Psalm 100:1-5 and Matthew 25:14-30
(Quoted scripture is New International Version)
Teacher and author Dr. David McLennon tells a story of his very first job in a small town general store. At age thirteen he was hired as a handy boy. He would sweep the floor, bag items for customers, put up stock. On one particular Saturday he heard the owner say to one of the clerks “It’s that time of the year again, it’s time to take inventory.” Dr. McLennon wrote this was a word he didn’t know the meaning of. He went up to the kindly older man and asked, “Sir, what is an inventory?” Patiently the owner explained that it was a time when you made a list of everything that you had–from groceries on the shelves to wrapping paper and string. Still somewhat puzzled, the young McLennon then asked, “Why?”
“Well,” responded the owner, “it is easy to forget exactly how much you have each year. Every now and then you have to take an inventory just to see what you have.”
This little story pretty well sums up what Thanksgiving is all about. It is a time when each of us needs to ask ourselves the question: Have I taken inventory of my life lately? Have I made an effort to count all the things that I do have in life instead of complaining about the things that I don’t have? It is a good exercise especially when we are of a mind to brood or whine in self-pity. Have you taken inventory lately?
From time to time we need to sit down and do some talking to ourselves about all of the gifts and opportunities and challenges that God has given each one of us.
Oprah Winfrey encouraged us to keep a Gratitude Journal.
Try it. You might be amazed at what God has given you.
A thirty-eight-year-old scrubwoman would go to the movies and sigh, “If only I had her looks.” She would listen to a singer and moan, “If only I had her voice.” Then one day someone gave her a copy of the book, The Magic of Believing by Claude M Bristol. She stopped comparing herself with actresses and singers. She stopped crying about what she didn’t have and started concentrating on what she did have. She took inventory of herself and remembered that in high school she had a reputation for being the funniest girl around. She began to turn her liabilities into assets. When she was at the top of her career Phyllis Diller made over $1 million a year. She wasn’t good-looking and she had a scratchy voice, but she could make people laugh. She took inventory and recognized the talent God had given her, took the risk, used her talent and the return she realized was amazing!
When she said, “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.” I could relate to that. My saying is, ‘You can have a neat, clean house and nice furniture, or you can have a happy family. Both cannot exist while the kids are growing up.’ Joe and I chose a happy family and we replaced the furniture and hired a cleaning lady after the kids were grown and gone!
Another of her sayings was, “Housework won’t kill you, but why take a chance.” That’s my motto too!
In Jesus’ parable in the Gospel of Matthew about the three servants, two of the servants use the talents God gave them wisely and prospered, but the one who does not use his talent wisely, loses everything. Use It or Lose It.
Matthew 25:14-18, “Again, it (the kingdom of God) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”
When the master returns he rewards the servants who have doubled what they had been given, saying to each, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (vv. 21, 23). He says to the servant who buried his talent, “You wicked, lazy servant! (v.26a)” “-Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v. 30)
Have you ever wondered why Jesus chose to tell the story this way, picking on the poor, timid, one-talent servant? Why wasn’t it the five-talent servant who hid his money? He certainly had a lot more to lose, after all. A talent was a lot of money, and he had five of them!
I believe Jesus will hold us accountable for the talents, the gifts, we’ve been given, whether five or more or one. I think Jesus wants to point out the responsibility of ordinary people, which we are. For every five-talent person, there are hundreds of ordinary, one-talent people.
This is Jesus’ way of reminding us ordinary folks that God doesn’t just call superstars like Billy Graham for service in the kingdom. God needs each of us and expects us to use our gifts, no matter how small or insignificant we might think those gifts are.
In scripture we read of one-talented people – people like Moses, Peter, Mary, a small boy with a small lunch.
The one thing these folks had in common was that they were willing to allow God to use the gifts they had been given. When we are willing to risk everything for the kingdom, to let God use our unique talents, we find that the return on our investment works to build the kingdom of God.
When we invest the gifts God has given us and risk talking to someone about Jesus Christ and the impact He has had on our lives, or when we serve someone who could never repay us, then we realize that the talent that has been given to us is not for ourselves, but for others, in order to build God’s Kingdom.
Mark Twain once said, “Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” The one talent servant in our lesson today sure could have used that common-sense advice from Mark Twain. The one talent servant did not invest himself or his resources, and thus, he inherited what he had invested, which was nothing. The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon but that we sometimes wait too long to live it!
Herman Cain was CEO and president of Godfather’s Pizza, Inc., from 1986–1996. Cain is an African-American man who was raised in poverty. He credits his hard-working father for his success in life. Throughout Herman’s life, his father worked three or four jobs at a time in order to support his family.
In addition to his father, Herman Cain also found inspiration from Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays, a former president of Morehouse College. Dr. Mays taught Herman a poem titled Just a Minute, that has guided him through the ups and downs of life.
“Life is just a minute/ Only sixty seconds in it,
Forced upon you, can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,
But it’s up to you to use it.
You must suffer if you lose it,
Give an account if you abuse it,
Just a tiny little minute, /But eternity is in it.”
Look into your heart, take inventory and realize everything you have is a gift from God to be used for His glory. Whatever gifts you have, whether five or more or one, use them, don’t lose them.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me to stop and recognize the blessings you’ve given to me. Help me also to look into my heart and see the talents, the gifts you have given to me which I am not using to glorify you. Enlighten me as to how I can be a blessing to You. Amen
Pastor Rosemary DeHut