It’s Not a Talent Contest
Good evening. It is good to see each of you that have returned this evening. We are going to continue our studies on the parables of Jesus. This will be the last one of this series. It has not been an exhaustive coverage of all the parables of Jesus, but it gives us the idea.
I hope we have learned some things and have been challenged about some. One thing we need to always remember is that it is about context, context, context. If you get that, right then half the battle is won.
There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus really was and still is ‘The Master Teacher’. If you remember back to last Lord’s Day evening Jesus shared with His disciples, ‘The parable of the ten virgins’. These virgins were pictured as waiting for the Lord’s arrival.
We saw that we, as Christians, need to be watchful and ready for His arrival. In the parable which we are going to look at today, which is ‘The parable of the talents’, we are going to see that the servants in this parable are pictured as working for their Lord.
‘The parable of the ten virgins’ stresses the duty of constant alertness and ‘The parable of the talents’ stresses the duty of faithful service. When we place them together as they should be, they both teach Christians that as we watch, we must not be idle.
In short the best way to be ready for Jesus’ return is to be busy in the Master’s business.
If you would open your bibles to Matthew 25 this will be our text for this evening. Before we begin I would like to tell you a story told to me by a preacher from England about a learning experience from his youth. He said; “when I was young, my parents would occasionally go out and leave me in charge of the house. My dad would give me £5 to buy fish and chips for my supper. One time I decided to have a party and so I invited some my friends around and we started drinking, dancing and just generally being silly.
As the night went on I knew my parents would get home about 1:00 am, so around 12:30 my friends and I picked up the house, to make it look like nothing had ever happened.
My friends left and I went to bed, only to be woken up with a friendly slap to the face from my father. Of course playing ignorant I asked, “Why did you do that?”.
He said, “I know you had a party and I don’t mind but you forgot to empty the ashtrays.”
I had been entrusted with my parent’s home and the money they gave me was to buy my supper from the chip shop, not to buy beer.” The preacher said; “He never mentioned the beer but I got the point.”
I recalled this story of his when looking at this parable. In a similar way Jesus tells us in this parable that the master entrusted His property and His money to His servants.
There is a similar parable which Jesus shares in Luke 19:11-27. We need to keep that in mind because some people see ‘The unprofitable servant’ in Matthew’s account as the main character.
They believe that the unprofitable servant represents the Scribes and the Pharisees and other Jews who wouldn’t run the risk of giving full pledge of allegiance to the Christ. There is possibly some truth to this view, but what we need to ask ourselves is; to whom was Jesus speaking to in Matthew’s account?
If we go all the way back to Matthew 24:3 we find the answer. “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately.” “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”[para] Matthew tells us quite clearly that the only people present with Jesus were His disciples.
In Luke’s account Jesus is speaking with the Scribes, Pharisees and other Jews who are listening, but not in Matthew’s account. What’s the point? The point is simply that Jesus is speaking to His disciples and the focus of attention is not on Jewish leaders but upon the 3 scenes of the parable.
I. Here is scene number 1...the gifts. Matthew 25:14-15 – “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.”
A. Jesus says before the master went on his journey. He called all his servants in and gave each of them a definite sum of money.
1. The 1st thing we notice is the amount of money varied. It varied not because of favoritism but because of ability. We notice in each case the unit of money involved was a talent.
2. As we know a talent in Biblical times was no small sum of money. It wasn’t £5 to go and buy fish and chips. In the time of Jesus a talent was worth a lot more.
3. Remember that these servants were not only placed in charge of their master’s money, they were also in charge of their master’s property, but the point is that each man received something. Not a single servant was left out; each one was left with something in their pockets.
B. Folks, God still works that way today even in a congregation this small. Not a single person responsible to God is left out in the divine distribution of gifts. Every one of us receives something. In fact I would say every one of us receives much, even the one talent man received the large sum.
C. Remember when we looked at ‘The parable of the two sons’? What did Jesus say the father called the two sons to do? Matthew 21:28-30 tells us that the father said to both sons, “Son, go, work today in my vineyard.”
1. He called them to work. Why? Because there was work to be done. God calls us the same way. We are told to go work in His vineyard. Why? Same reason, because there is work to be done.
2. God has work for us all to do and God gives us enough capital to accomplish the work which He intends for every one of us to accomplish.
3. 2 Peter 1:3 – “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,” Peter tells us that we have everything we need, and not just for life but for godliness too.
D. Like I mentioned earlier each servant was given a different amount according to their abilities.
E. We read in 1 Corinthians 12:14-21 something I’m sure we have heard; “14. For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,'' is it therefore not of the body? 16. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,'' is it therefore not of the body? 17. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18. But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? 20. But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you''; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you.''”
1. The point is that God knows we are not all the foot, or the eye, or the ears. It is sad in today’s church that so many want to be the mouth, but that is not how God has set it up. He gave us different gifts and He doesn’t expect us to use a gift which we don’t possess.
