MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
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A. I would like to weave together 3 passages of Scripture. The first one is Genesis 1:14-16.
"And God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, & let them serve as signs to mark seasons & days & years, & let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.' And it was so.
"God made two great lights the greater light to govern the day & the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars."
God has been looking at a universe that is incomplete. There are no seasons, no day, no night, no meaningful measure of time. So God says, "I will make lights in the expanse of the heavens." And God brings order out of darkness by creating the sun & the moon. Now there is day & night, summer, winter, spring & fall.
But imagine what it would be like if somehow God had made the sun & moon with the same freedom to choose that He gave us. What if the sun could say, "I don't think I will shine. It is my choice either to shine or not to shine. Therefore I choose not to shine."
There would have been chaos. With no energy giving rays coming from the sun the earth would turn barren & cold, & life, as we know it, would never have existed.
Now, the moon isn't nearly as impressive as the sun. But what if the moon decided not to shine? We would have no full moon or blue moon or harvest moon to write songs about.
Actually, we need the moon. Its gravitational pull on our environment, on our oceans & on our plant life, is absolutely essential for the maintenance of life.
Did you notice the last 5 words of this Scripture? "He also made the stars." We don't even know all the ways the stars affect us.
One benefit, of course, is to remind us of our own smallness. To stand out on a starlit night & look at the great expanse of stars reminds us that there are worlds & planets beyond our ability to detect or even to understand. God's universe is far greater than our tiny little planet.
So the author of Genesis wrote, "God made three lights. A greater light, a lesser light, & He made the stars also." Which one is more important than the others? How do we judge? They are each very important in their own ways.
B. Then, in the 5th chapter of Matthew, beginning with vs. 14, in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about light. Listen to His words.
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp & put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, & it gives light to everyone in the house.
"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds & praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).
Jesus is speaking to average people, & He says, "You are the light of the world. So don't hide your light! Let your light shine so that others will benefit from it, & glorify your Father in heaven."
C. Then, in the 25th chapter of Matthew, Jesus tells the very familiar parable of the talents. You know the story.
In the parable the master is about to leave on a journey & he calls in three of his servants. He entrusts 5 talents ($5,000) to one of them, 2 talents ($2,000) to the second, & 1 talent ($1,000) to the third. And Jesus tells us that he gave to each "according to his ability." Then he goes away on his journey.
Then, when he returns he asks for an accounting. The one who received 5 talents had invested them & gained 5 more. The master tells him, "Well done, good & faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Come & share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:21)
The same thing happened with the man who received 2 talents. He invested them & gained 2 more. And he receives exactly the same words of praise from the master.
I want you to notice that the master didn't give more honor to the man who had gained 5 talents than he did to the man who had gained 2. They were both greatly praised.
The man who had been given only 1 talent, however, had buried it in the ground. And we find his account beginning in verse 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 & gathering where you have not scattered seed.
'So I was afraid & went out & hid your talent 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 & 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.
'Take the talent from him & give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, & he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.
'And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping & gnashing of teeth.'" (Matthew 25:24-30)
Now, I really don't know if God intended for us to weave all 3 of these passages of Scripture together, but I do think there is one basic thought common to all three. And that thought is this:
"Whether you are a sun, moon, star, or a 5 talent, 2 talent, or 1 talent person, a lamp or a candle on a stand, you are important. You have a job to do that only you can do. And God expects you to let your light shine."
Now, with that said, lets look more carefully at the Parable of the Talents.
I. THE FIVE TALENT PERSON
A. Who are 5 talent people? They are achievers. They are "get things done" people who are always out leading & deciding what needs to be done next.
Looking at Scripture, we think of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David, the Apostle Paul, John, & Peter as 5 talent people. But were they 5 talent people to begin with? It doesn't seem like it. Maybe David & Paul were, but probably not the rest.
God takes an Abraham & makes him into a leader. God takes a Moses & makes him into a deliverer. God takes a fisherman named Peter & makes him into a great preacher.
Because they were willing to let the Lord direct their lives, He used them to accomplish great things. He took the raw material of their lives, & multiplied their talents over & over again.
B. Five talent people today have a problem. They are usually in great demand. People want them because the old saying is true, "If you want something done find a busy person to do it."
So others keep loading things on them & the result is that 5 talent people have to decide what is really important, what has priority in their lives.
The sad result is that there are 5 talent people in business who aren't 5 talent people in church because church is not a priority item in their lives.
But what is most important? With eternity stretching before us what little we have made here isn't going to count for much. Jesus says that the only thing that is really going to matter is the investment we have made in the Kingdom of God. That is all that will endure for ever & ever.
C. Here is something else to consider. If the 5 talent person in the parable had only invested 3 talents, he still would have been doing more than anybody else. But that wouldn't have been good enough.
God gave him 5 talents & all 5 talents were to be used & invested in the kingdom because "to whom much is given much is expected in return."
