The Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
November 19, 2023
The Time In Between—
A Time For Faithful Service!
14“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
21“His master replied, ‘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!’
22“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’
23“His master replied, ‘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!’
24“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28“ ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (NIV1984)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
When is work fun? Does that question lead you to raise your eyebrows? We oftentimes think that work is work and fun is fun and ne’er shall the twain meet! I beg to differ. I have seen real-life situations where work is fun! For example, work is fun when you enjoy what you are doing. Whether you work with your hands or work with your mind or work with machines, when you enjoy what you are doing— work is fun! Work is also fun when you admire and respect the person and the company for whom you are working. I know people who have had a very difficult and demanding job, but they are so appreciative of the support and the help they receive from their boss and their company that going to work is fun!
When is work fun? My goal this morning is to help you see how the Parable of the Talents reminds us that as servants of the Master, that is, as servants of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the work He gives to us is fun! As we continue to focus on The Time In Between let’s see how Jesus reminds us that The Time In Between is: A Time for Faithful Service!
Look at the opening verse of our text. Jesus says, “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.” These words take us back to the beginning of chapter 25 where Jesus said to His disciples, “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like….” The Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Parable of the Talents are both talking about what will happen on Judgment Day. Both of these parables are leading up to the account of the Sheep and the Goats— which will be our sermon text for next Sunday. While the Parable of the Ten Virgins reminds us of how critically important it is to replenish the “oil” of our faith through regular use of God’s holy Word and God’s holy Supper, the Parable of the Talents reminds us that while we are waiting for our Master to return, He has given us important work to do— for Him! (Pointing to the cross)
Look at verses 15 to18. Jesus says, “To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”
There are three key points here. First, who is the main person in this parable? It is the “man who was going on a journey.” All of the “talents” belonged to him. He was the one who called “his servants and entrusted his property to them.” He is the one who decided how much money, how many “talents” he would entrust to his servants— “according to (the servant’s) ability.” By the way, this reveals to us that the “master” wanted his “servants” to be successful with what he had given to them. He was the one who expected “his servants” to do something with “his property,” to put his money to work while he was gone.
The second key point centers on the “talent,” the amount of money that the master gave to his servants. In Jesus’ day a “talent” was worth approximately 19 years’ worth of wages for a day laborer— 19 years! While we have to multiply that by five for the first servant and by two for the second servant, even the third servant was entrusted with a tremendous amount of money! By any standard you want to use this master was very generous!
The third key point centers on what the servants did with the money that was entrusted to them. Both the first and the second servant “put his money to work” and gained even more money— for their master. The third servant hid his money in the ground. He didn’t even try to use it.
What do these words mean for you and for me? It’s actually quite simple. The “Master” in this parable is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Since Jesus spoke these words to His disciples just shortly before His suffering, death and resurrection the reference to the “Master…going on a journey” represents the fact that after Jesus successfully completed His mission, His work, here on this earth, He returned Home to heaven. How long will He be gone? We don’t know. Is He coming back? Absolutely!
Even though Jesus has returned Home to heaven He continues to graciously give certain “talents,” certain “gifts,” certain “abilities” to each and every one of His “servants”— including each and every one of us! Since Jesus knows each and every one of us even better than we know ourselves, He lovingly and wisely gives us our “talent” according to our abilities. By giving all of us our “talents” according to our abilities Jesus is setting us up for success! He only gives us what He knows we can handle. That’s how good and gracious, wise and loving our Master is!
We need to be careful, however, that we do not fall into the temptation of comparing our “talents” with someone else’s “talents.” That temptation can come in two forms. If in our estimation God has given us “greater” or “better” talents than He has given to someone else, we could easily become proud— of ourselves! We could start focusing on what we have and on what we are able to do instead of humbly realizing that everything we are¸ everything we have, and everything we are able to do is purely because of the “talents” our loving and wise Master has given to us.
On the other side of that very same coin we might look at the “talents” God has wisely and graciously given to us, compare them to what God has given to others and think that there is nothing we can do, nothing that we can contribute. Since in our estimation other people have more “talents,” since in our estimation other people can do what needs to be done so much better than we can, we “bury” our “talent” and just sit on the sidelines as other people do the work. That kind of attitude insults the God who graciously and wisely gave us the “talents” that He wanted us to have, the “talents” He wants us to use in faithful service to Him!
No matter what “talents” our God has given to us, no matter what “talents” our God has given to others, He has the exact same expectation for all of His servants! Look at verses 19 to 27. There are a number of key points we need to take to heart here as well. The key major point is simple. Look at verse nineteen. Just as the master in Jesus’ parable did come back and “settle accounts” with his servants, so also our Master, our Lord and Savior will return to this earth on Judgment Day and “settle accounts” with us, His servants. This means that we will have to “report” to Him what we have done with the “talents,” the gifts, the abilities He entrusted to us to use while He was gone.
The second point is also very simple. Look at verses 20 to 23. We can hear the joy in the voices of the first two servants as they give an account to their master of what they did with the “talents” that he entrusted to them. They said, “You entrusted me with five/two talents. See I have gained five/two more.” They did not see the work that the master had given to them as a chore! They had fun putting their master’s “talents” to work! And how did the master respond to these two servants? He gave both of them the exact same commendation! He said, “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!” The master was not concerned with how much they made with his money. He was concerned with how faithfully they used the “talents” he had entrusted to them!
