Based on: Matthew 25:14-30
Jesus has something to say to you. Right here, right now, your Savior wants to talk to you. (He will say it through me – not because I am anybody special, but because by his grace he has called me to be here.) When Jesus speaks to you, what are you going to do? Are you going to take what Jesus says and bury it in the ground? Or will you take what Jesus says and put it to work in your life so that its blessings multiply in your life. Jesus asks us to consider how we will use all his gifts as servants in his kingdom.
This little story that Jesus tells illustrates a part of real life in God’s kingdom. Just like the man in the story, Jesus would very soon leave his disciples. His work of paying for our sins was almost complete. Soon he would die on the cross, come back to life and ascend into heaven. Of course he promised to always be with his disciples with his protection and power, but they would not have his physical presence as they had for the last three years. He promised to come back.
While he was away Jesus wanted the disciples to keep in mind the truth revealed in this parable. Jesus talks about three people who were entrusted with large sums of money. Two of them worked hard and were rewarded. One was lazy and was punished. As with all his parables we know this story applies to us too, not just his disciples, and if we guessed that we are the servants, we would be right. We know that Jesus will one day come back to see if we have turned our five talents into ten or our two talents into four, or if we simply buried our talent. But what are these “talents”? And how do we put them to work so that they grow? What do you think?
Listen to what Jesus says, “To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability.” Doesn’t the English translation “talent” suggest something to you. Does it make you think of your skills and abilities – the things God has made you good at? We could certainly apply the parable in this way. God does want us to use and develop the skills he has given us so that we can bring glory to his name as we work to earn a living and as we serve him in the church.
The apostle Paul said, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. . . . If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage.” Paul continues the list with: contributing to the needs of others, leadership, and showing mercy. We could add that when we use our mind and our hearing to listen to God’s Word or our mind and our sight to study God’s Word we glorify God with the “talents” he has given us.
It is true that God gives abilities for us to use in his kingdom, but it would be wrong to say that is the only thing Jesus has in mind. The material possessions God gives are also included. After all, in the parable the master gives money to his servants and the word “talent” refers to a large sum of money.
This is only one of many times Jesus mentions money or material possessions. From the rich young ruler, to warning us about greed, to the statement about himself, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” It is all admonition to keep a proper perspective on money. And now in this parable he says, “Use the money God has given you to further God’s kingdom.”
Isn’t there more we can learn from this parable? Look at what the first servant did with his “talents”. “The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work.” Whatever he did with his talent it took time and effort. He didn’t just let this gift sit there, but he used it and improved it.
God’s gifts work that way. They are free, and yet, the more we use them the more we are blessed by them. Think of God’s greatest gift where God gives you great wealth right there in his Word and in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. As you use those things God himself promises to bless you more and more.
As you read God’s promises in the Old Testament you see them fulfilled by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. You see Jesus use all of his abilities to teach and help and heal. You recognize that Jesus gave up the treasures of heaven and spent his blood to purchase humanity. You notice Jesus spending his time with sinners like you and me, teaching them about salvation.
You know Jesus did these things for you. Read about it and the Holy Spirit will strengthen your faith. Remember your baptism where God brought you into his family and come to the Lord’s Supper where God forgives you – the Holy Spirit works again.
This Gospel is at the top of the list when we think about the things God has given to us for use on this earth, and this is how it all works together – our abilities, our money, our time, and also this Gospel. As Christ tells this parable, his first concern is spiritual, “How do we use the Gospel of Christ?” Do we take it and put it to work so that it grows. But the other things we talked about are important – abilities, money, time – do we use those things to provide opportunities for us and others to hear that Gospel?
I will give you an example. Over 100 years ago a group of Christians here in Sleepy Eye gathered to hear God’s Word. As they heard God’s Word they wanted to hear more and so they demonstrated how they valued God’s Word. They used their money, their time, their abilities, and built this beautiful church building. The school building was built 20 years later as Christians used their material gifts to provide more opportunities for their children to hear about God’s spiritual gifts. Also today we see Christians concerned about the mission of this church giving their abilities, money, and time so that the church looks good for visitors, so that we have music for our worship services, so that our debt is paid off (which happened this week) among other things.
You cannot separate the two. If you value the Gospel and the eternal life it brings you will give a portion of your abilities, money, and time so that you can hear God’s Word. If you do not value the Gospel you will not spend money or time or ability to hear it and you will eventually lose the Gospel, just as the third servant lost his one talent in the parable.
Now there are more opportunities to put God’s gifts to work and make them grow. Read your Bible. There is even a little booklet on the back table to show you how to read your Bible in three years. The Meditations on the back table are also a good resource for putting God’s Gospel to work.
There are opportunities for service here at this church – opportunities to use the gifts God has given you to support the mission of this church – sharing the Gospel. Look in the bulletin; look around and see what needs to be done; ask me.
Plan to use what God has given you. When the commitment cards are distributed next year take time to think about how you will give back to God. Even if you do not return one of those cards make it a point to plan – that is what God wants. Write down for yourself, “I am going to give x% or x amount. I am going to give x amount of time to the church outside of Sunday worship. I will volunteer in this way.” Whatever it is, ask yourself how you will be like the servant with five or with two talents.
Also, in the near future consider the needs of our synod. Even as our debt to Americana Bank has been paid off, our synod is working to pay off its debt. This fiscal year for the Synod has been given the name, “The Year of Jubilee”. The year will have a special focus on paying off the Synod’s debt. There is more information about it in the bulletin. Please keep the Synod in your prayers and consider the Synod’s debt when you decide what to give to the Lord.
Jesus has spoken to you today. Just like other Sundays he has spoken to you through his Word. Put these words of Jesus to work and you will be blessed. In this parable our Lord Jesus promises he will return. He will do it. He is faithful. When he returns he will bring our reward – a reward based on his grace, not on our merits. And when he returns you will hear those same words spoken to the first two servants, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”