The Generous Life Week 5: Stewardship of Talents

generouslife Today we continue our series entitled the Generous Life. Throughout the last 5 weeks we’ve been exploring what it means to live a Generous Life and to be a good steward of everything that God has put into our care as humans. We have explored what it means to be a good steward of our physical bodies, how we need to take care of the environment, and the past two weeks we’ve explored what it means to be generous and a good steward with our money, finances and the idea of tithing to the local church. Next week we will explore together what it means to be a good steward of the relationships that God has entrusted into our care.

Have you noticed the explosion and the proliferation of television shows that are all about finding a person with the best talent? Maybe it is America’s Got Talent. Or maybe it’s the Voice. Or the old standby American Idol. It seems like our world is obsessed with the idea of finding people with a talent that will propel these people into the spotlight and change their lives forever. Now you and I might not have the most beautiful voice in the world. We might not have a talent that could land us in the finals of America’s Got Talent and win us a million dollars. Or we might never end up on TV showing off our amazing talent. But know this, God has blessed each one of us with a abilities, gifts and talents. And because he has blessed us with these gifts, he is calling us to use them to bless others (and unlike what we see on TV, not use them for our own glory and blessing)

So today we’ll explore what it means to be a good stewards of the abilities, gifts and talents that God has given to us. We’ll do that by looking at, for those who grew up in the church, what might be a very familiar parable, called the Parable of the Talents. This parable is found in Matthew 25:14-30.

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.  To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more.  So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.  But the man who had received one bag 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 five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. 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 two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; 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 one bag of gold 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 gold 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.  “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.  And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Before we jump to much into this text, I have to share with you that this Scripture is one of the main reasons that Kim and I planted this community. Back in 2007 I was wrestling with my vocational call in ministry. It was during the year that God kept bringing the word risk to me through various mediums like quotes, various church gatherings, church values, and this parable kept showing up over and over and over again. So this parable is really one of the reasons honestly that Kim and I decided that God was calling us out to plant Veritas.

Secondly, we need to look at the beginning of the text because what we read started this way, “again it will be like.” Which leads me to the question, what will it be like? What is Jesus talking about when he tells this parable. And to understand what it will be like we need to go to Matthew 25:1 which starts another parable with these words, “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like….” So what Jesus is getting at here in Matthew 25 is about what life in the Kingdom of God is all about. What does it mean to live under the rule and the reign of King Jesus? If there is a King and a Kingdom that God calls us to live under, we have to make a choice then to decide to live under his rule and reign or decide to live under our own rule and reign. And that in a huge way is really also what this parable is all about. Do we decide to live under the rule and reign of King Jesus, and use what he has entrusted us with to help further his Kingdom, or to take what we have been given and either use it to further our own Kingdom or (which is really the same) to bury it and not use it for his glory and his kingdom.

So let’s take a further look at this parable that Jesus tells. We see in this parable a man about to go on a journey, and he entrusts his wealth to his servants. The servant’s then are called to steward what he had given them to care for in his absence. One of the servant’s received 5 bags of gold, one servant received two bags of gold, and one servant received one bag of gold. In an older translation of this parable the bag of gold would have been translated talent. A talent in Jesus day was a unit of money. A talent would be a lot of money. In fact it was around 15 years worth of a Laborer’s wage for 15 years. So even the servant who received only one bag of gold or talent received a lot and was entrusted with a lot.

The one who was entrusted with 5 bags of gold set to work and made a profit of another 5 bags of gold. The one who was entrusted with 2 bags of gold also set to work and made a profit of another 2 bags of gold. But the one who only had one went out, in fear, and buried in the ground, so at least he wouldn’t lose the one bag of gold that he was given.

One of the biggest difference in this story lies between the reaction of the first two servants and the last servant. The first two servant’s were given the most to steward and therefore had the most to lose if they didn’t steward the Master’s money well. They took the biggest risk in putting their Master’s money to use in order to gain more. What would have happened if they wouldn’t have gained double what they had been given? What if the one servant that was given 5 bags of gold, spent the 5 bags of gold to make more but lost it all? Because I am sure that could have been a possibility. But both of the servants who doubled their Master’s investment knew the risk, and took it anyway. They weren’t bound up in fear like the last servant. Only in that conscious decision to risk losing what they had been entrusted with, were they able to multiply that gift to be used by their master.

