“As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” – Genesis 9:7
New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, located only three blocks from the White House is where President Lincoln and his family chose to attend Sunday worship services most of the time during his presidency. There’s an old story, though, that sometimes on Wednesday evenings Lincoln would sneak in a back entrance of the church and slip unnoticed into the pastor’s study during mid-week services, then leaving the door slightly ajar he would sit and listen to the sermon. On one such occasion, so the story goes, as Lincoln and his aid where leaving the church through the same back entrance the aid asked the President what he thought about the sermon. “It was eloquently delivered,” Mr. Lincoln replied, “the preacher did an excellent job interpreting the scripture, and used great examples to make his points.” “Then would you consider it to have been a great sermon?” the aid inquired. “No!” the President responded, “Because he failed to challenge the people to go out and do something great.”
In his telling of the Parable of the Talents Jesus was challenging his listeners to go out and do something great. It’s a story about three stewards who were each put in charge of certain talents (money) while their master was away. “To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability,” scripture tells us. Later when the master returned the first two stewards had doubled the master’s money by investing it wisely. But the third steward had buried his in the ground, essentially doing nothing with it for fear of losing it. Two of the stewards, in other words, did something great with their talents, while the third failed to do anything.
Like the stewards in the Parable, the charge given to mankind from the beginning of time has always been to “be fruitful” and “multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” Lincoln recognized that the pastor had missed an opportunity to challenge people to do something great, not necessarily “headline making” great, but great in the sense of simple goodness that bears fruit and multiplies. Lincoln understood that a great nation depends