2. Even in our natural abilities, we’re different. Some people are born with strong and active bodies, while others enter into the world in poor health. A few people are gifted with superior intellect and others are not so intellectual.
3. It’s the exact same with our spiritual gifts. A young man may grow quite rapidly into a Christian leader in a small congregation, but if you take that same young man and place him in a large congregation, he may not grow as fast because he may feel he is not needed as much.
4. Aren’t you glad that we are part of a small congregation and we know that we are much needed? Aren’t you glad you are part of a congregation who wants to promote and encourage the use of our talents? I know I am.
F. It is sad when you hear “they will not give me anything to do”. I know we appreciate when someone wants to be busily employed in the work of the Lord (or they say they do). But I wonder, is the lack of an assignment a reason for inactivity? What happened to initiative?
1. There are always opportunities to serve and I understand that sometimes the opportunities may not be as desirable or as many as others have.
2. Not all fields at any one moment are glowing with a golden harvest. In other words, there are some fields where the ground needs preparing. There are some fields that are waiting for the sowing. Remember when Jesus taught ‘The parable of the Sower,’ He says in Matthew 13:8 “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop--a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”[para] Every farmer knows and we need to realize, that not all fields when sown are capable of producing the same crop.
II. Scene number 2... Let’s look at the way the talents were used in the parable. What was the result of the master’s confidence in His servants? To what use did they put His money while He was away? Matthew 25:16-18 – “16. "Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17. "And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18. "But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money.”[NKJV]
A. The servants who received the larger amounts of money went to work immediately. They invested their money in profitable enterprises and succeeded in doubling their fortunes. I think we would be mistaken to assume that these men weren’t tempted to do something else with their talents.
1. We certainly are not told but temptations flow around us all the time like the waters of some great river. While the big ones are easy to spot and avoid leaving us unharmed, sometimes a little significant incident may cause our down fall simply because we are not looking for it.
2. How many times have we been in a hurry, maybe tired or hungry and have decided to take a shortcut to accomplish the task before us? That little shortcut may cause us to stumble.
3. Again, we are not told but temptations come to us all and I am sure they came to these men as well. I would suggest it is a mistake to put their success down to just pure luck. They were successful because they worked, they took their responsibility as something active, not just to preserve but to improve. Not taking the easiest way.
B. Let’s look at the third man in the parable. We know that he failed his duty. Matthew 25:18 says, “He dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.”[para] I doubt he deliberately set out to fail. He probably left his master’s presence with the firm intension to justify the confidence that had been placed in him. Why then did the third man fail?
C. There are a few possibilities I would suggest. The 1st is this: he failed because he didn’t have faith in himself. We all have talents from God but how many of us feel as though our talent is small and insignificant? Perhaps the one talent man was unsure of his abilities and when he compared his gift with the larger gifts, he was afraid that he couldn’t do as much as them, and so in not wanting to do the least - he did nothing.
1. If that’s any of us this evening and we’re thinking well, if I can’t have a leading part, I’m just not going to do anything at all. If you think your gift is small and not that necessary - then think again! If you think your gift doesn’t deserve much honor then I beg you to think again!
2. Paul clearly tells us otherwise in 1 Corinthians 12:22-25 – “22. No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24. but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25. that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.”
3. You see folks, when it comes to serving the Lord it’s all about recognizing the different talents that each of us have and we all have different talents. No gift is greater then any other gift in the Lord’s eyes. In imperfect human sight maybe, but in God’s eyes my gift is not greater than yours and your gift is not greater than mine.
4. I do recognize there are some things I do well and some tasks where I am far less capable. There is no shame in recognizing we can’t do certain jobs for the Lord, but there is shame if we know we have a talent and we don’t use it, just bury it in the ground.
D. Perhaps another reason why the man failed was because he didn’t have the courage to work. Jesus calls him in Matthew 25:26 - “You wicked and lazy servant!” Was he afraid to work? Isn’t this the cause of most failures in life? If a person doesn’t work, if a person isn’t willing to pay the price in hard labor, they will never be crowned with success.
1. Proverbs 10:4 – “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.”[para]
2. This was true thousands of years ago and it is just as true today. It is true in the physical sense, and it’s also true in the spiritual sense. Hebrews 6:10-12 – “10. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12. that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
i. Would we think that Abraham would have become the father of all nations, if he didn’t follow God’s instructions?
ii. Would the walls of Jericho have fallen if the Israelites just went around the city once?
3. God has no room for laziness because He has given each of us a gift to use in His kingdom. If we just bury those gifts in our hearts then God’s work won’t get done as His will wants it done.
E. Maybe another reason why this fellow failed was because he didn’t have enough faith in his master. Maybe he thought he just got a bad deal. Matthew 25:24 tells us that this guy “Knew that his master was a hard man.”
1. It amazes me how many people look at God in that way. In spite of all God and done and continues to do for us, all the Love He has shown; doesn’t it seem many people have a picture of God as a hard man in their minds?