The last servant was afraid. He said so himself when he said in verse 25, “So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground.” What was he afraid of? I believe he was afraid of multiple things. He was afraid of the Master himself. He was afraid of taking the 1 talent and using it to gain more, because if he risked the 1 talent he might lose it all. He was afraid that he would not be able to use what he was given to make more. And so what did he do because of his fear and lack of risk? He buried it in the ground. it was fear that lead him to hoard and bury the resource in the ground rather than take a risk and invest it.

Last week we talked about tithing to the local church and one reason that Dave gave for not giving to the local church was fear. Fear that we wouldn’t have enough if we gave a portion of our income to the local church. And this is no different in relation to our talents. It is fear that keeps us from investing in the work of God. it is fear that keeps us from dreaming dreams with God. It is fear that leads us to hoard and bury our talents in the ground rather than investing them in the Kingdom. We need to make a conscious decision, like the first two servants, to risk using what God has entrusted to us, and then trust God to multiply our talents for the usage of the Kingdom of God. We can choose fear or risk when it comes to our talents and the Kingdom. It is up to us. But in this parable, the ones that risked the most got the most from that risk. The one who played it safe, was in the old expression, “left holding the bag”

Another question that I have been pondering is what would the original hearers of this parable understanding have been? How would they have understood the characters, the setting, and the point of it as? NT Wright says this about how Jesus’ original hearers would have understood it, “a story of a Master and slaves, in which the master goes away leaving the slaves tasks to perform and then comes back at last, would have certainly be understood, in the Judaism of Jesus’ day, as a story about God and Israel.” We then need to answer the question then who are the servant’s in this parable according to Jesus. NT Wright again says this, “It (the parable) belongs closely with Matthew 23 where Jesus denounces the Scribes and the Pharisees. They, may we suggest, are represented by the wicked servant who hid his Master’s money.” The Scribes and Pharisees had been given the law of Moses and the Temple- the sign of God’s presence among them. They were given a calling, a vocation, a covenant that God would bless them but that the blessing wasn’t just for them. But that God was calling them to use their blessing as a nation to be a blessing to other nations, and to the entire world. They, like the wicked servant, barrier their vocational calling to be a blessing in the ground, and over and over chose to use it only for themselves. They were like a city set on a hill, the light of the world, but they chose to cover their light with a bushel and keep it only to themselves. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70 was a direct result of God’s people not living up to the calling that they were given, to bless others and point people to Him.

So the next question then for me was who are the other two servants? I believe these would be those who heard and hear the call of Jesus and lived/live in obedience of that call. They took on the Abrahamic covenant to be a blessing to the entire world as their own, and used their gifts to further his Kingdom. Who risked everything to follow Jesus and his Kingdom. Who risked living under the rule and reign of Jesus in the midst of a culture we it was radical, subversive, and could cost you your life when you said there was another king and it wasn’t Caesar.

So the question then becomes agin for all of us, who are we more like? Are we like the two who risked the most, and put their talents to use for the Kingdom? Or are we like the one servant who didn’t risk? Who played it safe and buried his calling, his vocation, his gift in the ground and didn’t allow that gift to be used for the Kingdom. I believe God has equipped each of us with gifts, talents and abilities. I believe he is calling us to steward them well. To use them for the blessing of the world and for advancing the Kingdom of God. I believe God calls us to use these gifts everywhere. In the world. In the church. For His Glory and for his Kingdom.

So let’s unpack and apply this message together. Let’s talk about how we steward our talents. Let’s talk about what talents we feel God has given us. Let’s brainstorm how the talents of this community may be used communally to further His Kingdom and bless the world.

1. What thoughts, comments, insights, questions, etc.. do you have about the text and or the message?

2. What talent(s) have you been given and how have you steward them for His glory and His Kingdom? How have you buried them in the ground?

3. How might our gifts and talents as a community be used communally for His glory and His Kingdom?

4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?