GOD, A RISK TAKER
Judges 4:1-7, Psalm 128, Matthew 25:14-30
November 17, 1996 by Tad Mitsui
All of us have ups and downs. When I am up, I”m on top of the world. I feel so confident that I can bake the best pie in the world, run a billion dollar company, and wonder why people don”t come begging me to run in an election to save a country. But when I dropped Muriel”s treasured depression glass bowl handed down from her grandmother smashing it into pieces, I felt so humiliated by my own clumsiness that I could not even make a decent boiled egg. I feel like that every time I give a rotten sermon, too. In those times, you must not ask me to help you decide the colour of your curtain. If I put myself in a position of another person and look at myself from outside of myself, I wonder if I would trust a person like me who has so many ups and downs? Would I let him drive my brand new car, for example? I am not so sure if I would risk that.
Think about this man in Jesus” parable. Before he went away for a long trip, he gave a lot of money to three slaves and told them to look after it until he came back. Imagine the risk he was taking? To begin with, they were slaves. The slaves were not treated as humans in those days. They were never given any responsibility. Often they were treated wretchedly. So quite understandably slaves did not like their masters very much.
Secondly, value of the monetary unit used in this parable was an enormous amount of money. I estimate the value of "talent" today to be about a half a million dollars in our money. So this man gave one slave five million dollars, another one million, and the third a half a million dollars. Jesus was speaking about the situation which was almost unthinkable. No sane person would take such a big risk trusting a huge amount of money to some questionable people, who may be hating you inside.
As you may know, most of the Jesus” parables are about the Kingdom of God. They usually begin with a clause, "Kingdom of God is like:" So in this case, I believe that the point of the parable is that God”s Kingdom is in the risk taking, just like the man who trusted a huge amount of money to slaves and went away. God takes a risk trusting us. And that is what God”s rule means. I believe that the Kingdom of God is already here, though it is still in the making. Also I believe that we are participants of this project to create such a place. We are working with God to create a world, where the will of God is universally respected and followed. We are working with God to create the world where caring each other, love and respect are more important than winning and defeating others.
God takes a big risk in trusting us to work for his world. Imagine, a couple of guys who never handled big money before, played with millions of dollars of your money in risky business ventures or in a stock market. But if we look at ourselves honestly and consider our ups and downs, we realize the enormity of the risk God is taking. Those two slaves were lucky that they doubled the money. But the fact is; they gambled big-time with someone else”s money. It takes a lot of charitable spirit to give them any kind of credit, like the man in Jesus” parable. God wants us also to take risks and take part his project of building his kingdom. He does not scold us for taking risks, because we are participating in his work in the best way we know. He is pleased with us that we are sharing his risk. On the other hand, the one, who buried the money was scolded so severely, not so much because he was a coward, but because he did not share the risk the master was taking. He did not participate in a joint enterprise.
It is interesting, isn”t it. Jesus spoke about putting the money in the bank as the next best option for the weak-minded who was afraid to risk. But he did not caution against a possibility of a failure to those who participated in the business ventures. I get the impression that, for God, taking risks is, even with a possibility of failure, preferable to none participation. We can say the same thing about relationships. In our relationship with other persons, the important thing is to be engaged and to participate in a joint project called relationship. We may agree and sometimes we may disagree. We love and also we quarrel. Either way, we are engaged with each other and are participating in a joint enterprise called relationship. Love and hate – both positive and negative emotions are ingredients of relationships. This is why we say that love and hate are two sides of a coin. But if we don”t care, there is no relationship. If you don”t care, you don”t hate. The worst enemy of love is not hatred. It is apathy. If there is no love, we don”t fight because we don”t care. Then there is no relationship. To hate is an emotional involvement, hence there is relationship even in hatred. Relationship is a risk. Loving is a risk. When you love, you are taking a huge risk. But without risk taking in love, there is no participation. The building project of the Kingdom of God is participatory. God and we are partners both actively working together.
By inviting us to take part in the creation of heaven on earth, God is taking a huge risk. When I consider the mistakes that humans made throughout history, sometimes I wish that God did not give us such freedom and responsibility. If we should be like animals, always behaving purely on impulse and natural instinct, the world could have been a little better. Granted, animals fight over food and mates. But those fights are impulsive, not like the wars we humans wage using our sophisticated minds and technology. Animals fight impulsively. But humans organize mutual destruction systematically. This is why the result of human warfare is so much more devastating.
By giving us freedom to participate in his work, God also gave us an option to abuse it. God is risking a lot and he knows it. It is such an honour to be able to participate in God”s work in this world. But it is a big risk that we are also taking. To live in this world according to God”s commandment and to love our neighbours are a dangerous business. Sometimes cost of loving is enormous. If we do not want to get hurt, we must not love. We should cut ourselves off from other people. We should only take care of ourselves. Non-participation is very safe. It may mean that you have to live with loneliness and constant suspicion of others. But it is safe. You don”t get hurt. But it is not what God is calling us to be. God wants us to join him in the building of his country, Kingdom of God, by loving our neighbours as we love ourselves. There is risks in loving. But reward is huge. The reward is a joy of loving, loving people and loving God.