If you have spent any time around Rev. Dr. Johnson Asare from Northern Ghana, you will have heard him say that it is “risky not to take risks.” He is a man who has taken many risks in his life, as a businessman, a pastor, a Muslim-turned-Christian, and a community leader. He knows what he is talking about. While others have said something similar to this, hearing him say it has stuck with me because of his testimony, and I find myself repeating that phrase from time to time.
Especially in the beginning of a new year with lots of planning to be done.
I was recently reminded of that line relating to the parable of the talents as told by Jesus in Matthew 25, where the master leaves and gives three servants three different amounts of gold according to their abilities. As you probably know, the one with five bags of gold puts it to work and earns five more; the one with two bags of gold puts it to work and earns two more, but the one given one bag just buries it. He doesn’t spend it, doesn’t waste it, but neither does he invest it or increase it. The master is pleased with the first two, but not at all with the last one, to put it mildly.
This parable reminds us that it is a sin to squander what God has given us. He has given us three main resources: time, treasure, and talent, and all three work together for the flourishing of the world, for the flourishing of ourselves, and for the glory of God. This parable reminds us that we are not to wrap or bind up those opportunities and bury them for fear of losing them through risky ventures or doing things “incorrectly.”
I see this over and over in my work. Doing business is risky and I have watched many people take those risks. Unfortunately, many businesses do fail, but there is much to be learned in those failures. But we take risks in more than business: being in relationships is also risky, as is being in a church, accepting a new job, or investing yourself in your community. Living involves risk. It is an investment of ourselves to people, places, and things.
We are accountable for the investment of our lives. We are responsible to God, to ourselves, and to each other.
We may sympathize with the person who received one talent, but we must always remember that the source of that conservatism, as author R. Paul Stevens says, was his “inadequate view of God.”
Think about that. The servant with one bag only saw his master as someone who was “a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not sown seed.” Because of that perspective, he “was afraid and hid the gold in the ground.”
I have heard people describe God in this same way. They might say, “I didn’t ask to be born and now I have to work for him? And if I don’t, hell for eternity?”
But this is based on an inadequate view of God. He has given each person unique combinations of time, treasure, and talent. And has crafted us in a way that when we use these resources with integrity and love, it is a win-win-win. And when we don’t use them with integrity, when we confess, He forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
As I head into this new year, I wonder what risks I will take with my time, treasure, and talent. I wonder which ones I will cower at, which ones I will embrace, and which ones I will bury. I’d like to think I will embrace them all, but I know myself better than that!
But my heart’s desire is to embrace them and to remember that I am accountable not just for the risks I take but also for the risks I don’t take. Playing it safe doesn’t work when following a call from God to join Him in the work of helping this world flourish.
We serve a God who wants us to take risks and we are accountable for the risks that we take AND the risks we do not take.
As you enter 2022, I hope you join us in taking risks for the glory of God!