What’s Life All About?
Have you ever asked yourself, “What am I going to do with my life?”
Maybe when you were in your senior year of high school the career counselor helped you ask that question. Maybe in the midst of a great crisis you found yourself asking, “What am I going to do now? There can be those times in prayer when it is very natural to ask God, “What am I going to do with my life?” During a transition from one season of life to another—from childhood into adulthood, in midlife, at retirement—there is a need to look back at where we have been and try to get our bearings as to where we go from here. What will you do with the next 20 years of your life?
The story Jesus tells in our text this morning sets forth essentials for answering those kinds of questions. The Parable of the Talents is life’s meaning in a nutshell! I know of no better summary of what life is all about than the one Jesus gives us here in Matthew 25.
The story is about a man who goes on a long journey. Before he leaves he entrusts his property to his servants. Two of those servants are faithful to the master’s desires. One is not. When the master returns he requires each servant to give account of what he has done with the property entrusted to him. The two faithful servants are rewarded. The unfaithful servant is cast out.
Let’s consider three fundamental facts of life that we can draw from this story.
1st. Our Master has entrusted to each one of us certain resources and opportunities.
When we hear the word talent we do not think of the same thing as the disciples did when Jesus was telling this story. For us a talent has come to mean ability or natural gifting. But in this story a talent is about a 100 pounds of metal, probably gold or silver. The dollar value of a gold talent today at current gold prices (about $ 415 an ounce) would be about 1600 ounces at $ 415 or $ 664,000. Although we can’t know exactly how much money a talent was in our story, we know it was a lot of money. And the point we must see here is that God has entrusted every person in this room with something very valuable. Even the one talent man was given a lot of money to handle.
What do the talents represent in your life? They represent everything God has given you—which is everything you are and everything you have. What do you have that you did not receive from God? Paul asked that question to the Christians in Corinth. 1 Cor. 4:7 “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”
Here is something we must remember as we journey through life. Every ability I have, every dollar I have, every opportunity that comes my way, the very air I breathe come to me from God. I am not my own. I am bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus. Everything really belongs to God. He has simply entrusted me with it during this brief event we call life.
The moment I think that the money I have belongs to me to do with as I please is the moment I am already thinking wrong about life. The moment I think I have success because of my capability or my efforts is the moment I am already thinking wrong. Do you have good health? Do you have a good job? Do you have money? It is all on lend to you for a brief season. Deut 8:18 "And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth...” NKJV
Why are we not more thankful? Because we forget where it all came from. A subtle misunderstanding comes in and it gets us off track. If we’re not careful we can start thinking that God is lucky we give Him ten percent. There are serious dangers in that kind of thinking. We will not just give account for the ten percent. You and I will give account for every penny of it. It’s not mine to use as I please. It’s to be used, as God wants it used.
In 1 Cor. 12 Paul talks about the diversity of spiritual gifts in the people of God. Some are granted more prophetic insight than others. Some are given faith. Some are given words of wisdom. God grants to some people more leadership abilities than others. Paul talks about that but then he reminds them of a very important principle. Did God give one person more ability than others just so that person could use it to his own selfish ends? No! 1 Cor 12:7 “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
What I have and what you have is not ours to just use as we please. We are to use it, as God wants it used.
Has it ever bothered you that the master in this parable did not give his servants the same amount? It doesn’t seem fair. God gives one person a photo static memory and another has to work very hard to just learn basic grammar. One person struggles with relational skills. For another it just seems to come naturally. One person is born into a home with godly parents who nurture and train the child. Another is born into an abusive situation.
Is it fair? Not by our human standards. Is it right? It is right for God to give what He chooses to give. Remember what the landowner said to the workers who complained about him giving a day’s wages to the eleventh hour workers? Matt 20:15 “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?”
God’s perspective on justice is eternal not temporal. You and I really don’t have enough information to judge whether God is doing justly or not. We don’t know all the facts of the past and we certainly cannot see into the future. What we do know from scripture is that God is just and the judge of all the earth will do right.
Notice carefully that each servant is only accountable for what his master has given him. The two-talent servant does not have to give account for the five talents entrusted to the other servant. Each man will give an account of himself unto God. Instead of comparing ourselves one with another, which is not wise, we are better off making sure we give a good account of what we have. This we do know. “To whom much is given, much is required.”
If I had time this morning I would ask each person here to list what God has given you. And then write down what you are doing with it. But we only have time to deal with the principles. Everything we have, every gift, every ability, our health, our days, our resources, our opportunities make up a big package represented by the talents in this parable. You have something to work with. You have been entrusted with something very valuable.
2nd. Our Master allows us to decide what we will do with those talents.
