Sunday, November 19, 2017

"Well Done!" - The Sermon for SUNDAY, November 19, 2017 - 24th Sunday after Pentecost

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
~ Matthew 25:14-30 (ESV)

"Well Done!"
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Amen

What does God expect us to do with what Heaven has given us? Do we take risks using our gifts or hide them for safekeeping? Why hasn’t God given to us all equally?

Why does God not give to everyone equally? In Matthew 25:15 we read that a man gave to his employees unequal amounts, “to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one.” It may be helpful to understand that all human systems are capitalist. Even atheistic Communism is a form of capitalism, whereby party members make capital on the rest. In any system, greed and oppressing the poor are not righteous capitalism. The talents in the parable are spiritual capital. Kingdom capital should be used to show love. Those who are given the most are expected to produce the most spiritually in loving God and our neighbors.

What is a talent? In Matthew 25:15 we read of an employer about to leave on a long journey, who entrusted talents to different employees, “to each according to his own ability.” A talent was a weight of gold or silver. The Athenian or Attic talent was once about 26 kilogram (57 pounds) weight of silver. Today’s spot silver price is about $545 per kilogram, a little over $14,000 for a talent. Another way to measure a talent was about fifteen year’s wages. If this year’s average household income is $60,000 then a talent could be $900,000. Even the one talent guy was entrusted with great responsibility.

What does God require of those with the most? In Matthew 25:16 we read that, “he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.” Wealth is on loan to us from God. Those with the most also have the greatest capacity for doing good or evil. Material and spiritual wealth bring with them greater responsibility. Who among us has been given the greatest talents, wealth, abilities or spiritual gifts? How much more can such people show God’s love? To whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:41-48). Whether they be spiritual or material talents, their purpose is to love others.

Is all gambling wrong? In Matthew 25:18 employees were given five, two and one talents to invest, “But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.” He didn’t want to take a gamble. Farmers, job-hunters and entrepreneurs all take calculated risks. There are stupid gambles where the odds are terrible, like state lotteries, most Casino games and jumping into business with inadequate preparation. There are also calculated gambles, like starting a business after thorough preparation, interest on savings or planting a crop. Jesus took a calculated gamble in us. One man took the safe route and buried the money entrusted to him.

What does God say about equality? Is equal pay for lazy and diligent workers fair? Is it right to base pay upon ability, diligence and results? In Matthew 25:20-23 we find that God invests in us differently. Yet those who do well are told the same words, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” Bible passages indicate a double share of inheritance for firstborns (Deuteronomy 21:17) and a double honorarium or pay for diligent preachers (1 Timothy 5:17). None of these indicate God’s support for gross excesses.

Here are questions for discussion: Is heaven a society of equals or different abilities and levels of responsibility? If the spiritually productive are good and faithful, are the spiritually unproductive lazy and evil? Is the safe route sometimes a road to failure? Does fear often produce failure? Does faithfulness in small things lead to greater things and does unfaithfulness bring failure? Should we waste time criticizing a boss as too hard, or just get on with the job? Do spiritually successful people just get down to work? Do those who produce more deserve more? Does the extra talent awarded to the most successful promote greed or their greater capacity to love?

Does God expect us to take risks? In Matthew 25:25 a man who was given money to invest, confessed, “I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.” A common practice in ancient times, before banking became common, was to bury money in the ground. It was a safer route. Jesus does not want us to take the safe route with His investment in us. It is a risk to share the Gospel with others. They may hate us, abandon us or believe and be saved. Jesus is not meant to be buried but shared. He wants us to take risks and grow Heaven’s investment in us.

Compare the Parable of the Talents to the words of Jesus to the 7 churches of Revelation 2-3. Overcomers in Ephesus have rights to the tree of life. In Smyrna they will not be hurt by the second death. In Pergamon they receive hidden manna and a special reward. In Thyatira they receive power over nations. In Sardis they are dressed in white and listed in the book of life. In Philadelphia they are pillars in God’s temple. In Laodicea they have positions at the throne with Christ. Some receive eternal life, others rule nations, serve in the temple or at the very throne of Christ based upon what they overcame.

It’s very appropriate that we call the gifts God has given you and me, our talents. Let’s not bury them. We are happiest when we are using our God-given talents to spread God’s love.
Almighty God, whose loving hand hath given us all that we possess: Grant us grace that we may honor you with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
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Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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