by Frank Luke
FCF: The Master has given us great talents to use for His kingdom. We must use them as He sees fit.
Big Idea: Until the Master returns, we must live righteously and use the talents He has given us.
Audience: Corydon A/G
Text: Matthew 25:14-30
The message comes from the book of Matthew. As you turn to chapter 25, remember that Matthew’s gospel was originally written for a Jewish audience. He uses more Hebrew idioms and expresses himself more in a Jewish manner than the other three because he is writing for them. There are even two manuscripts of Matthew written in Hebrew.
Matthew is a quiet man in the Gospels. Unlike Peter, James, and John, he never speaks. He is named only a handful of times as an apostle. However, he accepted the call of Jesus and was chosen to write a gospel.
Matthew was the first Gospel written. This is the unanimous testimony of early Christian writers. There are signs within it that the author was an eyewitness to the events. Matthew also knew the power of redemption first hand. His people considered him a traitor because he worked as a tax collector for the Romans. Not only did he work for the enemy, but he cheated his own people by requiring they pay him more than what the powers required. Of course, he kept the over payments. But Jesus changed Matthew. When He called for Matthew to follow Him, Matthew left his old way of life behind. He also left his money behind. He gave it up for Jesus. And was used in ways that still touch lives today. He accepted the call. And he used his talents for the Kingdom.
As I read the Parable of the Talents pretend that you have never heard it before. You are in the audience as Jesus tells this beloved tale for the first time.
Read Matthew 25:14-30
Matthew places this parable between two last-days parables. His point is so obvious that it needs retelling lest we forget it. The Master will return and judge us according to how we have lived our lives. Have we lived righteously and used our talents for His glory? Or have we squandered what He gave us?
“Talent” in English to mean an ability comes from this parable. Once it was just an amount of money. But after extensive preaching on this passage in the Middle Ages, it came to mean a gift given to you from God. And when God gives something, He expects it to be used to glorify Him and build His kingdom.
Point 1 The Talents Given
Matthew 25:14-18. Many people say that this parable and the Parable of the Pounds in Luke are the same parable reworked by the second one when writing it down to give a different emphasis. That is not the case. There are too many differences between the parables for them to have started the same. In Matthew, there are 3 servants who are each given a different number of talents: 5, 2, and 1. In Luke, there are 10 servants who are each given 1 pound. A talent is equal to 15 years of minimum wage pay, about $250,000. A pound is equal to 3 months of minimum wage pay, or about $4,000. Matthew repeats a story where the servants who make money each double their starting amount. In Luke, the servants each have different rates of return. In Matthew the faithful servants are given charge of “many things.” Luke says they are given charge of one city for each pound they gain. Both Matthew and Luke show dire consequences for the one who doesn’t use the money given to him. Luke also adds details that would have no place in Matthew. He adds that the servants protest when the master says to give the money to the one who earned the most. He also adds that others protested the master coming back.
In Jesus’ day it was common for a rabbi to give similar parables on different occasions. There is no reason to think that Matthew and Luke worked from the same starting parable and one of them changed it. On the contrary, the two parables are different enough that they must have started out differently. Jesus gave these two parables at different times to teach something different.
In Jesus’ day it was also common for a man to leave money with others for safe keeping. They were expected to return the money when the lender returned but they could use it in the mean time. It was legal for the one trusted with the money to simply bury it. If he did so, then he had legal obligation to earn more for the lender, nor was he responsible if a thief stole it from the field. However, according to Jesus, while he has no legal obligation to act, he does have a moral obligation to earn money for the one who trusted him with the money. The third servant fails his moral obligations. He is untrustworthy.
Point 2 The Day of Reckoning
Matthew 25:19-23. The day of reckoning can come at one of two times for us. It can come either when God returns in glory or when we die and stand before Him. Either way, we don’t know when it is coming only that it is coming. Our duty in the meantime is the same—we are to live righteously and act morally. We are to use the talents He gave us.
