I love the BBC TV program The Apprentice. In it, Alan Sugar puts a group of budding entrepreneurs to the test in what is described as ‘Britain’s toughest job interview’. One of the many disappointing things about 2020 for me has been that The Apprentice wasn’t aired. In September, I missed watching the group of daring, talented people dash about London to prove their business skills.
This reading from Matthew’s Gospel reminds me of The Apprentice. I can imagine a modern-day Jesus, saying ‘You know, the Kingdom of God is a bit like this’.
Imagine an episode where Lord Sugar gives the final three contestants different amounts of money to see what they can do with it by the end of the day. One gets £500, another £200 and the last one gets £100.
‘See what you can do. Just don’t lose me money!’, says Lord Sugar, and off they go into London.
The one with £500 heads to a cash and carry, weighs up what is on offer, bulk buys cheap West Ham merchandise and heads over to East London, knowing that there will be a match later that day. He sells all the Tshirts and scarves and by the end, made £1000.
The second contestant went around stalls on Borough Market and convinced an artisan baker to allow her to sell bread and pastries outside Guy’s hospital around the corner. The baker wasn’t daft though, he took the £200 as a deposit and gave the contestant the goods. When she came back at the end of the day, she had almost sold everything. They reached an agreement that she could keep £400.
The third dithered and dithered. He knew how harsh Lord Sugar could be. So, he went and sat in Hyde park on a bench, money firmly in his pocket.
Gathering back in the board room at the end of the day, the first two contestants were proud of their efforts, as was Lord Sugar. But when it came to the third one, he handed back the £100 and no more.
‘Is that it?!’ said Alan, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Anything!?’
‘I just didn’t want to lose you money’ mumbled contestant number three.
‘Bad decision mate’ he replied, ‘with regret, you’re fired’.
I can imagine Jesus watching an episode with the disciples saying ‘the kingdom of God is a bit like that’.
I reckon that the kingdom of God cannot be hidden or ignored. It should not be kept to ourselves, it should be shared. The first two people took risks and the money grew. They were brave. The last one acted out of fear and kept they money to himself.
The Good News should be shared out too. It is not for us to keep it quiet, but we should spread it, invest it, be brave with it, take risks with it and remember that, as Lord Sugar keeps his eyes peeled for good investment opportunities, we should keep our eyes open for ways in which we can encourage the kingdom to grow and God’s love to be known.
Let’s not forget what risks the first two people in the parable took. We don’t know exactly what they did with the money they were given. But take the examples of the bread and football T-shirts. Buying them was a risk and it could have gone wrong, as many regular watchers of The Apprentice will know! But risks in the kingdom of God do not look like risks in business. Risks in God’s Kingdom look like giving people the benefit of the doubt, having faith in others, trusting the people around you and sharing your life with others even if it means maybe getting hurt.
The Rule of Life in the Diocese of Liverpool has six parts to it; pray, read, learn, tell, serve, give. The inner elements are the first three and the outer are the last three. As I finish, I’d like to think about the last three.
Some of us may be a bit wary of telling others about our faith, serving in the world or giving of our time and resources. It may seem scary or risky. But Jesus calls us to be people who take those risks. He does not call us keep what we have to ourselves, hide it in a hole or keep it firmly in our pockets. He asks us to be a people who tell bravely, serve sincerely, give generously and love fully.
Jesus held nothing back when it came to us. Can we take a risk and be brave with the gifts he has given to us?
Sermon based on Matthew 25.14-30
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