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Discipline and Risk

It’s only January. Those of you, like me, who may have resolved to do something are still motivated and going strong. (Keep it up, whatever it is!) I am currently going through a book that I have had for a long time, probably a gift received during my college days. I have returned to it many times and it continues to prove fruitful in my life. This week’s theme is discipline which sounds like a hoot, right? Stay with me. The text from today’s reading was that engaging story Jesus told about the talents from Matthew 25:14-30. Eugene Peterson calls it “A Story About Investment” in his paraphrase, The Message.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this parable, let me sum it up. Picture Lord Grantham from Downton Abbey. He goes on a long trip and delegates some financial responsibilities to Mr. Carson, Mrs. Hughes and let’s say Thomas Barrow. He gives them all a sum of money to invest for him which he will collect upon his return. Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes both invest the money somehow and double it by the time Lord Grantham returns. Thomas, on the other hand, chooses to keep the money given to him locked up under his bed for safe-keeping. (For those of you who watched Downton Abbey, you know that Thomas had some up and down moments but still we rooted for his redemption by the end of the series.) Here my analogy ends and we shift to the main point.

In Jesus’s telling of the story, the master tells the servants who double his money, “Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.” When confronting the servant who hid his money, the master receives this justification from the servant: “Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money.” Needless to say, the master is furious with the servant who hid the money saying, “That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that.” (The Message)

What dawned on me this morning as I read was that there were two obstacles that kept this servant from becoming the master’s partner. First, the servant had a distorted view of the master. It was a graceless perspective that bound the master to a role akin to hostile dictatorship. The servant had very little relational equity with the master. The other obstacle was that of fear. Fear of his master’s harsh nature kept him from taking any risk with the entrusted money.

My “aha” of the day is that God wants us embrace this discipline of taking risks based on the foundation of His generous relationship with us. In scripture, Christ describes God’s love as that of a father waiting for his prodigal son to come home so that he can throw a party for him. God is not the finger wagging deity who delights in seeing us grovel in our mistakes. Rather, God is the kind of person that you can bare your soul to because His love is so extravagant for you. God is safe. What ruffles God’s feathers is when we live lives satisfied with lesser things because we are enslaved by fear and a skewed view of who He is. In my understanding of this text, our heavenly Father rejoices when we go big because we know we will land in love.

How many of you, like me, could go bigger than we are currently doing? How many of us could risk more on behalf of God’s love for us and the world? I have been feeling nudged by the Spirit into adventures that are bigger than me. I hear God’s voice in my imagination saying, “Forget this master and servant thing, let’s be partners!”

Lord – teach me to embrace the discipline of risky business with You. Let me be bold to invest what You have entrusted to me for the sake of Your Kingdom. Thanks for reminding me that You’d rather have me go big than stay safe. And thanks, Jesus, for telling such great stories.