Return On Investment

Return On Investment

Rev. Steve Norden, Senior Pastor
Rev. Steve Norden, Senior Pastor

“For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matthew 25:29-30

Two of the more challenging parables of Jesus come at the end of the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew. I find them challenging, not because they’re difficult to understand, but because they are so difficult to follow. For the moment, let’s focus on the second to the last parable in this chapter.

Most of us may know this parable as the “Parable of the Talents.” A talent, in this parable, is a unit of currency. Three servants are called by their master and given varying talents. To one is given ten, to another five and to the third one. The first two, through ingenuity and industriousness, double their talents. The third plays it safe, burying the talent in the ground so as to not lose it or have it stolen. When the master returns and calls each servant to give an account, the two who have doubled their talents are greatly rewarded while the third is chastised and condemned for doing nothing.

I want to be very clear that Jesus was not quick to chastise and condemn. Throughout the gospels, we find abundant evidence of Jesus’ mercy and grace. And yet we cannot escape or evade the point of this parable.

What’s the point? It’s not about what we have been given but what we do with what we have been given, particularly what we do in the cause of Christ. How easy it would be to fall prey to “talent envy” and to desire what someone else has or think that we are “less than” because we do not have what others have. Again, this misses the point.

Because a talent was a unit of currency in Jesus’ day, this parable does speak to the stewardship of our financial resources. However, I want to encourage us to consider the stewardship of our time. Time has been distributed to us universally and equally. No one has more or less time than another. How we use our time is what differentiates us. I would also argue that time is equally valuable as currency. In other words, how we invest our time in the cause of Christ is as significant as how we invest our finances.

Over a decade ago, I heard Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Church in Barrington, IL, speak at a pastors’ conference. He was speaking about how the Church would be invested in the cause of Christ as it was entering the 21st century. In the mid to latter part of the 20th century, many churches invested in human resources in order to increase their impact in God’s work. That required a concurrent increase in the amount of financial resources. Hybels told us that the handwriting was already on the wall. Financial stewardship in most churches was not keeping pace with members’ expectations of programs and ministries. He drew a graph with the x axis representing expectations and the y axis representing finances. There was a growing gap between the two. What would bridge the gap? In Hybels’ opinion, it would have to be volunteers (what we at New Hope call “unpaid staff”).

We’re about to enter the summer months at New Hope, months when our Children’s Ministry offers two of its “great impact” programs. In June we will offer Sports Camp and in July VBS. Each of these has the potential to make a very significant impact on the children attending, particularly as they hear and are invited to consider who Jesus Christ is for them. Each of these also require a great number of unpaid staff/volunteers.

As you hear Jesus’ words “for to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away,” I urge you to invest your time by serving as a Children’s Ministry unpaid staff member. And, if children are not “your thing,” there are plenty of other opportunities where you are able to serve at New Hope. Remember, it’s not what you have but what you do with what you have. You may be making an investment that reaps dividends for eternity.


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