We are closing in the on the holidays already which doesn’t seem possible. Soon we will be in the season of Advent in the church, a season of waiting and anticipation of Christ’s return.
Like last week’s scripture, today’s scripture is about what we do while we wait for Christ’s return. Today’s scripture is titled, “The Parable of the Talents.”
At this point in Matthew’s gospel Christ is in his final days. He has returned to Jerusalem for the last time. His final parables in Matthew’s account are about what we are to be doing while waiting for his return.
“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.
A talent was a measure of weight in biblical times. The master of the estate was incredibly wealthy. A talent is about 75 pounds of precious metal. 75 pounds. An ounce of gold today is worth around $1,300.
If you do the math a talent or 75 pounds of gold today is worth around $1.5 million dollars. That is one talent, the first servant got five and the second servant got two.
What does scripture say that the master of the estate did after giving this large amount of money to his servants…….He went away. He didn’t give them any instructions. He just gave it to them. It seems apparent that he trusts them to be wise with it.
Helluva nice guy isn’t he. What if I were to tell you that the master in this parable is Christ, he left but not before giving a bounty to his people? What if I told you that the servants in this parable were you and I?
That we have been given a treasure or a talent in the form of intellect, knowledge, life experience, talent, time, our ability to earn and a ton of his grace to boot?
And what if I told you that someday we will have to account for what we did with our God-given talent? I will come back to that.
The master of the estate, he just left. No directions, no instructions. The servants were free to do what they would with what they were entrusted with, much like we are. I want to talk about this for a minute.
Our God, the God that we serve limits himself in this parable and he does this often. He limits himself so that others have an opportunity to lead and flourish.
Christ, being of the same spiritual substance of The Father, came to this earth in the same limited manner that we exist, in flesh and blood. Bound by time and space among other things.
He limited himself as a penniless, itinerant carpenter turned preacher who emptied himself of his divinity to take on our broken condition. He goes beyond limiting himself, he completely emptied himself.
He lived like the poorest of the poor with the poorest of the poor and spent his time with the lowest of the low. Now, Christ did heal people, he performed miracles, he brought people that were dead back to life.
But he lives his time on this earth consistently restrained. And why would he do that………Is it because he hands the keys to the kingdom over to us, to each one of us? That he wants each one of us to be about his work.
Is it because we are in his final days in the book of Matthew and he is making sure to make his point that he is leaving and these are the expectations for those who profess to know him?
God calls us to lead in one form or another. Leadership isn’t about titles, we are called to lead our families, our church, our community, our school and many other things.
We weren’t made to sit on the sidelines idly watching the world go by. Here is another window into my cynical and twisted mind. In my experience in different leadership positions those that sat idly by, not only did they not help, they consistently attacked, smeared and hurled insults at the ones trying to get things done.
Enough of that. We are called to lives of service. He are called to lead, we are called to be in ministry and we are called to be the light in this world. We don’t retire from Christian service. As long as there is air in our lungs we are called to be of service to the church.
After leaving his servants to do what they would with his money, the master returned. “The one who had received the five talents had gone off and traded and made five more talents.” He had doubled his master’s money.
“In the same way, the one who had been given two talents made two more talents.” He also had doubled his master’s money. Pretty impressive, do you know how much time it would take to double your money – legally?
“But the one who had received one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” After a long time the master, or Christ in this example, returns. He is anxious to see what his people have done with what he has entrusted them with.
The one given five talents had pleased his master, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant, you have been trustworthy in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.” Enter into the kingdom and splendor of God’s presence.
The one given two talents had also pleased his master and is greeted the same, “Well done, good and trustworthy servant, you have been trustworthy in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.”
The servant given one talent had to give his account of what he had done with what he had been given. This servant’s response appears to be more of a reflection on his own character than the nature of the God we serve.
“Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid and I hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”
The third servant, the one given one talent sat idly by. After many years, maybe even a lifetime he had not been about his master’s work. I envision this servant shrugging his shoulders as he hands the money back and then goes on the offensive about how it isn’t really his fault. It is the master’s fault, it is God’s fault that I didn’t do anything productive with what he gave me.
The master was not happy. “You wicked and lazy servant! You knew, did you that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received it with interest.”
“Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.
“As for this servant, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
A warning parable about the accounting we will have to do when Christ returns. Everyone is gifted whether they think they are or not. The gifts we are given vary from person to person, no one gift is better or more important than another. Those gifts are not to be wasted or to sit idle.
In this season of Thanksgiving, as we approach Advent and the celebration of Christ’s birth, let us be about God’s work in this world. Let us feed, clothe and minister to the poor. Let us be the church. Let us be the light, the city on a hill that give sight to the blind and ears to hear for those that need to know our God.
Pastor Shawn LaRue, Seymour UMC
Author of Incomplete