In the story “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Willy Wonka searches the land for someone he can give his chocolate factory to. He doesn’t want just anyone; he wants someone who shares his vision of candy as a source of humor and joy; and of work as a promoter of humanity and dignity.Several young people are selected to tour the plant, and one by one, they are dismissed for their selfishness and dishonesty. Eventually only Charlie is left — a humble, grateful, honest young man who Willy can trust with his factory.In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus compares God’s kingdom to an estate owner who goes on a long journey, and puts his servants in charge of his possessions. When he returned, he found that two of the three servants had made wise investments with their master’s funds, and one servant did nothing out of fear of losing the master’s money.To the first two, the master says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.” The third servant is, essentially, fired.The first two servants understood their master’s vision and purpose, and seemed to share it. They seemed to know what he would want and didn’t appear to harbor any fear that they would be punished if their investments were not successful. The third cannot overcome his fear of failure, and his belief that the master would punish him if he failed.Come, share your master’s joy. What an invitation and reward for their confidence in the master’s generosity! It seems to me that these servants already shared their master’s joy as they instinctively did as he would desire them to. They share the same values and sense of responsibility. We are invited and encouraged to share the joy of our master — to internalize Jesus’ values of love, compassion and generosity, and to practice these values in all that we do.
When I was a kid and my parents would go on vacation without us, my mom would leave dozens of notes for the babysitters. She would instruct them on meals to prepare, bedtimes to observe, schedules to keep, chores to be done — our every day was virtually scripted. She wanted to leave nothing to chance, and the notes gave her a “paper trail” to which the babysitter would be accountable on her return.
Well, God doesn’t do that for us. We are not given a formula or script for faithfulness. Yes, there are many teachings and examples in the Scriptures, but we are also left to live in a relationship with God that is based on love and not on compliance. We are invited and encouraged to share the joy of our master — to internalize Jesus’ values of love, compassion and generosity, and to practice these values in all that we do.
About the worst thing we can do is live in fear of failure, for that is to be immobilized and inert, unable to share in anyone’s joy at all, because we are too focused on what we might lose.
The reality is we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. God has trusted us with his possessions — our lives and our world. If we live honestly, humbly and faithfully, we stand to inherit the whole thing.
Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected]