Sermon on Matthew 25:14-30 for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, June 21 & 24, 2018
- I’ve got a problem with the word “stewardship.” We have a “stewardship” section of hymns in the hymnal, we usually have some kind of “stewardship Sunday” in the fall, we have a three-week “stewardship” sermon series–and what do we connect that word “stewardship” with? Church fundraising. That’s only one piece of the stewardship pie. Stewardship does not mean fundraising or budgeting. Stewardship means management—management of everything. From a Christian perspective, it means management of all the gifts that God has given us for all the responsibilities and needs God has set before us. That is stewardship.
- And that is Jesus’ point in his parable of the talents. Our English word “talent” meaning some gift or ability is really derived from this parable. Originally a talent was a unit of money, equivalent to seventy pounds of silver. It’s impossible to do value comparisons with ancient moneys, but with the price of silver today, a talent would be worth about $15,000.00. In 2011 when silver was at an all-time high, it would have been around $40,000.00. Not an enormous amount of money, but not something to throw away, either. You could do a lot with $15,000 or $40,000, couldn’t you?
- So the master is about to leave on a journey and he gives his wealth to his servants. Five talents to one, two talents to another, and one talent to a third. Not everyone has the same gifts. The Corinthians had some problems in the way they looked at their gifts. Some gifts they prized, and some gifts they considered not that valuable. But St. Paul wrote, “There are various kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12;4). Because people are different, they will have different gifts, different kinds of gifts, differing amounts of gifts. But all our gifts and abilities come from God. To some people he gives many gifts. To some he gives less. To some he may give spectacular gifts. So others he may give ordinary gifts. But everyone has received some gift from God. Every single human being has received the most basic of all gifts—the gift of life. Every single Christian has received the most precious of all gifts—the gift of faith: the Word of God revealed to you and the gifts of forgiveness and a new life connected to God through Jesus. Look at what you have! We all have received something from our God—all are very precious gifts.
- The master “entrusted his possessions to them… each according to his ability.” That word entrust means responsibility, doesn’t it? He gave each servant the money according to his ability. He wasn’t asking them to do anything they weren’t able to do. “Here, manage this while I’m away!” But we see it didn’t work that way for everyone. The one who received five talents put the money to work—probably with buying, selling or lending, and doubled what he had. The one who received two talents did the same. But the one who received one talent “went away, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.” The master saw that each had some ability—so he gave money to each. Did the last servant think, “This isn’t as much as the others” and admitted failure right away?
- You probably have guessed. I’m a history buff—not concentrated in one area—I just try to be aware of history—world history, national history, church history, to help me understand what’s going on the We look at history—the history of the church—and we see some people who received great gifts. St. Paul wrote his letters with such doctrinal clarity about the person and natures of Jesus and about how Christians should live in love in their families and in their churches. He traveled all over Turkey and Greece and to Rome, spreading the gospel and establishing the church in a way that it would spread—even spread to you and me. Do you have talents like that? Do I? Could you dream of doing the things he did? I mentioned St. Augustine a few weeks ago. He wrote volumes. He was the one who helped Christians pick up the pieces after the fall of the Roman Empire, and taught them, “We are citizens of The City of God, a greater citizenship than that of fallen Rome.” He wrote things that shaped the thought and language of Martin Luther about 1100 years later—which then has influenced us. A lot of Luther’s Small Catechism is borrowed from Augustine. Do you have the gifts to do those things or to have that kind of influence? Do I? There are many more people I could talk about: Martin Luther, Johann Sebastian Bach, Michelangelo, missionaries, writers, teachers, musicians, artists who used their gifts to the glory of God. Do we have the same talents they did? Probably not. Those people had some very special, very rare gifts. They used their gifts in exceedingly fruitful ways! Does that mean that we have nothing? Does it mean that God expects nothing of us? Absolutely not. Just as the master in the parable “entrusted his possessions to them… each according to his ability,” he has entrusted much to us, each according to our ability.
