Are you “all in?”
When it comes to God, are you “all in?” If you’ve ever watched a high stakes poker game in Vegas or on TV, you know what I’m asking. But if you haven’t heard it before, “all in” means risking it all. Usually it’s when a player is willing to put it all on the line to win big. It’s one of the most tense moments in a poker game because it’s usually the last. The player, looking at his cards, decides to push all of his chips into the middle of the table and says, “I’m all in.” He’s left nothing behind. He’s decided to bet every last chip that his hand will beat his opponent. Sometimes it’s a move of desperation; sometimes it’s a bold plan to capture the game. The other player can either match the bet or fold, but either way this is a big play. It means being fully committed, leaving nothing on the table. So are you “all in” for God? A lot of us are “most of the way in,” but not quite really “all in.” But that’s not the kind of commitment God is looking for. He’s looking for people who are all the way in. When you straddle the line between being fully committed and not fully committed, you end up nowhere. You only give a limited amount of yourself so the results are only partially as good as they could be. It’s like what Mr. Miyagi says to Daniel in The Karate Kid. “Walk on the road. Walk right side, safe. Walk left side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later, get squish just like grape. Here karate same thing. Either here, you karate do, yes or you karate do, no. You karate do, guess so. Squish just like grape.” That’s one of my favorite scenes from the movie mostly because I love what it says. When we hesitate to go all in we sabotage our results.
Look at this example from Jesus’ life.
If you have your Bibles or a Bible app on your phone, please follow along from Matthew 25:14-30. Matthew 25:14-30. Like many stories in the Bible, this one is part of a trilogy. It’s sandwiched between the story of the ten virgins and the story about the sheep and the goats and in each of these stories Jesus is trying to get us to understand the importance of being prepared for God. The first story is about two groups of women who are waiting for the bridegroom. One group thought ahead and brought extra oil with them for their lamps while the first group raced out without thinking. When the bridegroom took longer than expected, the ones without oil had to go back and missed the bridegroom completely. In the last story, there are again two groups dubbed the sheep and the goats. The sheep are those who lived a life the way God asked them to live and were rewarded for it. The goats are the ones who did not. So you can imagine that this story we are about to share has a similar theme and it does. If you would please rise as we share together from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, verses 14-30. Hear now the Word of God.
14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag,[a] each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “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 master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “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 master’s happiness!’
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold 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. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “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? 27 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.
28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Do you think God overreacted?
We know that this is an allegory about God and us. So when I first read this story, it seemed like God sure made a big deal about this guy who didn’t do anything with his money. I mean, he didn’t LOSE any money. He just pretty much stayed even. But there’s more to the story than meets the eye. First of all, we’re tempted to think, “Well it’s only one talent. What could he do with just one?” But what if I told you that a talent was worth a THOUSAND dollars. Would that make a difference? You might start thinking maybe he could have done something with it. Like God tells him, he could have invested that money with the bank at least and made some interest off of it. Did you know that a talent is actually worth about 6,000 denarii or in today’s terms, about $350,000? $350,000! For the average American who only makes $28,000 a year, that’s over 12 years worth of wages. 12 years!
But it’s not even the amount that bothers God. It’s the fact that the guy did nothing.
He had the opportunity and did nothing. Instead he makes up excuses and God tells him, “You knew I expected more from you and you didn’t do anything anyway.” That’s what disappointed God. Not that he didn’t make money, but that he didn’t even try to do anything with what he was given. The servant gave in to his own fears and doubts and hesitated to act and it cost him everything. In this story, the master is obviously extremely rich. He didn’t need more money. The reason he gave his servants these talents was to see what they would do with it. Would they do something with the gifts they were given or would they bury them? Even if he had completely lost the money, but had faithfully done his best on behalf of the master, the master would have had mercy on him. Who are we more like – the servants who doubled their master’s money or the servant who buried it? We often SAY we are doing all we can for God, but are we really? Maybe instead we’re doing exactly what Mr. Miyagi warned Daniel not to do. Maybe we’re walking in the middle of the road, not really committing to one or the other.
When I was younger, I remember walking into the comic store with my dad.
There was this little place in Hawaiian Gardens down in LA where we used to go to. The floors were cement. The walls had pegboard stuck on them with comics sitting on makeshift shelves. But the owner was the nicest guy and he encouraged me in my love of comics. I started collecting before the big comic book boom hit when comic collecting was just a hobby and Comic Con in San Diego was known more for it’s huge dealer room than for Hollywood stars. But right around the Death of Superman, comic books got BIG! People were buying them off the shelves as soon as they were stocked. What used to be orders in the thousands became orders in the millions as more and more the comic book market became speculative instead of for fun. I’d see these guys who would come in, literally pick up one of every book without looking at it, immediately put it in a bag and board, and purchase a stack of books, never to be read. They weren’t buying them because they enjoyed those books. They bought them because they hoped one day it would be worth money. So they put them in a bag, in a box, on a shelf and there they sat. Until the bottom fell out of the comic book market and most of those books were selling at less than cover price. Sometimes, that’s what we do with the gifts God has given us. We put our gifts on the shelf instead of using them the way they were meant to be used in service to God.
As we approach this critical time in the lives of our churches, we cannot afford to leave our gifts on the shelf.
We need everyone to be bold and brave enough to do what’s needed to energize the body of Christ in this place. If we are to turn around the decades of decline we’ve encountered it has to start now. So pull out those gifts and dare to use them in ways you hadn’t thought of before. Discover your gifts if you don’t know them or are unsure of them and use them for all that they are worth. In the area outside our worship space, I’ve included copies of a spiritual gifts inventory. This is not the definitive version nor is it the only one, but it’s a starting place to discover what God has created for you to do. Perhaps you will find out something new about yourself or find a gift you hadn’t thought of. I want to urge you to take the spiritual gifts inventory and see what God might have planted in you and then think of ways you can use those gifts for God. This is the end of the game for us. If our churches are to survive, we have to be “all in.” We have to be fully committed to helping people know and experience the love of Christ. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.