What responsibility scares you?
Marketing and Stuff
Rikk Wilde became an instant internet sensation for the awkwardness of his presentation of a Chevy truck to the 2014 World Series Most Valuable Player, Madison Bumgarner. He noted the prize vehicle’s “technology and stuff,” a phrase that Chevrolet has since embraced as part of a new marketing campaign:
A member of the congregation I now serve, who knows Mr. Wilde and his boss, told me that the marketing value of this presentation has been tracked at roughly ten times what was expected for this moment in the national spotlight. A gaffe became a goldmine.
- What is your most embarrassing moment? Did something positive come from it?
- Do you agree with the author’s assessment of how Chevrolet handled this situation?
- Circus legend P.T. Barnum is credited with saying, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” Is that true? Why or why not?
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
Jesus tells his disciples a surprising parable of exaggerated proportion: a master leaves town and entrusts three servants with “a few things”: a ton of money! (A talent was more than fifteen years worth of an average worker’s earnings.) The first two servants trade with the money and return double the original amount. The third servant digs a hole and buries it in the ground, in accordance with rabbinical wisdom:
This activity shows him prudent and trustworthy. In commenting on the Mishnah, “If he guarded it [money] in the manner of guardians [and it was lost] he is not liable,” the Gemara quotes Rabbi Samuel: “Money can only be guarded [by placing it] in the earth.” In the ancient world, underground was the only safe place… (B.B. Scott, Hear Then the Parable, p. 227)
The surprise is that the master, upon his return, banishes the cautious, “trustworthy” servant with fury. Why?
A possible explanation lies in what does not happen in the parable. No one loses money in this story’s economic marketplace, a clue that maybe Jesus is not talking about money at all. If God is the master and we are the servants, as Matthew’s pattern of presenting Jesus’ parables suggests, then we have been entrusted with treasure that no one can afford. Could that treasure be the miracle of being alive? Could that treasure be the Jesus, who is the kingdom of heaven in human form…who was buried in the earth too? (Compare Matthew 13:44!) Could that treasure be, as Martin Luther wrote, “the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God”? (Thesis 62)
God’s grace cannot be squandered or wastefully invested. The only way to lose it is to bury it in fear. If we trade with grace, exchanging love and blessing, it will only grow. If we hide it and hoard it, we don’t really know God the way we claim we do. The kingdom of God is like publicity: it’s all good, even when it doesn’t seem like it. Use it or lose it. (Just ask Chevy!)
- What riches (or “talents”), literally or figuratively, have been entrusted to you? What do you do with them?
- Do you agree with what seems to be Matthew’s inference that God can be like a harsh master? Why or why not? If not God, who does the master in the story represent?
Invite members of the stewardship committee and the council at your church to share a Bible study on this parable with your group. What does it have to say to your congregation as a whole about taking chances?
Thank you, God, for entrusting so much to us. Help us to overcome fear and share your blessings boldly with the world, and lead us all to the joy of our master, Jesus Christ our Treasure and Lord. Amen