- In the parable, the first servant doubled the money and presented it to his master. Five talents turned into ten. And when the master returned and saw what the servant had done, he said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ The second servant did the same. Two talents turned into four, and the master said the same thing. “Well done, good and faithful servant!” That tells us something about the master’s expectations, doesn’t it. He expects and values He didn’t care that the second servant didn’t make his two into ten. He praised him for his faithfulness. That is true stewardship—faithfulness. Faithfulness in the way we manage our gifts—for our own needs, for the needs of others, for God’s glory. All of our gifts—our time as well as our money. Our abilities as well as the physical blessings we have.
- Why do your best? Why be a faithful steward or manager of your gifts? Why not sit back and be a sponge—just absorbing the good things for yourself? Well, this is a question of purpose, isn’t it? Why did God make us? Why did God save us? So we could be couch potatoes? After he created Adam and Eve he told them, “Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air” (Genesis 1:28). He made them to take care of his world. St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). We were created to serve him. We were redeemed and called to serve him. That is what pleases God, and what he commends. With faithful work, God also gives satisfaction (Ecclesiastes 2:24, 3:13, 5:18). Why be a faithful steward? Because it is God’s work you are doing—really in everything you do. When you provide for your family (1 Timothy 5:8), when you pay your taxes (Romans 13:7), when you help someone in need (Matthew 25:35), when you support the work of your congregation (1 Timothy 5:17-19) you are doing the work God has given you. That’s why you do your best—in everything.
- Then there was that last servant. An unfaithful servant. A fearful servant. He brings the one talent he was given to the master and says, “‘Master, I knew that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter seed. 25 Since I was afraid, I went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.” He saw his master’s faithfulness and shrewdness. “Reaping where you did not plant…” means the master only bought fields that had already been planted. He was afraid. “I can’t make good deals like my master. I can’t make good deals like my coworker who got the five talents. I give up.” So he buried his money and did nothing with it. That wasn’t an option. The master in the parable says, “‘You wicked and lazy servant! You knew that I reap where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter seed? 27 Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers so that when I came I would get my money back with interest.’’ Wicked and lazy. Evil. Wicked is not just bad, but an evil that destroys and robs. Putting the money in the bank would have given the master something, but instead, his money sat there—the time and potential earning power of the money were wasted, and all the servant can do is hand back this bag of money covered in the dirt he buried it in.
- What do you have? What are you doing with it? As a human being, what do you have? Life. Time. Family. The gifts God gives you to sustain body and life. As a Christian, what do you have? Jesus, Word, Sacrament, Faith, Power and Hope. What are you going to do with these gifts God has given? Are they that precious? What is more precious than life? What is more precious than faith? We owe God our thanks. Thankfulness leads to faithfulness. Faithfulness in all areas of life. Faithfulness in using your time, money and other abilities for the good of family, neighbor, and church. So look at the many gifts you have been given. Think about God’s grace in your lives—the many blessings—and about your Master’s faithfulness—even laying down his life for you. Put his gifts to work. Don’t bury them. Look at the needs around you. This is the Lord’s work you are doing. Do it faithfully—to his glory.
You see, the kingdom of heaven is like a man going on a journey. He called his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two talents, and to still another one talent, each according to his own ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The servant who had received the five talents immediately put them to work and gained five more talents. 17 In the same way, the servant who had received the two talents gained two more. 18 But the servant who had received one talent went away, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money. 19 “After a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 The servant who received the five talents came and brought five more talents. He said, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 “The servant who received the two talents came and said, ‘Master, you entrusted me with two talents. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 “Then the servant who received one talent came and said, ‘Master, I knew that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter seed. 25 Since I was afraid, I went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ 26 “His master answered him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! You knew that I reap where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter seed? 27 Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers so that when I came I would get my money back with interest. 28 Take the talent away from him and give it to the servant who has the ten talents. 29 Because everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 30 Throw that worthless servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (EHV)