Once upon a time there was a rich investor, and she had a very successful portfolio of investments. One day she determined that she would have to go on an extended business trip, and she called three of her managers to her office.
She explained to them about the business trip and that she would be gone an indeterminant time and that the plan was to split up the business into three business units, and was appointing each of the managers to operate a unit.
The details were worked out, and the investor left on her business trip. Each of the managers settled in to operate their assigned segment of the business.
Two years passed and the investor returned home. She called the three managers in and asked them each to give a presentation as to how the past two years progressed in each of the respective business units.
The first manager gave a wonderful presentation which climaxed with the announcement that the unit had tripled it's net returns over the past two fiscal years.
The investor was well pleased. She encouraged the manager with a hearty well done. "You have done a great job, and promotion is in order!"
The second manager masterfully presented the goings on in the business unit she managed. Her presentation enthusiastically revealed growth in net revenue of 1.5 times that of when she started.
Again, the investor was thrilled and said that this manager was also going to be promoted for doing a great job.
The third manager began his presentation. It too was presented with all the polish and fanfare of the other. However, it did not climax the way the others did. They had experienced no growth at all.
The investor was perplexed and queried the manager about various challenges that may have contributed to the zero growth over two years. The manager, now sheepish explained that there were no extenuating circumstances rather he knew the investor could be a hard and exacting person. The manager explained that he was afraid to take a chance with the assets that had been entrusted to him, so his strategy was to build walls of hedges around the unit to eliminate any risk.
The investor was dumbfounded. "So you are telling me that you have have produced nothing with that which I have entrusted to you?" The investor then became angry and said: "you could have at very least invested my money in bonds or even put it in a child's savings account! At least then you would have produced something."
The investor regained her composure. She removed her glasses and leveled her eyes on the manager. Firmly, the investor said, "You're fired."
This is a retelling of a story Jesus told and is recorded in Matthew 25:14-30. This story has been used in a variety of ways to encourage people to be faithful to God by using those gifts and talents they have been given in positive ways.
I wonder if we can look at this story in a slightly different way where the Gift, Talent or asset is the love of God; the fact that the God of the Universe is the God who loves, who restores, heals and reconciles. The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians speaks of the fruit of knowing God, and this is akin to return on the experience of divine love in a person's life - the genuine, unforced response to divine love and acceptance. As people experience and respond to this love, the form Church communities.
So with the Good News of the God-who-loves as the very thing, we called to invest into the world...
Let's consider the third manager first. And let's suppose this manager is a picture of a church community. What if they see God as an exacting judge and tyrant though they wouldn't admit so. As a result, what if they misunderstood and thought the treasure was "right" thinking and "right" practice? What if instead of taking the Good News of the love of God into the world, they built a labyrinth of doctrine and performance standards? What if they thought defending these with doctrine police (thugs and trolls) was protecting God and God's honor?
Oh, they may sing about the love of God and have inspired teaching about the love of God but somehow they never really experienced it in a way that truly frees them, and as such have never thought to actually invest the asset into real lives - including their own. This is the darkest kind of poverty.
Now let's consider the first two managers, and suppose the first one represents a big church, and the second a small church. What if the first two managers equipped with the experience of being genuinely loved and accepted by God went out into the world and LIVED the love of God where they lived? What if they took the asset of the love of God and leveraged it by giving it away? What if they indiscriminately loved people from all walks of life proclaiming the good news with their very lives?
The perfect love of God never returns void. It always pays dividends.
Notice here that both managers received the same reward. For it is not about big church or small church but being faithful with what we have experienced - faithful with a little and faithful with a lot! To the extent we have experienced the perfect love of God and to the extent we have the opportunity, let's invest the real asset - the Kingdom of love into the lives of people.