“As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Budweiser is airing a television commercial that reflects the intent and spirit of Jesus’ parable of the talents. In it, three subjects of a medieval king are ushered into his banquet hall to present an offering of the fruits of their labors.
The first, Sir Jeremy, is like the two-talent person in Jesus’ parable. He places a six-pack of Bud Light on the table in front of the king, who responds by applauding him with a “Dilly-Dilly” acclamation of approval and praise, to which the king’s loyal subjects seated around his banquet table add their own “Dilly-Dilly.”
Madame Susan is like the five-talent person in Jesus’ parable. When she approaches the king, she offers him a case of Bud Light, to which the king raises his Bud Light in an enthusiastic “Dilly-Dilly.”
Finally, a third subject who remains nameless, is like the one-talent person in Jesus’ parable. He approaches the king with a bottle of spice honey mead wine that he tells the king he has been “into lately.” The king is not pleased. He calls for Sir Brad and commands him to usher this man into the pit of misery.
Budweiser’s “pit of misery” corresponds to Jesus’ “outer darkness,” into which the worthless slave is cast, a darkness beyond the bounds and altogether worse than any darkness we may encounter or suffer in this life.
Why did Budweiser go to all the trouble and expense of producing their commercial? Clearly, to get us to drink a Bud Light and to avoid spice honey mead wine at all costs. Don’t even look at a bottle of spice honey mead wine, or take a sip of spice honey mead wine. And certainly, for heaven’s sake, go get “into it.” Don’t try to acquire a taste for spice honey mead wine.
And this, I believe, is the point of Jesus’ parable of the talents. Don’t even think about using your fear of me as an excuse for wasting your life. On the other hand, if you use the time, talent and treasure that God has entrusted to you, amazing things will happen: you will create even more time for God to bless you and those around you, you will help God identify and bring out the talents he has entrusted to you and to others, and you will generate even more resources for the spread of God’s kingdom.
This is what God himself likes to do, to give his own property to us who have been made in his image and likeness so that we can experience what it is like to be like God and to do what God does. And, as Jesus promises in the parable, what God entrusts to us in this life is chicken feed - one, two, five talents - in comparison with what he is prepared to give us – more talents than we can imagine - once we experience and come to understand that this is what life is all about, that this is God’s joy, of multiplying his graces infinitely, a joy he wants us to begin to experience for ourselves here and now, a joy that is so much more intoxicating than a Bud Light.
Nehemiah put it this way: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Strengthening us is what brings God joy, not his profound disappointment when we squander the graces he gives us. On that final day of reckoning when we stand before God, he expects us to share something that we have produced which has brought us genuine joy because it has served to strengthen the lives of those around us, whether it’s food for the hungry, clothing for the naked, encouraging visits to the imprisoned or the sick, a welcome to the stranger, or a word of encouragement to everyone, like that of Paul to his fellow Christians in Thessalonica, when he tells them this morning that our faith in Christ, expressed in our acts of selfless love, are God’s breastplate, protecting our hearts, the very core of our being, just as our hope of salvation, that God himself will raise a toast to us as his loyal subjects who have made something of their lives, who have not squandered the time, talent and treasure he has entrusted to them, will serve as a helmet protecting our minds from a faithless fear of him that would prompt the very wrath, the pit of misery, the outer darkness that is so easily avoided if we use our heads and do almost anything constructive or productive with our lives.
So just as you may be motivated to give a Bud Light a try because of their commercial, Jesus wants us to hear his thirty-second parable of the talents as an encouragement for us to do as the psalmist suggests this morning, to number our days so that we may apply whatever time we have left in the wise investment of our talent and treasure for what will not only please the king, but will bring us a joy we can find in no other way. Learning to invest our lives wisely is an acquired taste, but one which is self-authenticating because it never leaves us with a hangover and always quenches our thirst for fuller life and for God as nothing else can or ever will. When the day of reckoning comes, God wants to applaud and praise each one of us: “Dilly-dilly!” May it be so. Amen!