Sermon on Matthew 25:14-30
Text: “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘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!’
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘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!’
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
John Gray invested $10,500 in the stock of Ford Motor Company in 1903. When Ford bought the stock back in 1919, the stock was worth a whopping $26.25 million. Asa Candler bought the recipe for Coca-Cola from John Pemberton for $2,300 in 1891. Candler then sold the same recipe in 1923 for $25 million! Peter Thiel, one of the original investors for Facebook, invested $500,000 in the company in 2005. His return was 800 times the initial investment, as he sold all 25 million shares of Facebook for $400 million in 2012. History is full of people who made both profitable and devastating investments. The truth is money can be managed well and it can be managed poorly. However, there are things in life that are much more important than money, and we are to be good stewards of those things as well. Today, as we study the parable of the talents, we’ll see what Jesus is teaching us when it comes to managing that which he has entrusted to us. As we learn about GIFTS AND FAITHFULNESS, we are reminded that 1. The Lord Gives Us Gifts and The Lord Holds Us Accountable.
This parable was told in response to the disciples’ question about the end of the world. They had asked Jesus when it would happen. In reply, Jesus told this parable to teach them and us that, rather than being concerned about exactly when the end will come, we are to concern ourselves with being busy doing the tasks that God has placed in front of us. This is shown to us in the first verse of our text: “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.” (Verse 14)
It goes on to say, “To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.” (Verse 15) The phrase “bag of money,” in the original Greek is “talent.” A talent was worth basically 20 years of salary for the average worker in Jesus’ day. This was not a small amount of money! We note that each servant was given an amount in keeping with their ability. The master gave each one what he knew they could handle. We also note that, though there were different amounts given, each servant was given at least one bag of money or talent.
When we use the word “talent,” we usually think of an ability that someone has. This verse reminds us that God has given to all his people certain abilities that are to be used in his service. We have several examples in Romans 12:6-8, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” These are just a few of the abilities that God gives. There are many more. Whatever the gift may be, we have been given these gifts to be used in God’s service, whether it be in the church, home, or society.
Here we want to avoid several extremes. On the one hand, we shouldn’t overestimate the gifts God has given us, as though we had something to do with the ability. That’s pride. We are reminded in James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” The talent, the ability that you have comes from God. Also, we need to be reminded not to underestimate the gifts and abilities God has given you, either. That’s a false and excessive humility. You may not think it’s much, but God has gifted you the way he has so that you can use your gifts in the service of his kingdom. He has. Even little things can mean a lot. Finally, we need to remember that God gives everyone a least one ability to serve him in various ways. No one has been left out. What matters is not how much you have in comparison to others, but rather that you are faithful with whatever you have been given, no matter how much or how little.
We see this as the various servants put their master’s gifts to use. “The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.” (Verses 16&17) When the master came back from his journey, he called his servants in to give an accounting of what they had done with what they had been given. The first servant came in and said, “Master, you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.” (Verse 20) The second servant, who had been given those two bags of gold also presented the two that he had gained. In response to both, the master said, “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!” Note that the master doesn’t praise them for doubling the initial investment. Rather, he praises them for being faithful with the gifts that they had been given.
Remember that the parable that Jesus told was in response to the question when the end of the world would happen. The point of the parable is that, rather than being concerned about the end of time, we, the servants of our God, are to be busy using the abilities that God has given us. God doesn’t expect that we will do things that will make the world sit up and say, “Wow!” If that ends up happening, all praise to God! Rather, he expects us to faithfully use whatever abilities that we have been given in service to him and those around us. Furthermore, it really is our duty to use these abilities. As our God, he has every right to expect that we will do this. What is so amazing is that our God is filled with happiness when we do them. He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!” We don’t use these abilities to get something from others. We don’t do them to get something from God. Rather, we do these things to thank God for all that he has given us.
We remember that there were three servants, though. What had the third servant done with what had been given to him? “The man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” (Verse 18) He didn’t do anything with what he had been given. When he is called before his master to given an accounting of what he had done, he 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 gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.” (Verses 24&25) We note that this servant was lying about his master. The servant accuses the master of being a hard man, a strict, demanding, no nonsense type of person. Does the master really sound like a hard man? If a person gave you money to invest, his money, and he expected a profit, is he really being a hard man? Even if it were true that the master had been dishonest business dealings, was he being unreasonable to expect the servant to do something with what he had been given? The reason that he gave was that he was afraid to use the gift, so he dug a hole and buried it.
What makes us afraid to use the abilities that God has given us? Is it a fear of what others will think about us, if we step forward to use them? Is it a fear that no one will notice and thank us for what we have done? Is it a misunderstanding of God and the reasons why we use these abilities? I do them so that God will give me something. I do them so God won’t get angry with me. The master said to this servant, “You wicked, lazy servant!” Have I been lazy when it comes to using the abilities that God has given? I see some places where the abilities I have could be used, but I don’t want to be bothered. I’m too tired. I’m too busy. I’ve done my share. How often haven’t we taken the abilities that God has given us and buried them in the ground? We rightly deserve to hear these words spoken about us: “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Verse 30) We deserve to be eternally punished for squandering the abilities that God has given us.
How thankful we are that God has loved us. He sent his Son into the world to be that faithful Servant in every way. When Jesus came to the earth, he used every opportunity to serve his Father. This included serving those around him. Jesus never said, “I’m too tired. I won’t help these people because there will be some who won’t like what I’m doing. There will even be those who hate what I’m doing, so I’ll do nothing.” He willingly served those around him as he served his Father. God has credited his perfection to our account. Then, to pay for all our sins, including those times when we’ve buried our gifts, Jesus suffered and died on the cross. His blood has washed us clean. By his life, death, and resurrection we have been right with God. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, we have become his servants, who have the wonderful opportunity to show our thankfulness. As we grow in our faith through the Word and sacraments, we are strengthened to live a life of faithful, thankful service to him.
When it comes to financial investments, there are those who are better at it than others. There are those who just seem to know what to invest in to make a profit. Yet, even the most careful investors will not always be successful. There will be losses. How blessed we are that God has invested in us. He has invested his Son so that we would be with him forever. God has also invested in us by giving us our various talents and abilities. May God help us to make full use of them. May he help us to be faithful in our use of them. How we long for that day when we will hear him say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!” Amen.
St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches ©2023 All rights reserved.