“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who was leaving on a trip. He called his servants and handed his possessions over to them. 15 To one he gave five valuable coins,[a] and to another he gave two, and to another he gave one. He gave to each servant according to that servant’s ability. Then he left on his journey.
16 “After the man left, the servant who had five valuable coins took them and went to work doing business with them. He gained five more. 17 In the same way, the one who had two valuable coins gained two more. 18 But the servant who had received the one valuable coin dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.
19 “Now after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received five valuable coins came forward with five additional coins. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five valuable coins. Look, I’ve gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘Excellent! You are a good and faithful servant! You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’
22 “The second servant also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two valuable coins. Look, I’ve gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done! You are a good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’
24 “Now the one who had received one valuable coin came and said, ‘Master, I knew that you are a hard man. You harvest grain where you haven’t sown. You gather crops where you haven’t spread seed. 25 So I was afraid. And I hid my valuable coin in the ground. Here, you have what’s yours.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You evil and lazy servant! You knew that I harvest grain where I haven’t sown and that I gather crops where I haven’t spread seed? 27 In that case, you should have turned my money over to the bankers so that when I returned, you could give me what belonged to me with interest. 28 Therefore, take from him the valuable coin and give it to the one who has ten coins. 29 Those who have much will receive more, and they will have more than they need. But as for those who don’t have much, even the little bit they have will be taken away from them. 30 Now take the worthless servant and throw him out into the farthest darkness.’
“People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.
Our Parable this morning talks of value, relationship, service, and yes, judgement. Last week’s sermon dealt with the middle of the three parables. All three include judgement in the conclusions. Last week, in the parable of the ten bridesmaids, those who were unprepared were excluded. This week, the judgement puts a sharp point on doing something with the gifts and talents we have been given. Once again, the setting is a private conversation with the disciples that begins in 24:3 while they are on the Mount of Olives, Jesus’ favorite place to pray. The three taken together point to the need for living out our faith in each day.
Let’s talk about value. Jesus wanted to shock the disciples with the extreme value of a faith-filled life. The three stewards were given five talents, two talents and one talent respectively. The man gave them what they were able to handle. Let’s look at the value of a talent in Biblical time. A Talent was worth 6000 Denarii, which is the equivalent of about 20 years of day labor wages. What would that look like in today’s money? One talent would equal approximately $214,240 if we use the Wyoming minimum wage. Nothing to sneeze at! Jesus was communicating the tremendous value, both of the gift and value of the receiver. It would have truly shocked the hearers of the time. I remember the first time I heard of a billionaire. It is almost beyond comprehension.
How do you perceive the gifts God has given you? Your talents? Your abilities? Do you value them this much? The value you put on your gifts and talents speaks loudly of how you perceive your role in God’s kingdom.
Service is next in the text. It says the first servant went out immediately and “went to work doing business with them.” The second also. The third buried his talent. Let’s concentrate on the third for a moment. What was his motivation for hiding his talent? Was he afraid? Afraid of failure? He blames it on the man - a ‘hard man, who reaps where he does not sow?” If failure were his major motivation, he didn’t value the man’s assessment of his ability. A major investment was made in him, and he was afraid he would not be able to give back as much as he had gotten. Here is where the parable gets a little dicey. If taken allegorically, God is the one giving the tremendous gifts – he is also the “hard man.” Do we sometimes think of God’s demanding nature instead of his desire for a heart given to him? Do we question whether we are up to the tasks God sets before us? Hear the reward to the faithful servants. “Come celebrate with me.” In the New Revised Standard Version it reads, “Enter into the joy of your master.” This isn’t a, “there will be a bonus in this month’s check.” Tis isn’t a pat on the back by management. It speaks of a relationship between the man and the servants. There was a warmth and acceptance, and appreciation. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Instead of trusting the worth of the gift the man had given him, and his own worth in the eyes of the man who judged him ‘able’, he opted for self-protection. He uses a term for commerce here, “You have what is yours.” (v. 25) He is basically saying, ‘I have no responsibility for developing what you’ve given me.’ In this servants actions it is easy to see that there was no love for the master, no relationship.
So, what holds us back from using what God has given us? What keeps us from recognizing and utilizing the gifts God has given us? Is it a fear of failing?
Several years back I made a deal with my brother. His great talent is making cars run. Mine is woodworking. The deal involved Brad getting Janna’s 1957 Nash Metropolitan running again, and I would build an entertainment center for them. I had never done fine furniture or cabinet making. I wanted to do a quality job for them. I spent many a restless night working out in my mind how to build it. I trusted that I had the ability. I had all the background and basic skills. I had the tools, including a dovetail machine I had never tried. I tested on scraps first! Then it came time to commit it to oak and a final product. Yes, I worried if I was “up to it.” Yet, went for it. I trusted the talents and skills I had been given, and applied them to something new.
Beyond fear of failing, I believe something that hinders our utilizing what God has given us is an over developed sense of humility. ‘I’m not that great.’ ‘I’ve never done that before.’ ‘There is someone else who could do it better.’ Maybe the mask of humility is revealing that we don’t value what God has given. Maybe we don’t even imagine God has given us anything in the first place. The image that popped into my mind is when Jesus spoke of planting the seed. We are not asked to plant a tree, fully mature and full of fruit. We are asked to plant a seed. Jesus says, ‘something small can make a huge difference.’ At the right place, at the right time even small gestures of service can be used by God. God wants us to be open to doing what we can with what we have been given.
Mary Oliver, in a poem entitled The Summer Day, speaks about observing what is around us. “I do know how to pay attention,” she says. Then asks, “What will you do with you wild and precious life?” I have pondered that phrase a lot in this last week. My first inclination was to think of the word wild as wild and crazy – out of control. But there is another meaning of wild – it is a natural, undomesticated state of being. I began to imagine it as how God created us to be, before the world stomped out our creativity with criticism. I vividly remember a sixth-grade art project. I was pouring heart and effort into a scene of rocks and trees on a hillside. I was trying to do the best I could. I was shading the scene, so it looked like it had depth. I was carefully placing the objects so they would look natural. I was having fun creating. About that time the teacher comes up. Instead of seeing what I was doing and commenting on how it was coming out, she said, “Just hurry up. You’re taking too much time.”
What will I do with my “wild” – natural – God-given life? Will I see my life as precious – to myself, to others, to God? Will I honor the abilities God has given me by using them, great or small, for Him?
Did you notice the twist in the parable? I hadn’t. The man never asks for the talents to be returned. The test says, “after a long time the man returned and settled accounts.” But watch what happens in verse 28. In the judgement on the ineffective servant he says, “take the one and give it to the one who has (note the present tense) the ten. God gives us talents to be used for His kingdom to be sure. But they are also for us to enjoy. They are precious because God gave them to us. We cherish things that are precious.
1 Peter 4:10-11 - And serve each other according to the gift each person has received, as good managers of God’s diverse gifts. 11 Whoever speaks should do so as those who speak God’s word. Whoever serves should do so from the strength that God furnishes. Do this so that in everything God may be honored through Jesus Christ. To him be honor and power forever and always. Amen.
“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God!” As for me, I long to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”
Pastor Paul Grossman