How many of us grew up thinking of God as one whose “performance standards” were rigid and unbending? Weren’t many of us taught to believe that this God requires us to work out our own salvation, and it was up to us whether or not we enter into paradise? This was the One who told us that we had choices to make. Yet, on the other hand we are told that we are loved and there is nothing we can do to lose God’s love. We don’t earn salvation, but by birthright are entitled to the Kingdom. It’s not my place to say either belief is or was right or wrong. And while it’s not my place to say that we have no “skin in the game,” and can’t do anything to earn it, I do believe we are “required” to live a God centered life as Jesus did…even if the Kingdom is our “entitlement.”
It gets confusing doesn’t it? On the one hand Jesus tells us the Kingdom of God is at hand, and on the other hand he seems to be telling us that there are measurable performance standards prior to entry. Note last week’s parables of the “foolish virgins” (Matthew 25:1-1-3) and this week’s the “talents” (Matthew 25:14--30 ). Perhaps, the story of the talents has more to say about attitudes than reward and punishment, and is consistent with leading a God-centered life the Jesus way. How we use what we have been given, and the willingness to step out of our comfort zone and live the beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) and practice the Two Great Commandments (Matthew 22:36-40) are all about the personal responsibility we have to live life fully as Christians. Life, love and faith, like money, require the taking of risks in order to grow. And risks require relationships and relationships - true relationships - require that we have the courage to be open, to be vulnerable, to let go of pretense and give our egos a rest. We must take risks and invest ourselves in one another.
When we put our talents to work in the service of God, we take risks. When we are willing to be imperfect and reveal our humanity we are capable of being open to one another and see ourselves in the other. This is risky business and taking risks is not easy; its consequences can cause anxiety. When we invest ourselves in one another, the outcome cannot be guaranteed. But, so what…we have a “safety net. Nancy Rockwell writes, “…there is power that comes from the joy of receiving life as a gift, and from the confidence of being loved by God. The enthusiasm in this sure hope opens us readily to share with others the bounty we have, our bounty of ideas, of welcome, of the riches in the day itself, and all of this is a sure way to increase our bounty. Matthew says those who were given much went to others for help in increasing it. That upbeat, expectant interaction, that can-do spirit, grows everything it touches.”