Afraid to FailRachel Olsen
"To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance." Matthew 25:29a (NLT)
In Matthew 25 Jesus tells a story of a master who divided his money (unequally) into the care of three servants while he went on a trip. "The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master's money" (Matthew 25:16-18, NLT). When the master returned, he praised and rewarded the two servants who had multiplied his money.
Jesus continues the story:
"Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, 'Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn't plant and gathering crops you didn't cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.' "But the master replied, 'You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn't plant and gathered crops I didn't cultivate, why didn't you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.' "Then he ordered, 'Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away." (vs. 24-30)
I was surprised when I first read this parable that the master called that servant "wicked and lazy." After all, it doesn't say he was an axe murderer or a freeloader, right? It seems he just played it extra safe with his portion of money. Does that really make him "wicked and lazy?"
Maybe I could understand the "lazy" label because he just buried it and left it there. That doesn't take much effort compared to opening a savings account or investing in stocks, mutual funds or real estate. Plus, if you invest it, you need to manage it to minimize your losses should there be a stock market crash, or mortgage loan crisis. Yes, it is easier to stash money under a mattress than try to navigate the financial world of investments.
However, what really threw me was the label "wicked" applied to him. I don't know much about investing, and I've made some financial mistakes before, but does that make me wicked in God's eyes? Since I trust whatever Jesus says is true, I asked Him to show me why this man was deemed wicked.
I realized the overall topic of this parable is personal responsibility for use of our assets. By "assets," I refer to the things God has entrusted to us like our money, time, talents, mind, body, family, etc. The clear message is that God wants us to manage these things with excellence, and if we do, we will be rewarded. If we fail to, we may be penalized.
The master, who represents God in this parable, was chastising this servant because his "asset management style" required little effort, and even less faith. What made him "wicked" was believing the whispers of the Wicked One telling him that his master was too fickle to please and would surely punish him if he tries and fails.
What displeased the master was the servant's failure to bother to try when given the assignment.
Taking responsibility for, and seeking to be productive with our assets feels risky -- much like navigating the world of finance can -- but that should not cause us to bury our heads in the sand. I now see that this servant let Satan back him into a corner, with fear of failure and skewed notions of God, and immobilized what could've been used to glorify God and increase His Kingdom.
So today, I purpose to use my all in service of God when He gives me an assignment, no matter how risky it feels. Otherwise, I am denying the amazing grace of God available to me, and rendering useless the gifts my Master has given me. So let's learn from this servant by refusing to remain immobilized when we're afraid to fail.
Dear Lord, help me manage my time, talent, money, body and relationships in ways that please You, and grow Your Kingdom. Deliver me from fearing of failure. In Jesus' Name, Amen.