Pardon my use of the word "sin." It is hardly ever heard in polite company these days. Then, when it is heard from the mouths of Christians, there is a fair chance it will be heard as judgmental anger.

But should the word "sin" be connected with caution? Isn't caution a good thing? Shouldn't parents teach their children to be critical thinkers and not to believe everything they are told – or find on the Internet? To be sure!

As with practically every virtue, however, prudence and reasonable caution may spill over into unreasoning fear. Ever know someone who was afraid of life? People who panic when their rigid routine is interrupted? A woman who quite literally worries about everything or a man who cannot make commitments?

There is a story that Jesus told about a wealthy man who entrusted large amounts of money to his servants. For our purposes, we will translate it into thousands of dollars and have him giving $5,000 to one of them, $2,000 to another, and $1,000 to yet a third. Interestingly, he didn't give specific orders about what to do with the money. He simply trusted them with his wealth.

After a time, the man returned from an extended trip and asked for an accounting. The first two had doubled the money given them. So they were both praised as "good and faithful" servants – and promoted. Yet the focus of the story seems to be on the third. He wound up being called "wicked" – and got fired.

Practically all of Jesus' teaching stories were meant to make his hearers gasp – and puzzle over their meaning. They are never neat morality tales. They resist being reduced to bullet points or doctrinal exhortations. They are designed to make us wonder about the story's meaning for our own time and place.

The third person in the parable didn't lose or squander the money trusted to him. To be quite sure he didn't lose it, he locked it up in a safe place. When ancient or modern hearers come across his explanation, it makes perfectly good sense to us. It parallels our way of dealing with life. Ah, but that's the point!

Here was the man's explanation:

Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your money in the ground. Here you have what is yours (Matthew 25:25, emphasis added).

Live with enthusiasm and creativity!
For this, the owner called him "wicked and lazy" (Matthew 25:26).

That story seems to be about the different mental image people have of God himself. Some see him as a tyrant who can never be pleased. So they take no risks, accomplish little, and find no joy in life. There are others who see God in terms of his good gifts, daily grace, and abundant love. From that perspective, they live with enthusiasm and creativity. And their lives are filled with joy.

Be wise enough not to be gullible, but don't live to worst-case scenarios.