Summary: 26th Sunday After Pentecost [Pr. 28] An interpretation of what it means to be faithful stewards of what our Lord has entrusted to us
26th Sunday after Pentecost [Pr. 28] November 13, 2005 “Series A”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Creator God, maker of all things, you have gifted your church with uncountable talents. Sometimes we are wise and use our talents for good purposes, investing them in usefulness to your kingdom. At other times, we are afraid, and do not use what you have given us in ways that promote the gospel or the work of your kingdom in our world. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, teach us to be wise stewards of all that you give us, and give us courage to invest ourselves for the growth of your church. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
In the twenty-forth and twenty-fifth chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, just prior to his account of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, the emphasis of Jesus’ teachings shift to the subject of eschatology (that is, the end of time). It begins with Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, to which his amazed disciples ask, “When will this take place?”
Of course, Jesus answers the disciples’ question by telling them that no one knows when the end will come, not even himself. Instead, after offering his disciples a description of the last days, Jesus tells his last three parables. They are designed to change the focus of the disciples’ thoughts away from their question of when this will happen, to how they should live in the intervening time between his ascension and the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom.
Our Gospel lesson for this morning presents us with one of these parables that are intended to offer us, who live in this intervening time, instruction and encouragement for our life of faith. So let us listen to our lesson from this perspective.
Jesus says, “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them…” If we think of this opening statement in the context in which it appears in Matthew’s Gospel, we can assume that the “man going on a journey” is none other than Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. The journey, which he takes, is his ascension back to his heavenly Father, to await the end of time.
Right from the beginning of this parable, we encounter the grace of God. For if we think of the life of Christ, and the toil and sacrifice that he made to establish his property – his kingdom, his Church, his redemption from sin and death – it is truly a gift of love and compassion, for him to entrust his property to us!
Of course, some of us may not like the idea of being referred to as slaves, as our text this morning translates the text. I, myself, prefer the word “servant,” as the RSV interprets it. But nevertheless, the point is clear. We, who have been entrusted with our Lord’s property, we, to whom our Lord has entrusted his church, do not own the property. The Church belongs to Christ! We are but his stewards, his servants, entrusted with the responsibility of managing his property.
And according to this parable, the value of the property that our Lord entrusts to us is tremendous! To one servant he gives five talents, to another two, and to the third one, each according to their ability. When you consider that a “talent” was the equivalent of 15 to 20 years’ wages for a common laborer, the value of the property entrusted to the servants was worth millions. In other words, what the Lord has entrusted to his servants was worth more than any one of them could possibly imagine to accumulate in their lifetime.
Now, the first two servants took what was entrusted to them, and met the challenge with enthusiasm. We are told that they immediately went off and dared to risk investing what they had been given to the best of their ability, and were able to turn a profit for their Lord. They reacted to their Lord’s trust, and used the gifts they had to further their Lord’s kingdom.
But the third servant went out and buried his master’s money. He was fearful of losing what had been entrusted to him. He was afraid to risk using his abilities to further his master’s kingdom. And so he did nothing with what his Lord had entrusted to him.
When the master returns from his long journey, he summons his servants to give an account of what they had done with what he entrusted to them. The first two servants are excited to report what they had accomplished, and receive the praise of their master. The third servant, however, approaches his master apologetically, as if he realizes that he had not been faithful with what had been entrusted to him. In fact, his Lord even reprimands him for not investing what he had been given in the bank, which the master could have done before he left, and at least received some interest on his money.