were very late getting here. And the situation in the parking lot means they are now walking from Home Depot. Look, we’ve all experienced that. That’s a long way to the north parking lot. So, they’re walking, and they’re passing people, and nobody’s speaking. Everybody’s in a hurry. And they have no clue where to drop their children for childcare. They don’t have time, and nobody’s offering any of that information. So, they run just as hard as they can to get to the narthex. And as they com in, the procession has begun. So, they’re held back.

Once the procession has finished, they get brought in by an usher, and the usher brings them to a row. And life many of the rows, like when I look out here right now, each of these pews has a gap. But the gap is in the middle. Alright? So, the usher comes up to the person sitting on the edge, Mr. I-Got-Here-An-Hour-And-A-Half-Early-So-That-I-Have-The-Outside-Seat. He taps him on the shoulder and this guy gets upset because he had to stand up and move out so that people can get to the center of the pew. So, this is their experience of this loving community that she’s heard so much about. So, they get into the center and they sit down, and the Worship begins. And no one can tell us that Worship at Prince of Peace is anything but a beautiful experience. And so, all of the stuff that went beforehand is kind of just washed out.

And then at the end, they hear the announcements, and in the announcements they hear, “We’re having a Fellowship Sunday across the way. “Why don’t you come over, (and if its Father John) have gourmet donuts, and this wonderful coffee from around the world? They think, “That’s wonderful!” They head over, they get their donuts, they get their cup of coffee and they sit down at a table – where they sit alone the whole time.

And so, I ask you, do you think they feel welcomed? Do you think that they will return to Prince of Peace next week? Will we continue to miss these opportunities by burying our talent because we don’t want to take a risk of meeting someone we don’t know? What if its somebody who is wearing weird clothes? What if their hair is cut really strange? What if they have piercings all over them? Do we not welcome them? Do we bury our talents just and let them just go their way because they’re not like us? What if they live a different lifestyle? Do we ignore them? Do we put them away? Do we continue to miss the opportunity to bring new people to Christ?

In all of this, I can’t help but think about my 2 golden retriever puppies. They’re 2 years old. They’re not really puppies but they’re not adults yet. But within 30 seconds of you walking into my house, my golden retriever puppies are going to know everything about you. Then they are going to invite you in to come sit on the sofa because they want to lay at your feet and just be your friend.

So, my prayer would be that we could be more like my puppies, and less afraid of taking a risk. So that we can return to the Master more than what He gave us.

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