Joshua 3:7-17, Matthew 25:14-30
October 30, 2005
Today we have Jesus’ well known parable known as “The Parable of the Talents.” This is a story we often use for during a time of “Stewardship Emphasis.” It’s a great parable which is constructed around a wonderful word that has a double meaning in our language! It is the word “Talent.”
Remember, these stories come out of Jesus’ head – which is totally amazing when we see all that’s in them! He was truly the master story teller! In this one the “Master” goes away, and entrusts to three of his servants a portion of his wealth. To each he gives a certain number of “talents.” A talent was a unit of money. It was actually a unity of weight. You could have a “talent of gold” or a “talent of silver.” And, of course, each would have a different value.
The double meaning comes in our language. We use the word talent to mean the gifts and abilities we have. And as we think of Stewardship, we think of the “talents” with which God has entrusted us. And we are called on to make the most of those talents and to give those gifts God has given us, back to him.
Of course the great part of that double meaning is that it means the all of us! Along with our money, we use our abilities for God’s kingdom. We might have the gifts of being teachers, or book keepers, or musicians, or gracious hosts, or repair guys, or note takers, or prayer warriors! We think of giving all of ourselves to God’s kingdom, and that’s a wonderful Stewardship message!
There’s more to this story, though. Look what’s happening here. This is not just a matter of these servants “using” their “talents.” What are they doing with them? They are making more. They are multiplying – they are increasing the gifts. They are multiplying what God has given them. That’s important in what Jesus is saying here!
The other thing of great importance here is the attitude that we see in these servants. Look at these first two. When the master returns, and these men give account of themselves, is there not joy their words? Do you see that in these men? I’m sure Jesus would have told it that way. “Look master!” The first two men said, “Look what I’ve been able to do with your money!”
I see a great joy in these first two guys! And it’s even more amazing in the second guy who wasn’t given as much as the first. Actually, the more I think about it, the more this parable is more about him than any of the others. He had less than the first, but that didn’t deter him! In fact it is through him that this parable hit me differently than ever before!
Friends, I know that’s the Holy Spirit working!! You know how sometimes you can read a scripture a hundred times and then on the hundred and first time something new can hit you. And I’m not saying it always has to be new. Sometimes people do Bible study that way. They’ve always got to be seeing something new. Often it’s the same message brought closer to home or becoming deeper or more powerful. The spirit works that way even more!
However, as sometimes happens, I found spirit leading me down a different path, an unexpected path! And as it did, I suddenly found this stuff gushing out of me! And that’s the way it happens sometimes, too. And it’s amazing! And I felt myself looking forward to telling you this. That’s another way I find the spirit works. You get the message and you can’t contain it!
The unexpected path in this passage comes from an observation that was right in front of me all the time. (Remember that’s sometimes the best place to hide something – in plain sight!) You see, this isn’t a parable about three guys who were given the same amount! It’s no coincidence that the one who received less did the least – actually less than the least. Jesus said that he could have invested it with the bankers – that would have been the least!
This is a parable about those who have less than others, and how they handle having less. It’s a parable that contrasts those who do well with what they have been given and what that does to their attitude, and the attitude that can happen in those who don’t have as much. And there’s a stark contrast between the two! This third man doesn’t just hand back the talent. His attitude is one of joylessness, anger, and almost suspicion.
This is an amazing story! This is what sometimes happens in Churches. In our world where bigger is often seen as better, it’s hard to know what to do and to say when one group has more than another. But this is something we need to come to grips with at Stewardship time! In fact, it’s crucial! We need to see that the man with five talents still took those talents and multiplied them. He had less, but he still went for the abundance. He was given less, but still he had the joy!
The fact is that some Churches have more, for various reasons. And that alone doesn’t make one better or worse. The he is recognizing the hand of God in our lives and learning to rejoice in that. That’s what this parable is saying so strongly and so masterfully!
A year or so ago, I was perusing the budget of my brother’s Church. His family goes to the Casas Adobe Church in Tucson, Arizona. Would you like to know how many millions there’s is in their budget? I don’t remember the exact figure, but with 7,000 members, you can just imagine! (Do the math!) But is that ok? Is there such a thing as “too much?” Does there come a point where it becomes a shameful amount? Perhaps. But in the meantime, is that a joyous thing? Is it demonstrative of God’s abundance? I think it is!
The question this parable asks is “Do we use what we have with joy and productivity?” Or do we bury even what he have? It’s no coincidence that the last man “buried” his talent. That has double meaning, too. He didn’t just hide it. He didn’t just ignore or neglect, his talents. He didn’t just fail to use his talent. He didn’t even simply use it for the wrong purposes! He buried it! And Jesus in telling the story is saying that’s the worse. And it was his attitude that convicted him!
Can that happen to us? Are we sometimes in danger of taking on that kind of attitude? If we have anxiety over having less cause us to bury our talents, either because we are embarrassed, or ashamed because we have less, or even a little angry because we weren’t given as much? Or in our own lives, do we become anxious about things, and then our giving suffers because we can see only our own problems and we are worried about how making a pledge will affect all that?
Or are we like the first two men. Are we are we striving to see the wonder of this? Are we seeking to multiply our efforts together and to look to the amazement of God working in our midst in our stewardship efforts? This is what I’ve been talking about for weeks now, when I’ve said we need to “get beyond the worries and the anxiety and get on to the joy!” And that is exactly what Jesus is talking about in this parable!
Does this open up possibilities for you? It does for me! This is about abundance – one of the first words I used in a sermon from this pulpit! It is such an important word in God’s kingdom! When we see that abundance and rejoice in it, then we see the joy! Then we get beyond the worries. That’s what I want for us! I want us to give and to multiply, not just for the increase, but for the joy and the glory – those things multiplied, like the first two men!
Did you hear that in the parable? What did Jesus tell us the master said to the first two men. And remember, Jesus is making up this story, so he gets to choose his words and his descriptions carefully! The master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.” But that’s not his final word to them! What is it? What does he say? “Enter into the joy of your master.” That’s the result! That’s the reward in all this!
My friends, that’s what he’s telling us! What is the reward of our good stewardship? Peace of mind? Getting beyond the anxiety? Ability to plan and even dream? Yes, to all those things. A BIG yes to all of those things. But the big result, the big reward for good stewardship is that we will enter into the joy of the master! Those aren’t my words, those are Jesus’ words!!
Aren’t they great words? Again and again in recent months I’ve been drawn to some of Paul’s words which he wrote later to the Church in Ephesus. Near the end of the third chapter, he echoes this very idea of abundance. He says, “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church…” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
God can do so much through us here – more than we can ever ask or think. The more we fully give ourselves to him, the more he can do – way more! May the theme of our stewardship be the theme of our lives in him – joy, abundance, glory!
Eternal God, we give ourselves to you. Help us to multiply your kingdom in our midst. Help us to “get out of our own way.” Show us the glory you have in mind for us here. Teach us to be people of grace, and peace, and joy. For this we pray in our Savior’s name, Amen.