Summary: Jesus' parable about the servants who were given talents by the master.
Matthew 25:14-30 – The Tragedy of Buried Treasure
This morning I would like to share with you with a thought or two from a familiar passage in the Gospels. Jesus was in the midst of telling stories and parables expressing spiritual truths, and He told this one shortly before His death. It’s what we call the Parable of the Talents. John Maxwell, a popular speaker and pastor for many years, preached a sermon on this passage called What Makes God Mad. I preferred to take a less hostile but equally serious angle on the passage, and my sermon is called The Tragedy of Buried Treasure.
I found this passage online, recreated by an artist and Anglican minister named Earnest Graham. He expresses the truth of the passage as if it were modern day but the words of scripture remain the same. Let’s go through this parable together. Read Matthew 25:14-30.
I need to clarify a few things. The “talent” in the passage is not exactly what we mean by the word today. Back in Bible times, a talent was a measure of weight. It meant about 75 pounds. But it weighed coins. So it was 75 pounds of, in this story, gold. A talent, as used by Jesus, meant more than $1000. As the comic illustrated, a talent was about 15-20 years worth of work for a labourer. So, the master in the story gave one of his servants more than $5000 to invest or 75-100 years worth of earnings. He gave another more than $2000 to invest or 30-40 years worth of earnings. And to the last, he gave more than $1000 to invest or 15-20 years worth of earnings.
Realistically, this was a lot of money. The master had entrusted his servants with something very valuable. He expected them to take care of it. And even more than take care of it, he expected them to use it and increase it.
The 1st servant did just that: doubled it from 5 talents to 10. So did the 2nd servant: 2 talents to 4. Unfortunately, the 3rd servant didn’t invest his talent. He didn’t use it in any way. He hid it. He buried it and forgot about it. It didn’t grow. It didn’t get used. It got forgotten.
And what he says to his master after the long absence is really thought-provoking. He says, “I was afraid”. This attitude is sharply contrasted by the attitude I’ll show you on the screen. I love Calvin and Hobbes cartoons. Calvin is a very bright but not very nice boy who has a stuffed tiger named Hobbes, who may or may not come to life when no-one else is around. Anyway, Calvin dad says to him, “Calvin, your mother and I have decided to give you an allowance. It’s important to learn the value of money.”
Calvin then wrings his hands together like a mad scientist and says, “Money! Ha ha! I’m rich, I’m rich! I can buy off anyone! The world is mine! Power, friends, prestige! I can buy it all! I’m free!” Then, the dad says to his wife, “I blew it again, dear.”
I suppose some people who get a financial windfall react like that. But really, don’t most of us react differently? Don’t most of us act like the 3rd servant? I love how The Message words this passage. The servant says this to the master: “Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.”
He thought that the master would be OK with his inaction. But instead, the master was furious. The master said: “That's a terrible way to live! It's criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least?”
And right here is what John Maxwell was referring to when he said What Makes God Mad. This is the Tragedy of Buried Treasure. The servant did not use what was given to him. He was entrusted with something not his own, and he dropped the ball. He didn’t use it or multiply it or make the world a better place with it. He buried his treasure.
You don’t have to dig deep to see some clear truths in this story. #1, clearly, Jesus is the master and we are His servants. Now, I’m not presuming that all the world serves God. I’m not even presuming that all Christians make it their soul ambition to please God. But the truth still holds: Jesus has the right to be our Master, and He deserves each of us to serve Him.