Our Responsibility to One Another

Rev. James A. Splitt

November 14, 1999

Matthew 25:14-30 I Thessalonians 5:1-11

Matthew 25:14-30 "Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his masterís money. "After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. Master, he said, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more. "His master replied, Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your masterís happiness! "The man with the two talents also came. ĎMaster, he said, you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more. "His master replied, Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your masterís happiness!" Then the man who had received the one talent came. Master he said, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you. "His master replied, You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. "_Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I Thess. 5:1-11 Now, brothers (and sisters), about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Junk mail, we all know what that is. Open up the mailbox, sort out the letters and the bills and then throw away a ton of junk mail. There are advertisements, special offers, tons of stuff we never read. It turns into waste and wastes our time. Now thereís another phenomena for those of us in cyberspace _. junk e-mail. This week, I deleted a dozen or so e-mails that were advertisements, invitations to go to some porn web site, chain mail promising that I would make millions of dollars, a chain joke to pass on to others. More stuff that does me no good. And, Iím always afraid of opening a virus into my computer so I just delete the junk e-mail, never opening it, just sending it to the trash can on my Power Macintosh.

Rachel Samuelson (not her real name) shares a story in the October 1999 edition of Guidepost magazine (pp. 30-31). She tells her story of receiving e-mail from a co-worker who sits in a cubical next to her. The emails she receives are all dirty jokes, X-rated email. Sheís offended and replies with no thanks, a smiley face, and encouraging words. But she gets no response, only a scowl from her co-worker when they pass one another. And the dirty jokes just keep coming. Thereís no friendly conversation, Rachel is bewildered and doesnít know what to do. One day her co-worker is overheard on the phone talking to someone and is apparently receiving bad news. She asks if there is something wrong as her co-worker begins to leave the office in a hurry. "My dog is at the vet," she said, holding back the tears. "Sheís dying. Thereís nothing more they can do." Rachel offered to ride with her to the animal hospital but the foul joke e-mailer declined the offer. Rachel reassured her and offered to pray. When the woman arrived back in the office, she sent Rachel an email. This time it was not a dirty joke; it was an invitation to lunch. Words of encouragement won out.

The most important verse in the Thessalonian text is the last one: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Paulís letter to the church in Thessalonica seems to be talking about the end times, the final coming of Christ. Itís one of the apocalyptic letters of Paul. Today, we seem to be living in an apocalyptic time with all the religious predictions about the millennium but the bottom line is no one knows the day or the hours _ so why fret about it or get all caught in some kind of panic. Paulís advice is to encourage one another and build each other up. That is the way we are to prepare for Christís coming. It is the no fear approach. Our responsibility to one another is to encourage and build up!

This gives new meaning to the expression "mind your own business." If we go back to the book of Genesis and the story of Cain and Abel, (Gen. 4:9). Cain was jealous of his brother and took him to a field and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" I donít know," Cain replied. "Am I my brotherís keeper?" The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brotherís blood cries out to me from the ground." The Lord expects us to look after one another. When we disregard someone or look at others with envy, contempt, or jealousy we fail in our responsibility to one another. If we know that someone we care about is putting himself or herself in harmís way, our moral obligation is to share our concern with them. To "look the other way" reminds of story Jesus told in the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is real clear that we have a responsibility to one another.

When we hear the Parable of the Talents we usually focus on the response of those who were given a portion of money from their master. This morning I want to look at one other aspect of this parable. Think about the master who decides to give a portion of responsibility to each servant. Think about the act of giving and the intention of the master. The master gives out of a sense of encouragement and building up. "He entrusted his property to them." It is in our giving to others that matters. Some will benefit from what we give, some more than others do. There will also be those will not benefit at all. Iím sure we can think of many individuals we have tried to help, encourage, support, and befriend who never did anything with our gift. It doesnít mean we stop giving or that we start making judgement about them. The story about Rachel and her problematic e-mailer resolved with patience, kindness, and continued giving. We are entrusting others with the gift of our love, concern, prayers, building up and encouragement.

The Biblical principal of the power of giving is this: "Whoever refreshes others will themselves be refreshed" (Proverbs 11:25). Or in the words of Jesus from Luke 6:38, "Give, and it will be given to you." We all know the concern about second hand smoke. This phenomenon demonstrates the ways in which we suffer the effects of what other people take into their bodies. The same is true with principles of mood and spirituality. If we carry a negative mood around with us, others are exposed to it second hand. We can also emit a positive "force field". This phenomenon is already being called "The Mother Teresa Effect." This is the technical name given to a Harvard study conducted by David McClelland. The reports finds that when college students were given a film of Mother Teresa to look at, and they internalized images depicting her tending the sick and dying poor of Calcutta, their immune functioning (as measured by salivary immunoglobulin A concentrations) immediately increased and remained elevated one hour later. Merely watching compassion affects the observer positively. (Leonard Sweet. The Jesus Prescription for a Healthy Life, p. 99).

The day of the Lord is coming, writes Paul. We donít know when that day will come and we donít need to know or have to figure it out. What we do need to figure out is how we are going to spend today and what difference we want to make in the lives of others. We can neglect one another and despise one another. We can send our negative energies and influences on others or we can change. We have a responsibility to one another for healthy living. Our responsibility is to encourage and build one another up.

In the parable of the Talents, the master condemns the one who failed to use his talents wisely. God condemns Cain for taking the life of his brother Abel. The opposite of encourage and build up is neglect.

Eric Ram, director in international health at World Vision, writes: Whenever we offer acceptance, love, forgiveness, or a quiet word of hope, we offer health. When we share each otherís burdens and joys, we become channels of healing. No matter how timid or tired, selfish or crazy, your or old, we all have something important to offer each other. Each of us is endowed by God with that gift of healing." [Sweet, p.107]. Rachel discovered this truth in caring for a co-worker.

The positive influence was stronger than the negative. How will we use the talents God has given to us? How are we to prepare for the Lordís coming? What better way than to be encouraged and built up by the love of Christ so that we can build up and encourage others with that same love.

Amen.