Free will is an awesome thing. No theologian, no philosopher can fully understand God’s decision to give man free will. The explanation that helps me understand it some is the fact that real love cannot be coerced. The moment it is forced it is no longer love. God wants a love relationship with you and me and that demands free will. “We love Him because He first loved us.” Do you know what God is doing in your life right now? He is trying to win your love. He is reaching out to you in love and longing for a like-kind response.
In the parable the master left for a long time. There is the test. Enough freedom, enough time for the servant to fully decide what he would do—what he would do when the master was not standing there looking over his shoulder.
Life is about a choice. That choice is made up of a lot of decisions. But in the end it all boils down to one choice. I will either respond to the goodness of my master and pursue His will or I will choose my own course and find an excuse for that choice.
Consider the money you have. If you use it for yourself nobody can stop you. You can choose to spend every bit of it on yourself and invest nothing into the kingdom of God. There is no Gestapo of holy angels coming down to take you by the neck and make you be generous. It has been entrusted to you by the Master for this time so you can decide what you choose to do with it.
Your time can be used for comfort and leisure or for the advancement of God’s kingdom. But for now that is entirely your choice. It is not a pastor’s role to make people volunteer to serve. Each person decides how he will use his 24 hours each day. The person who lives selfishly may seem to do fine for now. Now is not the day of reckoning. Now is the day of choice and decision.
What will I do with my life? It is a choice I can make. We live in a society that offers us a lot of choices—as far as I can tell more than any other generation. There are an awful lot of ways you can spend your life. We have to decide what will be our priorities and then live with our decisions. Regardless of what you may have been told, you cannot have it all. You and I are finite beings with a limited amount of time and energy, a limited amount of resources, an utter inability to go east and west at the same time. When I say yes to one thing, I am automatically saying no to other things. That’s why it is very important to choose wisely. This life is not a rehearsal. You do it once and that’s it. Your choices have eternal implications.
In this clip from the movie, Radio, the coach has spent last season stressed out and neglecting his wife and daughter. He has to turn loose of one thing in order to lay hold of another. As you watch ask yourself if any similar choices have to be made in your life.
Video clip from Radio (Chapter 25: 1:37:00 to Chapter 26: 1:42:00).
I have recently found myself face to face with decisions about how I would invest my life. As some of you know I have been serving as Divisional Superintendent overseeing the Foursquare churches in Southwest Missouri. As we planted more churches the job grew. In addition I also took on some other roles of leadership for the state of Missouri. I enjoyed what I was doing but the growth in the responsibilities kept stretching me thinner and thinner over more and more duties.
I began to sense God releasing me from those responsibilities so I could give myself more to you as my church family and to my wife and kids. A few weeks ago I submitted my resignation from those duties. It will take a little time to make a good transition but I am looking forward to getting refocused on Grace Chapel and what God wants to do through this local church. In my resignation I told those in Foursquare leadership over me that at this time the best way I can serve our movement as a whole is to lead Grace Chapel to the next level of ministry. I am looking forward to what God is preparing us for in this church.
Life is about a lot of choices between competing demands upon our lives. Bottom line is always one thing: God, what do you want me to do? If we do that, everything will work out just fine.
3rd. Our Master will one day hold each of us accountable for the choices we made.
That is the major point of this parable. In Matthew 24:3 Jesus disciples came to him on the Mount of Olives and asked him to tell them “...what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age.” Jesus gives a very long answer to that question. In the first part of Matthew 25 he is still answering it when he shares the parable of the Ten Virgins.
That parable emphasizes the importance of staying ready for Christ’s return. Right after our text Jesus is still answering the question when he talks about the end time separation of the sheep and goats. In between those two passages is this Parable of the Talents. The point of the Parable of the Talents is the accountability for faithful service to our Master.
1 John 2:28 “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”
If you knew that the IRS was going to audit your return for 2003 you would be very careful to prepare for that day. You would make sure you filled out every form correctly. You would be extremely conscientious about including all your income and have receipts for all your expenses. The anticipation of that audit would influence the way you filled out your return.
There is coming an audit of your life one day. It is infinitely more important than any audit the IRS could ever conduct. You have been entrusted with time, money, ability and opportunity by your Master. He has allowed you to choose how you would invest those things. But at His coming we must all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and give and account of the deeds done in this body.
For some that will be a glorious day. The two faithful servants were glad to see their Master come. They had invested well and were looking forward to presenting to their lord the increase. Their faithfulness was rewarded in three ways:
1. The joy of having pleased the One we love. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Do you live to hear Him say those words to you? Imagine the joy that will fill your heart that day. 2 Cor 5:9-10
9So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
That was a powerful motivation in Paul’s life. It is a motivation we must nurture in our own lives. (Not only the awesome fact of accountability but the wonderful opportunity of pleasing our Lord) We make it our goal to please him!
