A current trend seems to have arisen where a couple tell their invited guests what sort of presents to bring to celebrate their wedding. Free gifts, especially duplicates, are a nice thought, but you know you’ll never use them. They clutter our lives, and we get embarrassed when friends visit, finding their gift hidden in the back cupboard not being used or displayed. It is a dilemma to balance the generosity of free gifts with the future needs and personal likes of the couple.
Most of us find ways to use gifts, and if they’re not useable we often seek to off load them. Some gifts, if they not used, actually become unusable with age. Other gifts wear down with age. The things we are given, or acquire, are designed to be used. To hide them away, accumulate them, or create clutter is not the norm for most people. Often, the things we have been given, have to be used, and we are accountable for their use. We put money in superannuation to secure a retirement income. We drive roadworthy cars so we are safe on the roads. We use electrical appliances that are in good order so we don’t electrocute ourselves.
Matthew’s account of the stewardship outlined in our parable (Matt 25:14–30), highlight the need to use things wisely, and the accountability we have with the things we are given. God measures us by how we use the gifts he has given to us. That includes more than money. It includes our time, talents, skills, and everything we have. We are not put on this earth to sit and wait, whether out of fear or ignorance, jealously guarding what we have under the illusion that God will be happy with that. On the contrary, God gives gifts so they will be used in our lives to the benefit of those around us. We are not islands unto ourselves, but people who live a life of accountability toward the people around us.
Baptism is a perfect example of this accountability. We are not baptised to live a life without any ongoing reference to God. The promises made claim a willingness to be accountable for the faith of the baptised person. We as a community promise to be accountable for the faith given. Too often people seek baptism because they think it is a nice thing to do. But baptism makes us, not just a child of God, but members of God’s community. There is an expectation from God that baptism will be worked out in an active practise of the faith amongst others who are doing the same. How many falter when asked to give an account of their baptismal life? How many will respond like the one who hid his coin for fear of being accountable?
As church we do no one any favours by accepting that there is no accountability for the faith we live. The life we live, the gifts we have, the resources we are given, all are designed to serve God’s purpose. They are designed to draw others into a life-long relationship with Jesus. The one thing we can offer to those who do not know Jesus is a life of faith that is lived and expressed in such a way that we know we will be held accountable. In such a way we not only demonstrate God’s love and grace to us, but we show how serious we are about this faith we profess.