Tag Archives: money

Risks everywhere

How do you feel about taking risks? Do you enjoy being scared? For that matter, what do you think Christian faith has to say about taking risks?  This isn’t just a rhetorical opening. I want you to think clearly and have an answer: Does Christian faith encourage risk taking – if so, what sort and when? Does Christian faith discourage risk taking – again, what sort and when?

Jesus tells a story (Matthew 25:14-30) which involves huge amounts of money – a talent was a labourer’s wage for 15 years!!! – so the 3 are given, say £1m, £1/2 m and a mere £200,000. The stakes are high, the servants are not being asked to do odd jobs in their spare time.

How might this apply to us? In my part of the Church we are being asked to move to working in Ministry Areas. – Fewer paid priests, but using the gifts of more people. Parishes working together in areas, with more opportunity to do things that could not be done in one Parish alone. Risks? High stakes? Changes – yes, its all there.  But you might say that these things are part of normal Christian life, mightn’t you?

The challenge, of course, is to take that positively. Not “It’ll never work!”, “Seen it all before”, “You can’t expect me to . . “ negativity, but – well, let’s see what the parable (or is it an allegory?) offers:

Jesus is the master, and the Church members are the slaves. In a difficult time, we are given gifts and the wits to use them – and will be judged on our energy and inventiveness. The gifts may not be evenly distributed, but we all have something to use, – and the amounts are huge!

We might think of spiritual gifts and physical ones, people skills and technical know-how, but don’t forget education, time and money. All of these are given (never owned, just borrowed) for a purpose.

The third slave fails, because he does not understand – perhaps does not want to! His master requires that he be inventive, take risks, and be fruitful. Not bothering, minding his own business, cultivating his resentments, is failure – and a failure for which he is rightly condemned. He has not done what is required of him. [It’s true we might say that God is not like the master, who appears harsh and unreasonable – we have reason to say God is not like that. But the parable makes the point that the servants were given – or loaned – these talents in the expectation, a reasonable expectation, that they would make the best use of them they could.]

What do you think about the future? There’s good and bad, of course, and change which is never easy. But more important, What are you going to do about it? Given a chance, an opportunity, how will you react?

Go back to the beginning. What did you think the Christian faith had to say about taking risks? It’s true that in general we might be expected to be careful, but I hope you understand what this parable has to say. It is important now, not because of the present position of the Church in society, but because the Christian faith requires, of all its members,

  • that they receive different gifts from God
  • and use those gifts, energetically and creatively, in his service

It’s not use coming back and saying “there wasn’t a safe option”; of course there isn’t. Get out there and take risks – that is what is required, and required of you, now, in Christian mission.

MONEY!

If you want to offend someone, telling them what to do with their money is a good way to go. It is a very “personal” matter, but one Jesus spoke about quite a lot.  Mind you, when the Pharisees ask a question about tax (Matthew 22:15-22), it is rather like the bolas they use in South America – 2 or 3 balls linked with cord, thrown to tangle the legs of an animal and bring it down.

The question to Jesus was a trick – they thought they would trip him whichever answer he gave. Money was a key issue, as emotive then as now. “Don’t pay tax” might be popular, but  treason would be reported him to authorities.
“Pay tax”  would discredit Jesus as a true Jew, painting him as a collaborator with the Roman occupation.  Whatever Jesus says, it will be unpopular – telling people what to do with their money usually is.

But Jesus escapes – not with a clever answer, but with the right one. We need to take note of it. Loyalty to God is most important, but it doesn’t let us off all other commitments. In this case, you can pay tax without being unfaithful (it’s still true).

  • Pay tax, even to “pagan Caesar”, for the peace, justice and trade you enjoy, even in a difficult regime
  • pay God, to whom you owe everything [perhaps we forget that is part of our religion]

Why do we give as part of our faith? Recognising:

  • God created it all
  • God paid the price for us when we could not
  • because, especially in our culture, this is how we express thanks and commitment.

Money is a tricky subject. Jesus didn’t give it a wide berth and avoid offending people. He said that our use of money is part of our faith, part of a response to the love of God which has to involve every part of our lives. In fact, giving is part of the gospel Good News. It reminds us of the good things we have (not only the material ones!), and makes clear our thanks and commitment to the Giver.

A familiar story? (Kingdom 1c)

Zacchaeus may only appear as a story in Luke’s gospel (Luke 19:1-10), but it is a familiar story to many – and perhaps familiarity does not help us see its value.  Jesus is going through town when he calls to a figure up a tree to come down and offer him a meal.  The crowd don’t like it – this is a Tax collector (collaborator with the Roman occupying power, cheat, outsider . .).

Apparently Jesus has seen more in this man.  Zacchaeus not only gets down and offers a meal, but he offers to make up to anyone he has cheated, and gives away half his money!  This is a real turn-around (repentance, in Christian language).  Jesus emphasises his ministry “to seek out and to save the lost”, something we may be glad of, but which the crowd are suspicious of.  The disciples (then and now) have to learn both what Jesus is doing, and who is part of this new “Kingdom” family.  Who is “safe”?

The picture we may miss is of the disciples, Jesus, with Zacchaeus and perhaps the blind beggar (healed on the way into town) eating with a group of doubtful characters, some of whom may be about to follow Zacchaeus into a new life.  Outside – by their own choice, but perhaps unaware how serious that choice is – are those who prefer to criticise and stick with “their own kind”.

Safety is – learning with the disciples.