The first servant comes forth. He took his five talents and returns five more. He doubled his money. That isn’t as high-risk as the servant in Luke’s parable who made a ten fold return on his investment, but this is more money total. The master is well pleased with him and says,“Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
The first servant acted faithfully. He was entrusted with a large sum of money and had a great return on it. The pleased master gives him abundantly.
The second servant comes forward and has earned two more talents from the two talents he was given. The master responds the same to the second as to the first, “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
Both servants are rewarded the same for their risks and return. The one who earned two is given just as much as the one who earned five. We might think that the one who earned more would be given more, but the master is more concerned with the fact that they worked hard. They tried and succeeded with what they were entrusted with. They had different starting amounts but the same rate of return.
Think about the talents God has given you. Do you have the talent of singing? If so, God expects you to sing His praises. Has He gifted you with the seemingly mundane ability of designing brochures well? Do it for the Lord.
Point 3 The Third Servant
Matthew 25:24-30. The third servant has more space devoted to his failure to act than the others do to their success. Undoubtedly, the third servant expected to be rewarded for not wasting the money. After all, he could have invested the money in a business that went belly up. What would the master think if he had lost the money? We don’t know, and we can’t say. Jesus’ point here is the consequences of not trying with what you have been given. It’s a parable about stewardship. Those who are faithful with a little can be trusted with much.
But we are surprised when we first hear this parable. Why is he punished? He hasn’t done anything illegal. He didn’t steal the money or waste it on women, wine, and song. He was lazy; why is that so wrong?
It’s wrong because he did waste it. He wasted the opportunity his master gave him to advance. No, he probably hadn’t been told this was a test, but the best tests of character are the unannounced ones. We have such tests all the time. When you stub your toe in the dark, what you think is what you really are. We want to say, “If I had just had a moment to compose myself, I would have said what I really think.” No. Character is who I am in the dark. When no one is looking, what do I choose to do? That’s your character. Good or bad.
The servant is judged by his own words. He knew the master well and still failed to act. He knew his master reaped where he had not sown and gathered where he had not scattered seed. He knew that his master took risks all the time with his money. These words tell us his master was the landlord of sharecroppers. He rented his fields to farmers for a share of the harvest. The master invested in them and gave them access to his fields on top of paying part of the expenses of seed and irrigation. They provided the labor and the rest of the money. This is a risky business. If the crop fails, the master has lost money for the season.
The master takes risks all the time. These three servants have seen him do it. Two of them understood the money being given to them was for investing. Maybe the third one did too, and if so his sin is compounded. We can conclude he knew what the master wanted him to do. After all, he took the steps that legally cleared him of guilt by burying the money.
But the master tells him he should have at least given the money to the money changers and gotten back interest on the amount. That action is as low-risk as possible but gives the smallest return. But it gives return. Something comes back that is more than it started out to be.
The master surprises us by telling the other servants to give the money to the one with ten talents. We would think it should be given to the one who has four. But the master is looking to expand his holdings and knows that the one who has turned the largest amount is more qualified to invest this amount.
The master also surprises us by saying to throw the servant into outer darkness. Our thinking is that he at least returned the initial amount. But that isn’t what God wants us to do with our talents. He wants us to grow the kingdom. The servant is called worthless because he didn’t do anything with his talent.
What have you done with your talents? God gave you talents to use for Him. Did He give you a talent for song or maybe of writing? These are not the same thing as spiritual gifts. Maybe it’s graphic design or poetry. Maybe He gave you the talent of solving problems or photography. Maybe it’s even something as simple as listening to other people speak. Did God give you a talent for cooking or cleaning? Big or little, use your God-given talents.
Any use is better than no use. If you don’t use it, you’ve only got yourself to blame. Your talent will have opportunities to impact the Kingdom. If you follow what God has lain on your heart as a passion, you will impact the Kingdom for Him.
Ask yourself these two questions: what talents has God given me and how can I use those to glorify Him? After you have answered those two questions, put your talents in action.
Please visit Frank Luke’s Blog where this sermon is also posted.