This week we look at Stewardship in the church, and see what it means to be obedient with our talents, our time, and our resources...
This message is based on Matthew 25:14-30
Jesus tells this a story of a wealthy landowner who was preparing for a long journey. He called his three servants and divided his money between them, not evenly, but according to their ability. To one servant he gave five talents, to a second two talents, and to a third one talent. A talent was a weight, a set weight, so a talent of money was an amount of money, a talent was worth about 6,000 denarii. A denarii was a coin worth a full days wage, so a talent of denarius would have been worth about 6,000 days wages. Something that’s extremely valuable.
So even the third person in the story, the one that just got one talent, got a pretty fair sum of money. To put this in perspective in today’s dollars, if a laborer makes $12 or 13 an hour, a denarii might be worth about $100 – a laborers day wage. That would make a talent worth about $600,000. So don’t feel sorry for him, getting only one, that one was worth the equivalent of over a half million dollars.
I think it’s important to see here that each servant got something. What they got was based on their ability to manage it, but they all got something. No one was left idle. You may not be a five-talent person, but you still have some talent. We all do. And you know something, I think that there are a whole lot more one and two talent people in this world than there are five talent people. Some people may seem to have it all, I won't deny that. But most of us have something we’re really good at, maybe a couple things we’re really good at. And all of us have some things we’re not so good at, too.
So the master goes on his journey, and when he returns, he calls together his three servants and asks them to give an account. The five talent man had invested his talent very wisely and was able to return an additional five talents, a 100% return. So, also, the two talent man doubles his investment. “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
But what about the one talent man? He stepped forward and said: “Master, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.” He was very concerned about failing, and possibly loosing the money. So he didn’t do anything with it. He didn’t loose it, he gave back the entire talent, but he didn’t do anything with it. Was the master happy not have lost anything? No, he was outraged, he used words like wicked and lazy to describe this servant. Angrily he took that talent back and gave it to the servant who now had ten. In fact, at the end of the parable, he was thrown outside, into the darnkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Where do you think that is? It’s not heaven, is it! It’s not eternity in the presence of our Lord! It’s an eternity in hell, a very real place.
I think there are several things we can get out of this passage. First, it tells us that God gives men different gifts. We see that in life. Some have more than others. The lesson is that it isn’t what we receive that matters, but what we do with what we receive. God never expects us to be able to use abilities or even resources that we don’t have. But He does expect us to use the abilities and the resources we do have the best we can. In other words, we might not be equal in abilities, but God expects us to be equal in effort. Whatever talent we have, great or little, we must use for the Lord.
What are your gifts, and how are you using them for God? I know that there are committees and boards here in the church that need your help. There are projects like the Dinners we have, and the Awana ministry, and the National Day of Prayer breakfast that can use your help. There are places for you to serve on the committees in the church. Are you using gifts to help? Are you using what God gave you to serve Him?
Remember, we can’t all be good at everything, but we’re all good at something. And God expects equal effort, so whatever you’re good at, use to glorify God. And I believe that God’s mechanism for us to serve Him and to serve others is the church – He gave us the church, so that through the church, we might serve Him and serve others.
A second thing we see in this parable, is that there is a reward for a job well done. And here, and perhaps even usually, the reward for a job well done is, well, it’s another job. The two servants that invested the money and actually doubling their money, were given more money, greater tasks, greater talents. They didn’t get to sit back and rest. That’s what we do in heaven. When they proved themselves worthy, they were given greater jobs, jobs of greater worth.
Luke 10:2-3 says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lanbs among wolves.” Understand what this means. He tells us to ask the Lord to send out workers, but then, just so you understand, if He gives you a burden to notice the need, He’s sending you! Go, I am sending you… God will never place a burden in your heart so you have something to complain about in the parking lot. If He places a burden in your heart, if He shows you a need, it’s not so you can complain, it’s so you can help, so you can serve Him, so you can do something about it.
