Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

"No Reward for Slackers"

Luke 19: 11-26

Proverbs 6: 6-11

      It was near the end of August, some forty-five years ago, that I couldn’t wait for school to start.

My first year at Geneva College had been abysmal.  My pre-med dreams had vanished like a mist

that day in my second semester, when my faculty adviser and chemistry professor, Dr. Roy Adams,

called me to his office and – with both tact and grace – suggested I consider another major, and

without delay.  That same freshman year, I returned to my dormitory suite one day after class to

find my bed and dresser on the balcony.  I had made the mistake of “ratting” on one of my roommates who

was regularly hosting nightly gambling and drinking parties in our suite with his football buddies.  And on top

of it all, by the end of my first year, the Burger Chef, which was the only fast food outlet within walking distance

of the campus, had closed.  So why on earth could I not wait to get back to that?!

      Only one more week, and I would finally end my summer employment at Capri Plate Glass. 

What a summer it was, and what an education I received.  First, I learned that wearing a heavy

rubber apron from neck to toe in one hundred degree plus factory heat can sure take the weight

off a guy.  Second, I learned that no matter how thick the leather gloves, handling raw plate glass

eight hours a day will cut your hands to shreds.  Third, I learned that college life wasn’t so bad

after all.  Among the cast of characters I worked with that summer were the twin sons of the company’s owner. 

The word “slacker” couldn’t have been better applied than it was to these two.  I

had never in my life seen a person, let alone two, who managed to look so busy, yet never got a

thing accomplished.  They must have been able to smell the shop foreman from their sleeping

quarters among the empty boxes where they spent most of their work day; because when he

came around, they were up cutting, polishing and packaging like there was no tomorrow.

      The sad thing was that these guys were so talented.  Lance, when so moved, could tear a piece

of machinery down and rebuild it in less time than it would take most people to fetch their tools. 

Dane was so skilled with a hand held diamond glass cutter that he could scribe and cut his name

out of quarter inch thick plate glass.  Their level of skill and ability was sky high.  But their level of

motivation was rock bottom.  The fact of the matter was, they were just plain lazy.  I’ve heard that

a silver spoon in the mouth can sometimes do that.  At any rate, they did the absolute minimum

required to get by…..and no more.  They were always looking for the easy way out.

      The parable Jesus tells in our gospel lesson this morning deals with a contrast between industry

and lethargy; between the motivated and the unmotivated; between the hard-working and the

lazy.  As Luke records Jesus’ story, a man of high social pedigree needed to travel far away to be

given the reigns of absolute power.  In his absence, he called ten slaves, and gave them each a

pound; the equivalent of three months laboring wages.  His instruction to them was to trade; to

make the most of what they had been given; to be profitable until he returned to fully establish

his kingdom. 

      Upon his return, he began to ask for an accounting.  The first had managed to parlay his pound

into ten.  Clearly, this man was unusually motivated and remarkably productive.  In light of his performance,

he was given authority over ten cities of the new kingdom.  A second man, perhaps not quite as talented,

but nevertheless productive, returned five pounds on his single pound.  His

efforts were acknowledged by conferring on him five cities.  Then another came.  Under the eye of

the nobleman, he slowly unfolded the cloth in which he had safely buried his masters’ pound. 

“Well boss, here it is, safe and sound, just like you left it.”  I suppose that approach is okay if one is

asked to house sit, or to keep an eye on the parakeet and the house plants.  But not so here.

      Perhaps even as he opens the napkin, he notices a look on his master’s face which doesn’t seem

very encouraging.  So he brings a litany of excuses:  “Ahhh….. I was afraid of you.  I didn’t want you

to get mad at me if I did anything wrong.  Umm….I know you’re a severe man, and “you take what

you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.”  Unfortunately for him, this plea was of no

avail.  The single pound was taken from him and given to the fellow who had turned the one into

ten.  Well, how fair is thatA voice arises from the audience in this parable [maybe it’s ours]

“Lord, he (already) has ten pounds!”  Then the lord of the story engages the acme of unfairness

when he states:  “I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have

nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” 

