Sermon on the Parable of the Talents
This is the time of year when churches encourage their congregations to think about making pledges for next year, and churches often use this Scripture passage in the context of tithing and using our gifts and talents in the service of the church. However, I think it’s more about what we do outside of the church.
When we consider stewardship, one of the most important things to remember is that all we have what given to us by the Lord in the first place. So when we give to him, we are giving him back what is already his.
All things come of Thee, O Lord,1 Chronicles 29:14, KJV
And of thine own we have given Thee.
The Lord asks us for a tithe (one tenth of our money) and a Sabbath (one seventh of our time). When we return to him a portion of what he has given us, we are recognizing his gifts and acknowledging his sovereignty over all. Stewardship is less about the portion we give back to God than it is about how we use all of what God has given us.
The word stewardship is translated from the Greek word oikonomos. When you say the word out loud, you might hear its similarity to the English word “economics.” The literal translation of oikonomos is “house/household law.” It fundamentally is about the management and rule of our households.
This parable in Matthew 25 begins with the rightful owner of the property going away and entrusting its management to his servants (v. 14). This already has significant application to us, because our modern culture is less about “entrusting” than it is about “entitlement.” We think that what we have is owed to us somehow, rather than something that has been entrusted to us by God. (See Deuteronomy 8:11-17.) Do not believe this lie. God is the owner of all things, and we are simply “economists” in his household.
Some readers get confused by the use of the word “talents” in this parable. Although God does indeed want you to use your abilities and spiritual gifts in his service, this particular “talent” is a weight measurement that was used in that time. One talent is the equivalent of about 66 pounds, so when you imagine 5 talents (5 x 66 = 330 pounds) of gold, that is a LOT of gold.
When you are entrusted with something, you are not only responsible for it, but you are also accountable for it. The servants in this parable must come before their master when he returns and give an account of how they managed his possessions. The way he responds to their management tells us a lot about the nature of God. We can see that he delights to entrust his wealth to his servants, and he takes great pleasure in seeing them learn to use it well. Those who prove faithful will receive the master’s delight and be entrusted with more.
Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.Matthew 25:21
There is nothing that delights the heart of God more than to see his people using all he has given them – wealth, talents, and skills – to flourish on this earth.
Then we see the third servant, though, who had a skewed view of the master and therefore did not obey the master’s directions. He did not see the master’s delight to see his servants flourish. He mistakenly believed the master to be a hard man who only cared about profit in the end. Many of us can fall into the false belief that God only cares about the bottom line. This is a surefire way to kill our joy in serving God and his joy in us. Like the third servant, we become obsessed with failure and refuse to take any risks in serving God.
We must not fall into this false view of God and instead stay fixed on God’s delight in the way his servants use their abilities to manage the resources he gives in order to see his kingdom flourish. This not only delights the heart of God, but it delights his faithful servants as well. When the Lord sees you delighting in your vocation, your stewardship, and your economics, then it brings him great joy as well.
If you find yourself stuck, fixated on failure, unsure how to move forward in this difficult season, I encourage you to look around and find even just one small step you can take to get out of your rut. The master in this parable said that the third servant could have done well even if he only invested the one talent in the bank instead of burying it (v. 27). So look around and see if you can find even one small place to begin to invest what God has given you in a way that will bring both him and you joy.