Summary: The parable of the talents speaks to stewardship of treasure, talents and time. Expository.
Matthew 25:14-30 – Use It or Lose It
In the January 15, 1989 issue of the Lexington Herald-Leader, an article told this story: A family living in a home in West Palm Beach, Florida, told a film crew it was okay to use the front lawn as a set for an episode of “B. L. Stryker”, a TV show starring Burt Reynolds. They knew cars would be crashing violently in front of the house. While the front yard was being blown up, the owner of the home was tipped off and called from New York demanding to know what was happening to his house. It seems the people who were living in the house were only tenants and they had no right to allow the property to be destroyed as the cameras rolled.
You know, sometimes we live our lives in the same way. We make decisions as to what to do with our resources, but we forget that the resources aren’t ours to begin with. Jesus told a story about this very thing in Matthew 25:14-30. As we continue through our summer sermon series on why we do what we do in worship services, we come to stewardship. Generally, the thought of stewardship only shows up when it’s time to give in the offering. Generally, we think of giving back to God only once during a service, maybe even once a week. I’m quite sure that’s not what Jesus had in mind when he told the story of the talents.
Now, a talent was a unit of money, worth over $1000. Let’s keep that thought in mind as we look at one of the last stories Jesus told before going to His death. Matthew 25:14-30.
Let’s put this parable in context. That is, let’s look at what Jesus said before it and what He said after it. Before he told the story of the talents, he told a story about 10 young ladies – virgins, actually – waiting for the bridegroom for a wedding. They wanted to be invited to the wedding reception. Half of them let the oil run out of their lamps, meaning that they weren’t ready to meet the groom when he came; but half of them were ready. The story about the 10 virgins is that even Christians must be ready to meet the Lord when He returns in glory from heaven.
The story after parable of the talents is about Jesus separating the sheep and the goats. The sheep are the ones who have obeyed the Lord and loved other people with compassion. The goats are the ones who didn’t show love and compassion to the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the naked, the sick and the prisoners. The story is the eternal separating of those who were faithful to loving others and those who were not.
The story before and the story after speak of being ready to meet the Lord, through waiting and obeying. The message of each is an end-times message: be ready to meet the Lord when He comes, and be ready to give an account of what you did on earth. This is the exact message of the parable of the talents.
Jesus’ story starts off with the master of an estate leaving for a time. The master decides to leave his fortunes with the servants. To one servant he gave over $5000, to another over $2000, and to the third, over $1000.
Well, you don’t have to a rocket scientist to understand that the master is Jesus. He was on the earth for about 33 years. He died, and rose again. He walked on the earth for 40 days after, then ascended into heaven. The Bible tells us that He will be coming back again someday.
So if Jesus is the Master, then who do the servants represent? Us. We are the servants in Jesus’ story. So if we are His servants, then the message of the story must apply to us. Well, what is the message of the story? In a parable, not every detail stands for something else; that is, some details are just there for the story. But, each parable does have some threads of truth, relevant for everyday. There may be more, but there are at least 3 threads of truth running through this story for us today in 2003.
The first is that 1) we’ve all been given things of value. Each one of us has been entrusted with valuable items, direct from God. You’ve heard me say this before, but it’s still true. Each of us has been entrusted with treasures, talents and time. Each one of us has been trusted by God to handle things of great value.
As many times as I’ve read this passage, it just dawned on me this week, that in the story the servants were not using their money. They weren’t burying their own money. It was the master’s finances. From start to finish, the money was never the servants’. It was always the master’s.