Summary: (Parable of the Talents) Our God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness. We need to recognize that, and do something about it!
Title: “What the Master Knew”
Text: Matthew 25:14-20
I suspect if you’ve been in church for more than a few years you’ve heard of Jim Elliott. As a young seminarian at Wheaton in 1949, he was considered a bright and rising star, very well-liked and destined to go far. In 1955, he became a missionary to the Auca Indians in Ecuador (South America). On January 8, 1956, after months of trying to initiate contact with these Indians, he and four other missionaries thought they had an opening. The pilot, Nate Saint landed the helicopter in a clearing, and finally made contact. What happened next, nobody exactly knows, but the end result was documented in a 10 page article in Life Magazine the next issue. There in big bold pictures, the entire nation saw first-hand, pictures of the bloody massacre in which all five missionaries were butchered.
His wife of less than three years, Elisabeth Elliott, however, was determined to follow through on the vision that Jim Elliott had shared with her. She went back to the same tribe of Auca Indians and helped to found a successful mission amongst those Indians that still continues to this day. Elisabeth Elliott went on to write several books, first about her husband, and then about her close relationship to God. She was moved by a line from Jim’s journal – on October 28, 1949, he wrote the famous line, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he can never lose.”
You see, both Jim & Elisabeth knew the master. They knew he was a good and giving God who could ask what seemed much, but only because they knew He had first empowered them to do it. It is said of Jim Elliott that people often asked him why, being so clearly talented and gifted by God, he didn’t choose to have what clearly would have been a successful ministry here in the United States. His reply was simple. “Why should some hear it twice, when there are those who haven’t heard it once?”
You might wonder why I read the parable of the Talents right before telling you about Jim Elliott. Well, there are several reasons. First, he had a motivation to be that good and faithful servant praised here in the text. Also, I think the bit about why he chose to go to Ecuador in the first place illustrates the general points of the parable well – don’t be afraid to take risks, use all the talents that God has given you, and as he gave his reason for going to Ecuador – Realize that with great treasure, such as we have with the Gospel here in the United States, comes great responsibility. As Henry Blackaby once said, “God doesn’t give us gifts just to sit on them. He intends for them to be used!”
But, I’ll tell you as I’ve really meditated on this parable this week, I think there is an even more fundamental reason. You see, believe it or not, buried within this parable is a rather profound notion about our sensitivity to the Savior, and how it drives our action. You see, Jim Elliott’s understanding of the Master compelled him to action, but it also drew him closer in relationship to him. Jim Elliott was a bright and rising star – and he was a gifted man – but I believe he was gifted precisely because he knew his Master well. And it’s that relationship that I want to explore in the context of this parable this morning.
Before I get into that, however, I just want to make a few points that I think are pretty clear in the parable itself.
First of all, there is the simple principle that to whom much is given, much will be expected.
In this parable, three servants were each given a lot of money. The word used is “talent,” and it refers to a very large sum of money. Depending on whether this is copper, silver, or gold, a single talent is equivalent to anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 days’ wages. That’s a lot of money. If I was to say, one servant was given five “million,” another two “million,” and a third one “million,” I think it would convey what Jesus was trying to get across.
Now, if you are going to focus on what they did with that money, you’ll see that two of three servants were, percentage-wise, equally savvy with this money. Each of them doubled the money, and returned it to the master when he returned. And, each received the exact same reward from the master. He praises them the same (“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”); He promotes them in equal proportion (“Rule over X cities”); and He rewards both saying, “Come enter into the joy of your master.”