USEFUL or USELESS

Rev. John J. Tran Kha

A little boy came home eating a big candy bar. His mother (remembering he had already spent all his allowance) asked him where he got it.

"I bought it at the store with the dollar you gave me," he said.

"But that dollar was for Church," his mother replied.

"I know, Mom," he said, "but I asked the Pastor at the door ‘how much it costs for the service and he said, “no charge for you son! So he got me in for free!"

Many people are acting like this little boy, using up our God’s given gifts on something else, and then trying to get into heaven without having to pay the due. No, it is not possible to get into heaven without cost. There is a price to pay. There are responsibilities to fulfill.  Jesus is clear on this, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Mt 7: 21).

Expecting Profits

The Gospel parable of the “Talents” describes the nature of Christian life. This is not ‘high-theology’ but very practical. We are familiar with it. It is about investment. The parable sounds very much like ‘capitalism’ to me. I think capitalists borrowed the idea from Jesus.

It should be called “spiritual capitalism.”

“A capitalist is someone who has great wealth invested in a business.”

And Capitalism is defined as “an economic, political, social system based on private ownership of property, business, industry, and directed toward making greatest possible profits for successful organization and people.”

We can also define, “Spiritual capitalism is religious, economic, political, social system based on ownership of our gifts, using our minds, hearts and will, directed toward making greatest possible profits for successful kingdom of God and God’s people.

God, like the master in today's parable believes in us. The master entrusts each of his three servants with large amount of money. He expects them to bring him profits.

God entrusts us with different gifts. He expects us to do well and bring profits for his kingdom. It is important that we discover the gifts that God has entrusted to us and use them to make profits in God’s Kingdom.

Listen to what the Master says: “Well done, my good and faithful servant!” or “You wicked, lazy servant!” This implies that there are responsibilities to fulfill, and attitude expected.

“Well done!” means mission accomplished. Responsibilities have been fulfilled.

“Good and faithful” means attitude approved. God is pleasing with the way we conduct our life.

“Lazy” means mission unaccomplished. Responsibilities have not been unfulfilled.

“Wicked” means attitude disapproved. Entrusted gifts had been abused and used for wrong purposes.

Faithful Servants Rewarded

Being good and faithful is not mere theological correctness, passive waiting, or strict obedience to clear instructions, but active responsibility that takes initiative and risk. It is important to notice that the master gives no instructions as to what is to be done with the money. So faithfulness is not merely obedience to direction. Each servant must decide how to use his time and talents during the master’s absence. How are we to do that? The success of our Christian living is determined by how well we invest for God. What really matters is not how well or poorly we have developed our talents in the past. What really matter is how well we develop our talents today . . . and tomorrow. It is not right to feel inferior. I do not have enough. I am not good enough. I have only one talent. Let people who have two or five to do it. I cannot sing; I cannot teach; I do not have a degree etc. Please have no excuse. Just use the gifts we have . . . When we excuse investing in the kingdom, we are burying our gifts. And God is not going to like it.

None of us wants to be like the useless and foolish servant who buried his gift because he was afraid of losing it. We want to be like the two good useful and faithful servants who invested the talents entrusted to them to make profits for his master.  Sooner or later, God will settle up with you and me for the talents he has given us. What would you tell him?

What would you want to hear from him?

We would love to hear God giving us his affirmation: “Great job! Well done. I appreciate your good work and your faithfulness.”

We would like to receive promotion: “Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.” The rewards for faithful productive servants will be a lot more than what he was entrusted to manage. If we would like to hear God saying: “Come! Share your Master’s joy! Let’s celebrate together!” It is important that we discover our entrusted gifts and use it for God’s purpose.

A Teacup

There is a little children’s book about a couple in Sussex, England who were buying a new teacup. The wife said to her husband, “Look at this one. It is so beautiful, I want to buy it!”

And the teacup said, “Ah, but you know I wasn’t always beautiful.”
Now in the children’s story the teacup can talk, and the couple isn’t surprised, so they simply asked the teacup what it meant.

The teacup said, “Originally I was just a soggy, ugly, damp lump of clay. They put me on a wheel and they started turning that wheel until my head became dizzy. Then they started to poke and prod, and it hurt! I cried out, ‘Stop!’ But they said, ‘Not yet.’

At long last they did stop the wheel and put me into a furnace. It became hotter and hotter until I thought I could no longer stand it, and I cried out, ‘Stop.’

But they said, ‘Not yet.’

Finally they took me out of the furnace and someone started to put paint on me and the fumes from the paint made me ill. It made my head swim and I cried out, ‘Stop!’

But they said, ‘Not yet!’

When at long last they had finished painting, they put me back into the furnace and it was hotter than before.

And I cried out, ‘Stop!’ and they said, ‘Not yet.’

Finally, they took me out of the furnace, and after I had cooled down, they placed me on a tabletop in front of a mirror. I remembered myself as a soggy, ugly, damp lump of clay. When I looked at my image in the mirror, I lost my breath and I said, in amazement, ‘I am beautiful.’ And then I knew that it was only the pain that I went through that had made it possible for me to be beautiful.” 

If we use all the gifts and talents that God has given us and make his image more visible in us, on the last day, God will look at us and says, “You are beautiful; you are faithful servant; you have done my will; you have well used all the gifts I entrusted to you, and you have made my image in you clearly seen; you and I look very much alike! Come share your Master’s joy!”