A devotion based on that verse said, “In Christian service, there is no unemployment. God has work for everyone. Don’t just sit back and watch others work – look for ways to help with the harvest.” God has given each of us an ability to use for Him. And He expects us to use it. The word retirement, even the concept behind it, is not found in Scripture. God has work for you to do. And if you’ve done that work well over the years, that doesn’t mean it’s time for a break, it means He probably has even more for you to do now.
Thirdly, this parable tells us that the man who is punished is the one who wouldn’t try. The man with the one talent said at least he didn’t loose his talent. He simply didn’t do anything with it. Even if he tried, and failed miserably, and lost the whole talent, it would have been better than not doing anything.
I think it’s always a temptation to say that we have such a small talent, so little ability, that the church can’t possibly use me, that God can’t possibly use me, it’s not really worth trying given what little I could do. But the condemnation in this story is for the one who said just that, the one who wouldn’t try. God has given you an ability or a talent that He wants you to use for Him. Don’t stay home and not try. Whatever ability you have been given, step out in faith, and find a way to serve God with it. Talk to me, we can find someway that you can serve.
Finally, I think this parable lays down one of the universal truths of life. It tells us that to him that has much, much more will be given. But from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. In this day and age, that doesn’t sound right, does it? It doesn’t sound fair. We want to give to the poor, we know that God wants us to give to the poor, we want everybody to succeed. Is this passage telling us that they won’t succeed? I don’t think so.
I think what this passage is telling us is something that I think we all agree is true. If we have a talent, a gift, or an ability, and we use, we get better at it. And as we get better at it, we can do more and more with it. And the more we succeed, the more that’s expected from us. We are expected to do more and more with it, to the glory of God.
But if we have a gift, and we don’t use it, that talent or ability eventually atrophies, and the day will come that we won’t be able to do it anymore. Here is a simple example, but in high school, I used to play golf a lot. I was a starter on the golf team, and played every school tournament. I had a twelve handicap in my senior year, meaning that I would average somewhere around twelve over par for eighteen holes. I certainly wasn’t the best on the team, but I was good enough to play in every tournament.
I haven’t played a round of golf in several years. But if I were to play now, I probably wouldn’t break 100. Which is about thirty over par. I’ve lost much of the ability I had to play golf. By not using that ability to play golf, I’ve lost much of that ability. Conversly, if I started playing a lot again, it would probably come back. I think that applies to every thing we do. If we don’t use it, we loose it. If we use it, we get better at it.
So, we’ve made a case for this passage that it’s about using our abilities, our talents, to serve God. The one who is obedient to God is the one that does that. But I think it’s important remember that a talent in this story is money, after all. It was a talent of money that was given to each person. And each person was to invest that money in ways that would bring an increase for their master.
So here is the question for you this week. Are you investing your money and your resources in things that will bring an increase for your Master? How much are you giving back to God? What are we doing with your gifts?
I believe that God asks us to give a tithe. I think that command is still in force. It wasn’t part of the law, it predates the law by thousands of years. That’s a tenth of our income, as a way of recognizing that all that we have comes from Him. He is the Master; we are the servant entrusted with a gift. The tithe is a way to honor God, it’s how we show God that we trust Him completely. It’s a way to show our faithfulness. And I encourage you to tithe. If you’re not there yet, I encourage you to increase each year until you get there. It’s amazing, but God truly does bless us when we tithe, perhaps because in tithing, we show ourselves faithful to Him.
As just as the men in our reading this morning had to give back to their master that money which was his, we need to give back to God what is His. It’s the tithe, ten percent, that is His. In fact, Malachi 3:9 actually goes so far as to say we are stealing from God when we don’t tithe. The next verse says, “‘Bring the whole tithe into my storehouse... Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’”
When you tithe, you are showing God that you trust Him. And as you reach out to Him, and make that step toward Him, as we are obedient in using our gifts and abilities to God, and giving what God asks us to give, He will throw open the floodgates and bless you mightily. And it doesn’t stop there, either, because when we as individuals show that we trust Him, we as a church are found faithful, too. He throws open floodgates, the whole church benefits, all God’s people benefit.