2. The opportunity to rule with Christ forever. “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” When we as God’s people stand before the Lord at the Judgment Seat of Christ we will be rewarded according to our faithfulness to Him in this life. We are not saved by works. But as saved people our works will be reviewed and our assignment for all eternity will be given in the light of that review.
1 Cor 3:12-15 “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
The picture in verse 15 is of a man whose house is rapidly burning up. He does not have time to carry anything out. He is lucky to get out alive. But he loses everything. Every day you are building something for eternity. Every day you are investing your life in something. If that investment is motivated by a desire to advance the cause of the Lord and please Him, it will bring eternal reward. If we simply live for our own desire and temporal comfort, those days will be as wood, hay, and stubble—lost forever. Paul is using two kinds of material to describe a man’s works. Materials like gold, silver, and costly stones can survive a fire and retain their value. But you put wood, hay, and straw into the fire and all you have left is worthless ashes. A life of obedience is a life of gold, silver, and precious stones before the Lord. A life of selfishness is just wood, hay, and stubble.
Notice the reward is a place of authority. “I will put you in charge of many things.” Not every Christian in heaven will have the same level of authority. There are many angels but some are archangels. Archangels occupy a place of greater power and glory than others. The glory of one star differs from the glory of another. The glory of one resurrected saint will differ from the glory of another. The decisions you make today will determine the glory you will manifest forever and ever and ever.
Rev 22:12 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” NIV
3. The other reward mentioned in our text is an invitation to celebrate with the Lord.
The NIV puts it this way, “Come and share in your master’s happiness.” The New Living Bible says, “Let’s celebrate together.” Wouldn’t you like to hear the Lord say that to you? Our Lord will return. He will return in glory and power. He will return for His bride. And what a day that will be.
Do you live for that day? Or have you lost sight of it? Heb 10:24-25
24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
This morning I want to spur you on toward love and good deeds. I want to encourage you to look beyond the immediate things going on in your life and see that Day approaching.
As George Bernard Shaw was coming to the end of his life a reporter asked him, “Mr. Shaw, if you could live your life over and be anybody you’ve known, or any person from history, who would you, be?” That is an interesting question, isn’t it? Shaw replied, “I would want to be the man George Bernard Shaw could have been, but never was.” God has put in each person here amazing potential. Will you be—will you become what God has designed you to be? That choice is being made by the many decisions we make every day of our lives. You will be something for all eternity.
This life is a preparation for much greater things to come. The coming of the Lord is a major theme in the Bible. We are to live with that day in mind. May each and every one of us be faithful to invest our lives in what matters for all eternity.
TEXT: Matt 25:14-30
14"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. `Master,’ he said, `you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
21"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!’
22"The man with the two talents also came. `Master,’ he said, `you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’
23"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!’
24"Then the man who had received the one talent 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. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26"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? 27Well 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.
28"`Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Grace Chapel Foursquare Church
 Text was read earlier in the service and is available at the end of this manuscript. All biblical quotes are from the New International Version unless otherwise indicated.
 METROLOGY (From The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.) There is great variance in the value placed on these talents by various authorities. But the idea conveyed seems to be that they were entrusted with something of great value that needed to be managed.
 http://goldinfo.net/gold1.html accessed 4-3-04
 In the story itself we could say that the talents represent resources and opportunities since the talents were distributed to the servants “to each according to his ability.” However in making application of the text we can appropriately say that the talents represent everything we are and have, since even our ability comes from God.
 Deut. 32:4; Job 38:4; Isaiah 45:21; Romans 11:33-36
 2 Corinthians 10:12
 Luke 12:48
 1 John 4:19
 Produced by Columbia Pictures, released Oct. 2003, written by Mike Rich
 Mike Fogerson, “If God Owens It All, What Am I Doing With It?” preached Jan. 2003 at First Baptist of Chester,IL. Mike cited John Maxwell as a source. The sermon contains some great illustrations and can be accessed at www.sermoncentral.com
 2 Corinthians 5:10
 Jim Butcher, “How to Hear ‘Well Done’: Three Excuses, Three Expectations, Three Promises” preached at Poca Baptist Church in Poca, WV in Jan. 2003. Accessable at www.sermoncentral.com
 1 Corinthians 15:41: 2 Peter 1:10-11
 Eric Snyder, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” preached Jan. 2003 at Farwell Church of Christ, Farwell, MI. Accessible at www.sermoncentral.com