Monday, November 20, 2023

I Quit!


Matthew 25:13-30

Proper 28 / Year A

George Bernard Shaw said people are always blaming their circumstances for what they are, but the people who make it in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, they make them.  Whatever philosophy provided the inner drive for the servant given the one talent in today’s parable, this was not it.  He looks at his boss and says, “I am afraid.”  He looks at his gift and says, “I don’t know what to do.”  And he looks within and says, “I don’t believe in myself.”  Putting it all together, he simply says, “I give up.  I quit.”  And that pretty much is that. 

There are two in the story who receive a trust and use it well and there is one in the story who does nothing.  Two are invited to enter into joy; although, as any of us knows, when you use your gifts and talents in pursuit of your deepest, most meaningful passions and interests, you already are in the midst of joy.  And then there is one who is sent to a place of darkness where there is weeping and ‘much dental distress’; but all of us, who from time to time, have been given to inaction, lack of focus, or loss of purpose, know doing nothing with what you have is itself already a place gloom and despair.

As we approach the end of the liturgical year, as what the church calls ‘ordinary time’ draws to a close, the Scripture readings always take on the theme of last things.  Last week we heard about the maidens who waited for the delayed groom’s arrival.  Some take extra oil for their lamps while others do not.  Those who do not are caught unprepared and miss out on the celebration.  And now this week we hear of a master who entrusts generous portions of his estate to servants who are to oversee affairs while he is away.  When he returns the servants are called to account, “What did you do with what I gave to you?”  “I was afraid.  I didn’t know what to do.  I gave up on myself.  I did nothing.  I quit.”  Judgment comes swift and sure to such a person.

George Costanza, in a Seinfeld episode, once bellowed, “Yeah, I’m a great quitter: it’s one of the few things I do well… I come from a long line of quitters.  My father was a quitter, my grandfather was a quitter… I was raised to give up.”  Christian theology does not bred quitters.  It tells us not to fear God, but to trust God.  It tells us not to wait for directions, but to trust the Holy Spirit to guide our instincts and to direct the righteous desires of our hearts.  It tells us to believe in ourselves because we are made in the image of a creative and creating God.  It tells us not to give up and not to give in and to use all we have, be it a lot or a little, to the glory of God and for the benefit of all.

In the days of Jesus, a talent was equal to fifteen years of wages for a day laborer – something close to $200,000 by today’s minimum wage standard.  It is not chump-change and this is what the servant given the least received.  What would you do if someone entrusted you with $200,000?  This, the least amount, is still sizeable, isn’t it.  According to the theology of Jesus, the least among us has gifts and talents and resources which are more than abundant.  What are you doing with yours?  Something?  Anything?  Or have you given up on yourself and quit on what God has given you?

Maybe you say to yourself, “I am too old now to make a difference.”  Nonsense.  Maybe you say, “I am too young.”  Wrong.  Maybe your excuse is, “I don’t have enough education” or “I am not qualified.”  Well, get the education you need and get qualified.  God gives you everything you need to do good things.  Heck, God gives you the ability to do great things.  What is holding you back? 

I am proud of the members of our youth group.  They have identified food insecurity as a community issue they care about and want to address.  They are planning to build what will be called “Suffolk’s Lil’ Food Pantry” and place it on our parish property.  Functioning just like the Lending Library boxes, Lil’ Food Pantries are a national movement.  Our motto is going to be “Take What You Need.  Leave What You Can” and it is a perfect example of using the talents entrusted to you to make a real difference.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who is famous for her work on grief, said, “People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.  This inner light is the light of Christ.  It guides us when we are strong.  It sustains us when we are weak.  It speaks to us of God’s love when we are afraid of God.  It helps us to pick up ourselves, dust off ourselves, and keep trying when things don’t go our way.  It is the voice that says, “I believe in you.  Do not give up on yourself.  Do not quit.”