Deut. 31:30-32:14; 2 Cor. 11:21b-33; Luke 19:11-27
Today Luke tells the troubling parable of the Ten Pounds.
If you don’t remember the Parable of Ten Pounds: one slave gets one pound, and makes 10 pounds (By the way, a “pound” is a heck of a lot of money). Another slave gets one pound and turns it into 5 while the master is away. The final slave gets a pound as well, but wraps it in a cloth and returns it. He is reprimanded.
This has been perhaps the most troubling of all parables for me. Greed is rewarded? Earning 10 fold was not something proud of attainment, like it would be today. That kind of profit was strictly forbidden by Old Testament codes. If you exploit others, you are forbidden from business. So what exactly is Jesus saying?
This is a parable. So from this story we are meant to learn something else – some deeper spiritual secret. The context was a bunch of folks who expected the kingdom of God to appear immediately. And Jesus ends by talking about “these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.”
That is even more frightening talk! Jesus wants those who disagree with him to be slaughtered in his presence? I thought Jesus was meek and mild! No. That’s the case only if you read the fictional version in many Americans’ minds.
So what is going on? It appears Jesus is much concerned with this: to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
It appears Jesus is inciting us into action. He wants us to DO something. We have gifts. We have skills. We have money. Many of us have all three. We are to use them for the sake of the gospel. We are to claim our calling, and not hide our gifts.
As a boy, I remember my fear of playing the piano for church. I had become quite the pianist for an 8th grader, but I was nervous and hesitant to play for church. My perfectionism had reared its ugly head. Unless I could offer “something that was perfect to God” I didn’t want to offer at all. My pastor at the time, a compassionate but firm Lutheran pastor, pulled me aside on a Saturday afternoon during my practice time at church to inquire about this. I remember Pastor Mike’s response to this day: “God has given you the gift of music. And while you may feel it is bad to offer something less than perfect to God, it is a far greater sin to NOT OFFER IT AT ALL. You must play. Whatever it is you got in you, you must play.”
That was the best advice I could have gotten. It was telling me that if I was going to wait to offer something that was perfect, I would be waiting a long time.
Despite the church being a place full of broken people, the fact is that we offer our gifts anyway. With all our warts, we are called to offer our best. But the key is: we are called to offer them no matter what. No excuses!
In reading about Matt’s concern in playing the piano in church, it reminds me of the slanted view most people hold about perfection. A better way to look at perfection is seen in the following Japanese parable. ” Perfection is not doing exceptional things, but doing ordinary things exceptionally well.” With this version we can reach perfection.