Amy Jones,
Agape Coordinator
Dear God, we come to worship you today. 
We come to pray, and listen.
You always hear us. 
Help us to hear you. Amen
Matthew 25:14-30

14 ‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” 21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” 23 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” 26 But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
One of the things the COVID-19 global pandemic laid bare for me was how privileged I am to be able to observe social distancing orders, and that I am fortunate to be able to simply “stay at home.” It also made me very aware that the things I need to be able to stay home for long periods of time are luxury items in our society: such as a safe home, healthy food, heat and electricity. They are things I am fortunate to be able to pay for, even though they are things I absolutely need in order to survive. 

Is survival a privilege? Are basic human needs a luxury afforded to some because they can pay for them?

If you have five talents, even without investing or multiplying those five talents, you already have twice as much as anyone else, combined. Even if the people with two talents and one talent decided to combine their net worth and become roommates, the people with five talents would still have more. 

If you have two talents, you would have to work twice as much to still make less than those that have five talents. So, I would imagine that when your two talents are doubled to four you still can’t afford an emergency expense because four talents isn’t enough to have a savings, but at least you can keep the loan sharks at bay for another month.

If you have just one talent, how can you even think of investing it? With just one talent, you probably can’t afford rent or food, so you’re making choices about which of those things to buy this month and which you can skip. How do you do things like maintain a minimum bank balance when you have just one talent? How do you even open a bank account if your address changes frequently because you can’t actually afford a place to live? Even if you’re somehow able to double your talent, two talents is not enough to live on and pay back the back taxes, eviction fees, court costs, and many other fines and fees associated with failure to pay.

When we read the parable prescriptively, or as a template for investment and stewardship strategies, we congratulate the people with the most and reward them with things like health care, life insurance, large homes with many rooms and several bathrooms and unrestricted internet bandwidth and data plans to accomplish as much work as possible. We signal in not-so-subtle ways that their lives deserve preservation and protection. These are people like me, who can afford to do as many loads of laundry as necessary, who can be paid to answer e-mails from home and not worry about whether the lights or heat will be cut off.

The people that have some, but not the most, are expected to be grateful for jobs that barely pay the bills. They can’t afford to stop working. Their presence on the job ensures that grocery stores, restaurants, car repair shops, and transportation stay open even if it comes at a detriment to themselves. They are told that their lives are only as valuable as the service they provide others. 

Finally, there are the people at the very bottom who are given very little but are still expected to return something. These are the people who cannot stay at home because they don’t have a home, they can’t wash their hands because every public restroom is closed, they can’t even take a shower before a job interview because truck stops and YMCA’s are closed. They can never save enough to “get ahead.” They are told they have no worth, and so we throw them away.

The parable is not prescriptive. It does not teach us about how to manage wealth or treasure wisely. The parable is descriptive. It describes for us in lurid detail how we are willing to sacrifice human lives on the pyre of economic wealth and capitalistic gain. It performs the cruelty of this situation for us, where some have more than they need and others can even get what they need. Where some are literally thrown away, called “worthless” and left to die.

A human life cannot be valued in talents, or dollars. We cannot measure the divine spark in any of us. The holy spirit's wind in our lungs is not more or less, bigger or smaller than any other human being. Not one of us is a “worthless slave” in the eyes of our Creator, who made us and called us “very good.” There is nothing any of us can do to deserve outer darkness or gnashing teeth. God did not make us in order to set us against each other or order us by worth. God did not make us in order to throw us away or put us in a fiery furnace. If those things happen, it is because humans designed systems and methods to do those things.

God loves you. This is indisputable. God also loves everyone around you. Every single person around you is loved by God. What would you like them to have? What should they have? How would you like them to be treated? How should they be treated? They are your siblings, and you get to choose.
God, open our eyes to the lives of others and help us to see your image in every person we encounter. Unveil the beauty of our intertwined, interconnected, and interdependent lives and give us the courage to love the way you love.
Amy Jones, Agape Coordinator
Amy Jones our Agape Coordinator is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. In this tradition, deacons are ordained clergy who bridge the ministry of the church with the needs of the world, and vice versa. In more than 15 years of ministry, she has worked in churches, in children and family ministry, higher education, and nonprofits. In each setting, her focus has been on matching the resources of the church with the needs of the world. Agape Community Kitchen is exactly the type of work she was called to do. 

Amy can be reached by email at:
The Presbyterian Church in Westfield continues to burn as a light in the darkness as our community weathers this fearsome storm of illness. Our reach of care continues to extend far beyond our immediate borders. You can help us make a real impact in the lives of others by joining in our work through your time, your talents, and also in the fruits of your labors.
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