November 19, 2017 “Trusted with Talents” – Matthew 25:14-30

Matthew 25:14-30
“Trusted with Talents”
November 19, 2017 –
Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

[The audio of this message includes Spanish translation.]

What talents do you have? Can you play guitar or the drums? Are you good at math? Can you tell a great story? Are you an excellent cook? Do you build houses or sew clothes or just listen really well to your friends? Whatever your talents are, you can use them for the Lord, serving Him with all your abilities and strength.

You might think that is what this parable we just heard is about, the “Parable of the Talents.” Take whatever spiritual gifts or skills or talents God has given you and use them well, with all your heart, to serve God and His kingdom. It’s the same in Spanish and English as it is in Matthew’s original Greek. Jesus told a story about servants who had been given “talents,” talentos. They received different amounts, but all three received talents.

The word “talent” does not mean now what it meant back then. For the first people who heard this parable, a “talent” was a unit of weight. We are not sure how much. Somewhere between 26 kilograms and 38 kilograms, between 58 and 83 pounds. It measured precious metals, gold and silver. The “talents” given to those servants were money, a lot of money, many kilos, many pounds of gold or silver. Even that one single talent was worth about twenty years of wages for an ordinary laborer.

Each man received enough money to start a business, to buy and sell goods in a major way. Verse 15 says the different amounts were given “according to his ability.” More went to those wo had more aptitude for business for buying and selling. But we have to keep remembering that Jesus’ story is not about what we think of as “talents.” It’s not about business aptitude or musical skill or being good at repairing cars. It’s not about being good at anything. It’s not about talent. It is about being entrusted with a very large responsibility.

Jesus is telling us that you and I are entrusted with a big responsibility. The master in the parable, going off on a journey, clearly represents our Lord Jesus who died and rose again and went off to heaven. Like the man in the story, He is coming back. He will return someday to see how we handled the responsibility He gave us.

I will talk later about what that treasure is, what responsibility Jesus has given us. For now, let us just see how this parable is set up. The master went away but he came back. Verse 19 says “after a long time.” Christians believe that Jesus has gone away but that He is coming back. It has already been a long time. It may be a lot longer. No one knows. That is what the parables just before this one in Matthew teach us. We do not know “the day or the hour.” Jesus will return. That is certain. But we do not know when until it happens.

So whatever responsibility Jesus gives us, we must be faithful to it, even if it is a long time, even if it is a lifetime. Like the master in the story, He expects us to receive His trust and to be trustworthy. You and I are to put what Jesus entrusts to us to work for Him, producing some kind of return on His investment in us.

You know what it means to have big responsibilities. You may be trusted with your employer’s money or tools or merchandise. If your boss hands you a hammer and a circular saw and a bag of nails and some 2x4s, he expects you to measure carefully and cut accurately and create a strong straight frame for a wall. If your supervisor gives you a bag of money to place in your cash register, she wants you to count it correctly and make change properly and have more money in the register by the end of the day. If the wall doesn’t get finished or there is money missing when they come back, then you will be in trouble.

There are even greater human responsibilities. If you rent an apartment or a house, your landlord expects you to take care of it, to pay your rent on time. If you get married, you take on a responsibility that lasts the rest of your life, to love and care for your husband or wife with all your heart. Having children is one the biggest human responsibilities of all. If God places a tiny baby in your hands, then you have a job that goes on and on, even when they are grown up with children of their own. If we fail in that work, the consequences are devastating, both for ourselves and for our sons and daughters.

Our responsibility to the Lord is like all those human responsibilities, but even bigger, even more important. So the consequences are dire. Look what Jesus said about how the master reprimanded that lazy servant who did not fulfill his responsibility. Verse 30 switches from the world of the parable to the real spiritual world to talk about the one who did nothing being thrown into the “outer darkness,” the place where no one wants to go.

Allow me another human story to explain. Children also have a responsibility to parents. Years and years ago, my wife Beth’s family trusted her youngest brother to take care of their mother when she got Alzheimer’s disease. He was supposed to handle her money and make sure she got good care at a nursing home. But then one day Beth got a call from the nursing home saying they had not been paid in six months. We found out that Beth’s brother and his wife had spent all their mother’s money for themselves, even the monthly social security checks that came. Her brother had completely failed in his responsibility to his mother. It was devastating for everyone.

At the end of his life a few years ago, Beth forgave her brother, but she cannot forget how awful it all was for everyone. It was all because he had been trusted with something big and then failed to do anything, failed to be faithful with that trust.

Jesus does not want us to be that way. We are singing and talking this morning about being thankful. Some of you stood up and said how grateful to God you are for all that He has done for you, for your family, for a home, for work, for your church. Yet real gratitude, real thankfulness means you have a responsibility, a responsibility to do something, to live in such a way that you show that you are truly grateful. That is what this parable from Jesus is about.

So, now, what is our responsibility for Jesus? If it is not talents nor aptitudes nor skills, no talentos no habilidades no técnicos, then what is it? Those talents in the story were silver or gold, a huge amount of money, a responsibility of great value and worth. Well then, what is the greatest, the most valuable thing that God has given us? What is the best and most precious thing for which we give Him thanks? That’s right. He has given us the gift of His Son Jesus Christ so that we can be saved. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” That is God’s greatest gift and it is also our greatest responsibility.

God entrusts to you and me the awesome responsibility of salvation in Jesus Christ. He trusts us to receive and believe that Good News about Jesus and to share it with others. Our “talents,” our heavy bags of silver or gold, are the words of the Bible which tell us and tell everyone that God loves us and sent Jesus to save us. So what are we going to do with that responsibility, those holy words, that blessed message of salvation?

The least we can do is give thanks like we are today. That’s what the master told the man with one talent in verse 27. The least he could do was put it in the bank and earn a little interest. Our thanks and praise is God’s interest in return for what He gave us. We don’t bury His precious gift in the ground. We hold it up and give Him thanks for it.

We can do more with this valuable gift of salvation in Jesus. We can share it with others so that it grows. We can show the love of God in Jesus to other people so that they feel it too, so that they also experience His salvation. That’s what the first two men in the parable did. In verses 16 and 17, they took those talents, that money, went out, traded and did business and made more money. God wants us to take His grace and love and salvation in Jesus and go out and make more, to bring more people into that salvation.

Now look at what the result was for the first two men. In verses 21 and 23, the master says, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” That is the result when we fulfill our responsibility to our Master, to our Lord and Savior. He give us joy, joy as we enter into eternal life with Him, into His own everlasting joy in giving us His Son.

It makes you and me happy to give gifts for which someone else is really thankful. We try to do that on birthdays, at Christmas, even on Thanksgiving by sharing with people in need. God has that kind of joy when He gives His Son Jesus to save us. And He allows you and I to enter into that same joy when we help bring Jesus’ love to someone else. You can have that joy. You can spread Jesus’ love by a kind word, by inviting someone to church, by giving them food, by telling them from your heart about His grace.

Those talents in the parable were heavy. It’s a heavy responsibility to share Jesus with our friends and families. But when we do it, it brings great joy, eternal joy. I hope that we can all enter into that joy of our Master.

Amen.

Valley Covenant Church
Eugene/Springfield, Oregon
Copyright © 2017 by Stephen S. Bilynskyj