      As we consider the meaning and application of this parable, we must first understand this: Jesus

is not attempting to draw a close parallel here between the nobleman – the lord – of the story, and

almighty God, or Himself.  The lord and master in Jesus’ story is a newly-crowned earthly king; vindictive; ruthless;

greedy; truly a “harsh man,” just as the third servant observes.  He expects a

significant return on his investments, and probably doesn’t necessarily care how it’s gotten.  He

even likes to reap where he did not sow.  That is to say, he just takes unto himself.  So Jesus is not

painting a picture in words about God.  He’s painting a picture in words about the reality of this


      This story is told by Jesus in response to a misperception about Himself.  Jesus was approaching

Jerusalem for what would be the last time; where his earthly fate would be sealed.  Although Jesus

knew what the outcome would be, many of those around Him assumed that upon His arrival, He

would set up His Kingdom in Jerusalem. believed that with Jesus’ coming, they would all be living on

Easy Street.  They thought they could kick back and cruise; hide among the boxes in a manner of

speaking.  As I read and studied this parable, it occurred to me; could Jesus have been telling this

parable to say:  Hey, it’s not what you think.  You all are going to be around here for a while, but I

am not.  And rest assured, it’s not going to be Easy Street.  Then Jesus presents this vindictive nobleman

as an allegory for the way the world deals with people. 

      And isn’t it true?  Whether we like it or not, or whether we think it’s fair or not, we basically get

out of life what we put into it.  A reality of this world is that, by and large, we are rewarded if we

work with industry and diligence, and left behind if we are lazy and unproductive. This is not to say

that there isn’t great injustice in this world, where hard-working, industrious folks seem to never

gain ground in spite of their efforts, while those who sit up on the 27th floor in posh luxury, putting

golf balls into a cup, become rich on the backs of those who labor.  This is symptomatic of a world

moving further and further from godly righteousness.  But for the most part, I think it’s still safe to

say that hard work ultimately brings benefit and reward.

     I think Jesus is teaching in this parable that as we journey through this life, awaiting Jesus’ return

to establish His Kingdom – which will be radically different from the kingdoms of this world – we

should seek to be industrious and productive.  We are called to be hard workers in whatever it is

we’re called to do.  This world does not, nor certainly should not, reward slackers.  Fellows like

Lance and Dane, with their sluggard attitudes, can bring a company down.  And that’s just what they

did with the company left them by their father.  And most tragic – and most to be pitied – are those

endowed with great talent and great potential, and they’re either too unmotivated, too complacent,

or too lazy to use it.  And in effect, what has been given to them is, by their own choices, taken from

them.  On the other hand, there are those who are granted a smaller measure of talent, yet through

 their industry and self-motivation, multiply what they have into great things.

  I believe there’s an implication here for our very own Central Church.  We may not have the biggest

or most modern church facility in the Massillon area.  We may not have streams of kids pouring into

our youth programs.  We may not have all the bells and whistles many of the new-era independent

churches have.  But I am convinced that if we metaphorically put our shoulders to the wheel – working diligently,

consistently, faithfully, honestly seeking to bring the spiritual message of Jesus Christ to this community through loving,

practical outreach, we’ll see the fruit of our efforts multiply.  How many remember dear Dr. J. who led our education

program years ago?  When she and I would have our little staff meetings, she would often say something to the effect of: 

“God calls us to be faithful in the small things, and do the best with what we’ve been given.”  I believe the Lord’s call to

this church, and to all of us who are a part of it, is to do that very thing.  Let’s rededicate ourselves to being profitable for

the Lord’s Kingdom; teaching our best; singing our best; preaching our best; leading our best; giving our best; multiplying

that with which we have been entrusted until the righteous King’s return.  For neither in the world, nor in the Kingdom,

does the reward go to slackers.

 Lord our God, we want to make a difference.  You have blessed us with such talent, such potential,

such opportunity.  By Your Spirit, motivate us to bring our industry that we might make full use of

all which You have placed in our hands. Multiply our efforts, not to our glory, but to the glory of the One

who teaches us how to serve, and how to best use our gifts for good.  We pray this in the

name of Jesus.  Amen.