The Fourth Servant

Yesterday I shared some thoughts about the parable of the talents.  Pastor Mike Weber posted a comment with a midrash about a fourth servant.  It makes such an important point about how God responds to our efforts that I wanted to be sure everyone noticed it.  Here it is:

Someone once wrote a midrash on this parable that makes an interesting point. (Unfortunately, I cannot recall the authors name.)

“There was also fourth servant to whom the master entrusted four talents. With two of the talents the servant invested in a fleet of ships and filled them with trade goods; with two he financed a camel caravan to go to China on the silk road. But a storm at sea sank the entire fleet and bandits captured the camel caravan so that the servant was left with nothing.

When the master returned the fourth servant fell at his feet and said, “O master, I sought to trade with your talents but a storm destroyed your boats and bandits captured your caravan. I have nothing to return to you, so I bow at your feet and am willing to be sold into slavery to repay my debt.”

But the master raised the servant up on his feet and spoke to him. “O my servant, you sought to serve me and proved your faithfulness even of you have nothing to show for your efforts. You have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

What the Lord requires of us is not success, but faithfulness and a willingness to take risks for the kingdom.

Putting One’s Life on the Line

Today we remember the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador.

On November 16, 1989, a group of soldiers entered the campus of the University of Central America in San Salvador shortly after midnight.  While there they assassinated the president of the university, Ignacio Ellacueria, S.J., five other Jesuit priests, as well as the Jesuit housekeepers.  The priests were assassinated because they spoke out against the government’s wrongdoing and advocated for the poor.  (Sadly, the two housekeepers slept on the campus that night because they thought it was safer there than in the neighborhood in which they lived.)

Ellacueria was particularly hated by the government and the military “for naming and denouncing the ‘idols’ of wealth and national security that underlay a brutal war against the poor.”

Nor were the Jesuit martyrs we remember today the only ones who lost their lives during this period in El Salvador’s history of government repression.  The decade that ended in their martyrdom began with the assassination of Oscar Romero.  And it is clear that the Jesuit martyrs shared Romero’s notion of what it had to mean to be a Christian in a fallen world. Romero preached

If you live out a Christianity that is good but that is not sufficient for our times, that doesn’t denounce injustice, that doesn’t proclaim the kingdom of God courageously, that doesn’t reject the sins humankind commits, that consents to the sins of certain classes so as to be accepted by those classes, then you are not doing your duty, you are sinning, you are betraying your mission.  The church was put here to convert humankind, not to tell people that everything that they do is all right.

Today let us remember all of those who have been willing to speak truth to power, who have had the courage to put everything on the line for the sake of God’s kingdom.