This is the joy that you and I have as we faithfully use the “talents” our God has entrusted to us! Not only do we have the joy of knowing what Paul meant when he said to the Corinthians, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), but we also have the joy of knowing that as we are using the gifts, the talents, the abilities that our Lord, our Master, our Savior has given to us we will one day hear Him say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Just think of what this means for you and for me. We already know that our dear Lord and Savior has graciously given to us the greatest gift of all— the free and full forgiveness for all of our sins. (Pointing to the cross) The joy of forgiveness, the joy of salvation is the motivating force behind using the “talents” we have been given in faithful service to Him! To be more specific, if God has given to us the “talent,” the ability to be able to understand the Truth of Scripture, He wants us to joyfully serve Him by sharing those Truths with others— whether it is in Bible class or Sunday school or in our private conversations with our family and friends. When we joyfully use this “talent” in His service, then one day we will hear Him say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!” If God has given to us the “talent,” the ability to develop plans on how to carry out His Kingdom work, He wants us to faithfully serve Him by implementing those plans. When we joyfully use that “talent” in faithful service to Him, then one day we will hear Him say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!” If God gives us a “talent” that is more in line with the “talent” described here in our text, namely money— He wants us to faithfully use that money to joyfully support His Kingdom work both here in our congregation and through our Synod. When we joyfully use that “talent” in faithful service to Him, then one day we will hear Him say to us, “Well done good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!” If as you look around at your brothers and sisters in the faith and humbly conclude that you don’t have the “talents” that they have, you don’t have the ability to do what they are doing, if you humbly come to the conclusion that your “talents” and your abilities are more focused on providing for your family, supporting your children and grandchildren, making sure that they do their homework, making sure that they say their prayers, making sure that they treat others with respect and dignity, when you joyfully use that “talent” in faithful service to Him then one day you will hear your Master say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!”
We always need to remember that our Lord and Savior does not take our “talents” and what we do with them, compare them to someone else’s “talents” and what they are doing with them and say, “Hmmm…. I’m not sure I like this.” The God who knows us so well that He gave us our “talents” “according to our ability” is looking for us to use those “talents” in joyful faithful service to Him! While that joyful faithful service can easily look different from one servant to the next, as long as we are faithfully using our God-given gifts, talents and abilities to serve Him (Pointing to the cross) we will indeed hear Him say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!”
But what if we look back over our life and see that we have not always served Him faithfully? What if we look into our hearts and see that while we have indeed tried to use the “talents” God has given to us, all too often our service to Him was done reluctantly and not joyfully? That is when we stop to remember that our Master has not yet returned. There is still time for us to kneel at the foot of His cross and ask Him to forgive us. There is still time for us to go to Him in prayer and ask Him to remove our reluctance and replace it with joy so that we can indeed faithfully serve Him!
The final point we need to examine is found in verses 24 to 30. Since this point will also be covered in next week’s text— the account of the Sheep and the Goats— we’re not going to do a deep dive into this portion of our text right now. In these verses Jesus focuses our attention on the third servant— the one who “dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” The first question that comes to my mind here is: Why? Why didn’t’ he even try to put his master’s money to work? Why didn’t he even try to gain more using the “talent” he had been given? Was he jealous because the first servant received five “talents” and the second servant received two “talents”? I would have a hard time accepting that answer. Remember that the third servant still received one “talent”! That was a huge amount of money!
The servant himself gave a very weak response to his master. Look at verses 24 and 25. He blamed his master! He claimed that the master was a “hard man”— a man with shady business practices. He blamed the same master who entrusted him with 19 years’ worth of wages!
The master reveals the real reason this servant didn’t even bother to put his money on deposit with the bankers so that the master could at least get his money back “with interest.” The third servant dug a hole and hid the “talent” the master had given to him because he was a “wicked, lazy servant”! As powerful as these words are they become even more powerful when we stop to remember that Jesus spoke these words to His disciples— in private! (See Matthew 24:3)
This is a warning to Jesus’ disciples right down to this very day. Jesus gives to all of His disciples at least one “talent,” one gift, one ability that He expects them to use in faithful service to him until either: a) they are summoned to stand before Him to privately give an account of themselves and how they used the “talent” He entrusted to them; or, b) Jesus publicly returns to this earth “in his glory and all the angels with him” (Matthew 25:11). Let this warning remind you to always do your best with whatever “talent” the good Lord has given to you.
Is work fun? Our initial reaction, our initial response to that question could easily be “No!” A better question would be: Can work be fun? Now as servants of the Master, as servants of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we can easily answer “Yes!” to that question. When we enjoy what we are doing and when we respect and admire Who we are working for then yes, work is fun!
Jesus’ Parable of the Talents does not lead us to wonder if we have been given certain gifts, talents and abilities by God. No rather, Jesus’ Parable of the Talents calls on each of us to examine how faithfully we are using the talents He (Pointing to the cross) has given to us. When we are using our gifts, talents and abilities in faithful service to Him then we can always look forward to hearing Him say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!”
To God be the glory!