(13) “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” These are the words of Jesus leading into our parable for today. The end is coming. Jesus will return. Last week we were told to be prepared as we wait. Today He tells us what we should be doing while we wait. Last week we were compared to anxious bridesmaids, this week to talented servants.
(14-18) “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.”
A master goes away and leaves work for his servants to do. There’s hardly anything new or rivetting in such a concept … or so we might assume. The rich getting richer off the backs of the poor, the powerful pushing around the weak and defenseless. The world still seems to work this way. But think again dear Christians! This master is picture of Jesus and Jesus is always full of surprises. Consider this, each talent that was given the servants was the equivelant of twenty years wages! How kindly must this master have felt toward these servants. To turn this much of His own wealth over to His servants is to honour them with a great trust!
Further, we see He gave to each according to his ability. We might be tempted to think that this means He had in some way pre-judged their worth. Decided some were better than others, some were more worthy to succeed, so he would give them a better chance, but again this master is full of surprises! The master knew these men, cared for these men and refused to give them that which would burden or overpower them. How much God gives is not up to us, but only Him. Similarly, the why’s and the when’s of His return. What they would do with the talents entrusted and in the time that they were given … that IS up to them!
Would they show themselves worthy of such great trust? We see that both the one who received 5 talents and the one who received 2 went out immediately and put it to use for their master. And each brought in significant returns. Worthy Servants? Yes, but it is not about how much they achieve but how faithful they are to their master!
(19-23) “Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”
Remember, it is not about how much they earn but how faithful they are to their master!Consider how the reward is the same, despite the differences in “productivity.” Each of the first two servants is praised with Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. Each is given a greater share in the master’s kingdom. Each is given even greater gifts, a greater usefulness, and a greater purpose in His plans. What’s more each is graced with a share in the very joys of the master a kind of partnership with the master in all his business dealings! But not so for the third man.
(24-28) “He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.”
Is this reaction not overly severe? Isn’t this last servant just a poor sap? Clumsy in business? At least he returned the talent right? … but you see, that’s just it … he gave the gift back. The gifts were given to be used not left idle or unproductive. The real tragedy is that this servant did nothing with the gift entrusted him … he didn’t misplace it, he didn’t waste it, he didn’t use it foolishly … he did nothing with it at all! He buried it. The great trust of the master aroused no response in this ungrateful servant. The amount of trust placed in him had nothing to do with his unfaithfulness. If he had been given more he would simply have been unfaithful in more (and then he would have had an excuse too – it was all too much I didn’t know where to start!)
Just like our forefather Adam, He even tries to blame the master for his lack of faithfulness. To this caring, thoughtful and overly generous master falls the charge of being hard, grasping, unloving, ungenerous, a real cut-throat. But his own heartless words prove him false. If this was how he truly viewed the character of the master he still would have done something, if only out of fear. But there was no fear, there was no love. There was no appreciation of the gifts that had been given or the favour of the one who so freely gave them. And so in the end, because he didn’t use it he lost it.
Dear fellow servants, God has given us so much. He has entrusted us with the means of grace, the Baptism by which Christians are born, The Word by which we live and believe, the Supper of His Body and Blood by which faith is nourished and sustained. He has given us His Holy Spirit, He has given us a Church, a Christian family and this beautiful facility, He has given you a pastor. What we do with them and how we use them is a statement of not only how we view them but how we view Him. Do we use these gifts as He intended? Do we use them often? Do we use them happily? Do we use them to bring honour and glory to Him? Or do we bury them in a corner of our life, and whine and complain about the unfair pressures God has placed upon us, the added burdens it places upon our lives and schedules, or that He would demand so much from us when others get off easy?
And that’s only the beginning dear friends! For God has also given you all the Christian virtues, (like peace, joy, love, patience, kindness). How do you put them to use? He has given you more money, more stuff, more skills, more abilities, and more time than you have likely ever begun to appreciate. What have you done with these? He has given it all so that they might be used for work in His kingdom. Not one person in the whole history of the world has ever been given the same gifts, the same context, and the same opportunities as you. Nor will anyone be given them again. You are gifted – talented – in ways that this world will never see again! God knows our spiritual fibre, our moral strength and does not expect too much from us. He wants to have each of us invest the talents we have received with diligence and gusto, to work eagerly in His service. But not for His sake, but our own … that we might grow in His kingdom and share in His joy! That He might bless us with blessing upon blessing upon blessing!
But woe to the small, mean-spirited complainer, the slothful servant, that refuses to invest his talent, to make use of his gifts and abilities in that sphere of activity where the Lord has placed him. Woe to those in whom the great trust of the master arouses no response, no joys, no stirrings of thankfulness, or eagerness to respond. He thereby shows that he is not worthy of the Lord’s mercies and cares nothing for His grace. And in the end if he will not appreciate or use either the mercies or the grace, they will be taken away.
(29-30) “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The warning given, let us leave the faithless servant behind. Let us remember how kindly Jesus has dealt with us turning over so much of His own wealth over to we His servants. And He’s not done yet! (Rom. 8:32) He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? He indeed has honoured us with a great trust! The gifts are His, the opportunities to use them are His, the returns are His, but the blessings He wants share! It pleases Him to give rewards of mercy to those that are faithful in these small things, in our personal lives, in our congregational life, in our Kingdom life. (29) “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance.” To us talented servants, to us eager workers, He will give a partnership in the joys of the Kingdom above.