“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more.
So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more. ‘ “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!’ “The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see I have gained two more.’ “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!’ “Then the man who had received the one talent 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. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “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? 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.” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever, does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'” Matthew 25: 14
We began this sermon series studying stewardship of the earth. We looked at the first two chapters of Genesis and reviewed how being made in the image of God gave us our value and calling in life. We studied the gift of family, and how God calls us to be stewards of our family. We moved to being stewards of time, reminding ourselves that we need to prioritize the big goals of life so our day to day issues would not consume our lives.
God has equipped us with gifts to be stewards of creation, of family, and of time. Today we look at being stewards of talent. Before we can understand how we are to be stewards of our talents, we must understand that they are gifts. All of our talents, whether natural or spiritual, are from God. He is our Creator and our sustainer, thus we owe God for our existence and whatever that entails, including our talents.
Our gifts and talents have a purpose. Specifically our passage says that good stewards use their talents to serve one another. We are the Church, the body of Christ and the purpose in receiving the Spirit and gaining the varied gifts that the Spirit provides is to be Christ’s hands and feet here on earth. We serve one another with our gifts, whatever they may be.
As we study this parable we will catch its powerful application to our lives. This weekend I was speaking with the actress Alice McGeachy, a longtime friend of my family. When I asked her to name a favorite part she played, she recalled her scene with Sissy Spacek in A Coal Miner’s Daughter. As she gave the Loretta Lynn character a doll she said, “I made this doll for you because when you sing its like you’re singing about my life.”
Later I reflected on Scripture being God’s great song to us about our life. Scripture really is about our lives just as it was about the disciples’ lives when they first heard this parable. This parable is so direct for us because we primarily see God’s judgment instead of God’s love. If we knew how much God loves us and how much God expects from us, we would respond so much better as God’s disciples.
The third servant did not respond appropriately. He reminds me of a man applying for a job who visited his prospective employer. When asked if he was responsible, he said, “Yes, in my prior job, every time something bad happened, I was responsible.” This servant responded to the expectation in the wrong way. Hearing this servant called wicked and lazy and then thrown out to the darkness just for burying a talent can make us shudder.
In the early church, about one hundred years after this gospel was written, a noncanonical Gospel of the Nazarene was written that added something to this parable in order to explain the harsh reaction of the master. This is one of the early Christian writings that may give perspective to some of the early Christians, but the book is not considered inspired nor in our Bible. The servant wasted the money on harlots and flute players. This wild behavior, they obviously thought, would justify the harsh language, but they missed the point of the parable. It wasn’t that the servant went and spent the talent on wild living irresponsibly, it was that the servant didn’t do anything at all.
The beauty of the parable is in its expectation that the master has in the first place-the expectation that caused a talent to be entrusted and given. The master really believed this servant could respond. This parable teaches us that God has great expectations for each of us to invest our talents in the advancement of the kingdom of God.
Maybe we hold back our talents because we misunderstand those expectations as the servant did. Our view of what God sees in us comes from our possessions or status. We believe God values us for our success in life. Actually God loves us with an unconditional grace that we do not comprehend or recognize. If we do realize God’s great love for us, the greatest gift God has given, we may have buried it rather than putting it to use. We may fall into excuses, as the servant did, blaming the government, our family, our circumstances, our jobs, for our spiritual drought. Remember when your grandmother taught you how to spell blame. B-Lame. When we rest on excuses we cannot recognize and utilize our God given talent. Jesus comes to heal the lame, and says, take up your mat and walk.
Have you ever seen the antique road show? Imagine someone bringing a box in to the expert in antiques. The owner is eager to see how valuable the item is. “This is a box that has been in my family for generations. It is from the Civil War I think.” The assessor finds a 1974 date on the box and reveals that it is worthless. “Wait! What’s that charm on the bracelet you are wearing?” the assessor asks wide eyed, “It’s worth ten thousand dollars!”
He did not realize the talent he had been given was supposed to be invested, so he did nothing with it-he buried it.
Jesus uses this parable about hiding and investing talents to illustrate that a wrong attitude about God either invests in the kingdom or does nothing at all. This parable should cause us to consider God’s expectation of us- something we have hidden away. Maybe we have a litany of excuses. “I knew you were this kind of businessman….so I was afraid,” said the servant.
Our attitude about God should not be one of fear, but a recognition that God expects something from us, based not on what we think is valuable, but on what God thinks is valuable. God sees us in God’s image, as his children, and that fact is hidden deep within us.
Being thrown outside may refer to being outside the community of faith. A right attitude about God causes us not just to use our talents per se, but to use our talents to advance the kingdom of God. If we do not use our talent to advance the kingdom, we are outside the church. We are living outside the opportunity to celebrate life’s joys together, mourn life’s losses together, and live in community together, participating in advancing the kingdom of God by moderating our lives through weekly prayers and worship.
A colleague in ministry had been transferred to Portsmouth, England, a city that had been bombed heavily during the war and was so congested that it was the most populated city in Britain. There was not very much park space, but his backyard had a little garden area. Once he was writing under a deadline when a sound in the sealed chimney got his attention. It was the fluttering about of a bird that somehow had found its way inside. He knew he would have to do something so he began to unstop the chimney, removing the paper and cloth stuffed inside. As he reached up to take out the bird, the bird went into shock and froze as he touched it. He pulled out a mourning dove that was covered in soot. He placed it outside on the wall in his garden and went back to work. Later he noticed the bird had not moved. It was completely still, motionless, sitting exactly where he had placed it. As he approached it, the bird did take off, and as it did the soot shook off. He saw the soot falling as the bird, transformed into its beautiful self, flew away.
That made him consider how we become covered in our lives with guilt, fear about God and who we are, and we are loaded down with so much of the world that we have buried within the beauty that God wants us to set free.
What would it take for us to recognize the beauty of God’s love deep within as what gives us our value in God’s eyes, not our accomplishments, background, successes?
What would it take for us to hear God’s song about our lives that says, “Well done, good and faithful servant, come and celebrate with me and share my joy.”
What would it take for us to throw off the encumbrances of the world and be free to live in the fullness of God’s love? As God’s spirit hovered over the waters of creation, God’s spirit hovers over the depths of our souls, calling for us to recognize God’s great love for each of us, so we can spread our wings and fly, advancing the beauty of the kingdom of God. Amen.