2. It amazes me how many people see God as this stern power that is either making unreasonable demands or someone who is pushing people around to get His own way. Yet, if this were true wouldn’t that be all the more reason why we should all strive to use the talents He has given us?
3. We know this is not true because that’s not a clear picture of God. God loves us and extends His arms to us in mercy. When He gives us a task, He gives us the means to accomplish the task. He is not going to give us a task we are not able to do.
F. Ephesians 3:20 – “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,” God has more power then we can imagine and He will help us. All we have to do is ask Him for it, because according to Paul that power is already at work within us.
III. The final scene I want for us to look at is the consequences of using and not using our talents. When the master came home it was time for reckoning. Matthew 25:19-23 – “19. "After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20. "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' 21. "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' 22. "He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' 23. "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'”
A. Jesus says the same thing was said to the man with the 5 talents and the man with the 2 talents. Their reward was to be two-fold, they were made ruler over many things and they were admitted into the joy of their Lord.
1. This meant they were granted an extended and more dignified office certainly something on this earthly side we can relate to.
2. The second part of being admitted into the joy of their Lord indicates participation in the fullness of joy which the Lord’s presence ensures as we find in Psalm 16:11 – “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
B. We know that an inheritance awaits all Christians who work and do His will. Peter tells us about it in 1 Peter 1:3-5 – “3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4. to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5. who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
1. That is the very reason why we keep going, even though we go through all kinds of trials in our lives. Read on in 1 Peter 1:6-9 – “6. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7. that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8. whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9. receiving the end of your faith the salvation of your souls.”
2. That’s why we faithfully work for our Lord. It is because we have a goal and because of our faith in our Lord - we want to reach that goal. What is that goal? Not just an inheritance which will never fade or spoil, we will receive the most important thing of all, the salvation of our souls.
C. Is that not why you’re a Christian? You want to go to heaven.
1. Please remember that we don’t work hard for our reward, we work hard because of our reward.
2. Ephesians 2:8-9 – “8. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9. not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
IV. Now let’s continue in that final scene and take a look at the man with one talent in the parable. Matthew 25:24-28 – “24. "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25. 'And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.' 26. "But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27. 'Therefore you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28. 'Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.”
A. Wow, he was forbidden to come in and take part in his master’s happiness and everything he had was taken from him. Some folks would say this is a picture of a harsh master. I don’t think it is. I think it is the inevitable consequence of doing nothing.
1. Too many people question God about the way He deals with people. We hear questions like this all the time. Why would a loving, caring God send someone to hell?
2. God doesn’t do that. People choose to go there. Why would God send someone into hell because they haven’t totally obeyed all His commandments but have just served Him in their own way all their lives?
3. Questions like this are not new. In Romans 9 when Paul is describing how God does things the way He wants to do things and people are questioning.
4. Paul says in Romans 9:21 – “Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” Paul says that our creator has the right to use our life for His purpose. You’ve all heard the saying, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” It is a law of life that we will lose what we fail to use. In the spiritual realms every gift given by God must be put to work or else it will be taken from us.
5. Matthew 25:29 – “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”
Why were two profitable and one unprofitable? The answer lies not in the fact that the two from the beginning were more gifted. With all they were given they still could have been lazy and buried their talents. It wasn’t because they were brilliant or because they had a knack for business that they were commended.
They were commended simply because they had been faithful in the service of their absent Lord. Both men with what they possessed had done his best. We too when the day of reckoning comes and we turn to our eternal home, it may well be that some will come with an arm full of trophies. It may well be that some will come with only a few trophies, but you need to come with something. Nobody can come empty handed having done nothing.
Folks, this is a stern warning for us because He’s speaking about people who profess to follow His ways here. These men were already servants of their master.
People, as Joshua says, need to choose who they will serve. What we choose while it is yet today is going to reflect on us on Judgment Day. The undertaker can’t do anything spectacular when we die. We each have to make that choice today.
He told the foolish virgins in Matthew 25:12, “’I tell you the truth, I don't know you.’”
He told the goats on His left in Matthew 25:41, “’Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
He said about the wicked, lazy servant in Matthew 25:30, “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
I for one don’t want to hear those words coming from the Father’s lips. I would rather hear the words He spoke to these servants who used their talents well, in Matthew 25:21, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”
You have to decide what He is going to say to you. Remember it’s not a talent contest.
It’s about reaching our goal, the salvation of our souls. It’s about using the talents which God has blessed us with to reach others until the day He returns to take us home.
If you haven’t obeyed His commands, then you’re not prepared and you need to get prepared. You need to study His word and do what His word tells every one of us to do. You need to repent, turn from the ways of the world, turn to God and follow His ways. You’re here this evening, which tells me you have some belief in God.
You also need to believe the Bible when it says that Christ is who He claims to be, which is the Savior of the world. You need to confess that Jesus is Lord and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. After you’ve obeyed His commands, then you continue to obey His commands, which is called faithfulness, it’s then that you are starting the preparation process. You are doing what God requires you to do in preparation for His return.
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