Summary: This is a sermon on the parable of the three stewards. I really love this story and I was my sermon choice when we chose to preach for a summer on parables of Jesus.
Jesus loved to shock his audience. He often used what is called a hook to grab the attention of his audience. I try to do the same thing, my Paul Potts video for instance. Look how much gold Jesus said that the master gave his servants. He gave them 75 pounds of gold in each bag!!! That would have caught his audience’s attention. Matthew was a tax collector before he became a disciple of Jesus and this certainly caught his attention, as Matthew knew the value of a talent gold.
75 pounds of Gold! That is a lot of money. In today’s gold market that is worth ¾ of a million dollars. In Jesus’ day that was also known as a king’s ransom. Over a thousand years later the ransom that was paid for King Richard “the Lion Heart”, the famous king of England during the time of Robin Hood, was ransomed for a talent of gold. At talent of gold could buy you 300 young female slaves or just over 40,000 bushels of wheat. To give you a good approximate size of how much that is, the huge Paterson grain elevator just off the northwest side of the Perimeter highway has eight huge steel bins and each holds just over 20,000 bushels. Look for it as you pass by on the perimeter some time. One talent of gold buys you two of those massive bins full of wheat! That is a lot of bread.
Now Jesus had his audience’s attention. It then goes on to say that the servant who received five bags of gold invested it and soon it doubled in value. The servant with two bags of gold invested it and doubled it as well.
That is some good investing isn’t it! Many commentators assume that the master Jesus was talking about was gone for about a year. One year and 100% return! I want these guys to be in charge of my retirement savings! That seems like a really large return to us in this day and age. If we get 10% on our investments we are very happy today. But investments were not the same back then. Capital, which is money that is available to spend immediately, was very uncommon back in Jesus’ day. The average person could not go down to a bank and get a loan for either big or small items. There just wasn’t the capital to do this with. It was a relatively recent invention in Jesus’ day that people could put their money in a bank in a savings account. This was a Roman invention. If you had capital and you had some education you could easily expect to make a 100% return a year.
It is the same in many undeveloped countries around the world today. This past week I had a really interesting talk with Ernie Dyck. Ernie was recently in the Congo helping set up small credit unions that give disperse “micro loans.” He explained to me how they work. A local farmer has a crop of yams. They are ready to be picked but he has neither the sacks nor the money to transport them to the city. If they do not get brought to market they will spoil.
All it costs him is $10 to buy sacks and pay for transportation but if you have no money the crop is useless. The credit union gives the farmer a loan for $10. He then goes and takes his crop to market and sells it for $50. The farmer then comes back a few days later and pays the credit union $11 for the loan. That is $10 for the loan and $1 for interest. 10% interest on a loan that the farmer had for less than a week! But the farmer is very happy because he just made $39 that he would never have made if he did not have that micro loan. A good credit union in the Congo makes well over 100% on its capital per year, and 300% is not at all unusual.