II. TWO TALENT PEOPLE
A. Then there are 2 talent people. We can breathe a little easier now & feel more comfortable. We are down closer to our level.
ILL. In the Bible, maybe Andrew would be an example of a 2 talent person. At least he always seems to be playing 2nd fiddle to Simon Peter. He must have gotten so tired of that, because every time he is introduced it is always "Andrew, Simon Peter's brother."
B. Second fiddle people aren't usually in the spotlight & don't do all of the things that 5 talent people can do. But it is so important for them to keep their lights shining because I believe it is 2 talent people who make 5 talent people look good.
Soloists would not sound nearly as good without 2 talent people harmonizing with them. If everybody was a soloist you wouldn't have the parts blending together & harmonizing, to make everything so full & beautiful. Two talent people are important!
C. Now here is the beautiful part. When you have 2 talents & you invest them in the Kingdom of God, God makes them into four. The first thing you know God is taking your 2 talents & He is multiplying them over & over again.
By the way, what is the difference between a talent & a spiritual gift? Some define talents as the natural abilities that God gives when you are born, & spiritual gifts as the talents or abilities that God gives you when you become a Christian.
I am not going to disagree with that, but I would like to expand it just a little bit. I think spiritual gifts are converted talents - talents that have been given to the Master & the Master enhances them into wonderful gifts to serve & glorify Him.
Sometimes our 2 talents never really accomplish all the things that we want them to accomplish. But the church would not be the church without 2 talent people who are willing to give them back to God & let God bless them & use them & multiply them many times over.
III. ONE TALENT PEOPLE
Well here we are with 1 talent. Immediately someone says, "Preacher, I am a 1 talent person. What in the world can a 1 talent person do?"
ILL. When I think of 1 talent people I think of the widow who had only a mite to give. Jesus stood back & watched her as she dropped her tiny coin in the offering. And he pointed her out as an example & said, "Her gift is the greatest of all because she has given all she has."
I think of the leper who was healed with 9 others. He didn't have great insight into the things of God. The only thing he could really do was come back & tell the Master, "Thank you for healing me."
I think also of the blind man who received his sight & then was called in front of the Sanhedrin to give an explanation of what happened. He couldn't explain how Jesus had healed him. He simply said, "All I know is that once I was blind, but now I can see." (John 9:25)
One talent people can do tremendous things when what they have is given to God & God takes & blesses & multiplies.
SUM: I don't like the end of the story of the talents. The Master says, "Take the one talent away from the lazy & the slothful servant & give it to the one who already has 10." Now he has 11.
Then Jesus says, 'For everyone who has will be given more, & he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping & gnashing of teeth.'" (Matthew 25:29-30)
Now I may not understand everything about this parable but I do understand this - if we don't use what God has given us then we won't have it for very long. And one day we will receive in proportion to how we have invested what God has given to us.
ILL. I like to look at the stars. I have never looked at the stars through a giant telescope. But I understand that when you do you see beauty & color & brilliance & symmetry beyond imagination. The stars are much more than just twinkling little lights.
And when God looks into our faces He sees potential beyond our imagination. I am convinced of that. In every person's eyes He sees lights that can shine with a brilliance that will let the world know that God is love.
ILL. Telemachus, a little 4th Century Christian monk, lived in a remote village, tending his garden & spending much of his time in prayer. One day he thought he heard the voice of God telling him to go to Rome, so he obeyed, setting out on foot.
Weary weeks later, he arrived in Rome at the time of a great festival. He had never been to a large city, much less a city of the size & grandeur of Rome. The little monk followed the crowd surging down the streets into the Colosseum.
He saw the gladiators stand before the emperor & heard them say, "We who are about to die salute you." Then he realized these men were going to fight to the death for the entertainment of the crowd. He cried out, "In the name of Christ, stop!" But nobody listened.
As the games began, he pushed his way through the crowd, climbed over the wall, & dropped to the floor of the arena. When the crowd saw this tiny figure rushing to the gladiators & crying, "In the name of Christ, stop!" they thought it was part of the show & began laughing.
When they realized it wasn't, the laughter turned to anger. As he was pleading with the gladiators to stop, one of them plunged a sword into his body. He fell to the sand. As he was dying, his last words were, "In the name of Christ, stop!"
Then a strange thing happened. The gladiators stood looking at the tiny figure lying there. A hush fell over the Colosseum. Way up in the upper rows, a man stood up & made his way to the exit. Others began to follow. In dead silence, everyone left the Colosseum.
The year was A.D. 391, & that was the last battle to the death between gladiators in the Roman Colosseum. Never again in the great stadium did men kill each other for the entertainment of the crowd, all because of one tiny voice that could hardly be heard above the tumult. One voice one life that spoke up in the name of Christ.
Now, what about us?
CONCL. This morning, if you have never accepted Jesus as your Savior, then we extend the invitation of God to you. And we pray that you will come to Him with whatever talents He has given you, & use them to His glory. Will you come as we stand & sing together?