Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost 23

"Talents: use them or lose them."

Matthew 25:14-30

November 16, 2014

Paul tells us that we are children of the light?  What does that mean?   The Gospel reading tells us how to live as children of the light.  This parable is about faithfulness and how our faithfulness becomes evident in our lives as Christians.

As we look at the parable, we see that the master gives to each servant according to his ability.  It doesn't matter that one got over twice as much as the others.  The master deemed him capable of managing the amount given him better than the others would have with the same amount.  Listen again to the beginning of the parable.

Matthew 25:14-30  "For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.  He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more.  So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 

When we read through this parable, one verse seemed overlooked.  It is v)16: He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more.  It seems to me that, too often, we read the parable thinking that the increase of talents "just happened."  In order for the five talents to become five more there needed to be a strategy and plan to use the original five to gain the five more. 

The one who received the five went to work to use them to eventually gain five more.  This was also the case with the one who received two talents.  Like his follow servant, the also used the two to gain two more.  What do we learn here? First, these two guys were ready to step out in faith.  They were willing to venture into the unknown but they weren't idly gambling with their money.  Then, they were willing to use the talents God gave them to invest.  As I remind the confirmation kids, "God gave you a brain.  He wants you to use it."  These two used their brains to invest their talents for the master.

But, what's a good story if there isn't a way to compare and contrast?  Now, we have to deal with the third guy. Obviously, the master doesn't think he's as talented as the others.  Never-the-less, he was given a talent to invest. Immediately, we get a glimpse into his character.  But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.  Why was he so cautious?  As the master would later ask, "why didn't you at least put it in the bank to draw a little interest?  Yes, why didn't he?

Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them.  And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.'  His master said to him, '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.'  And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.'  His master said to him, '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.' 

When the master returns, the first two report to him with enthusiasm.  Each has doubled his original investment.  The master is so pleased that he not only congratulates them, but elevates them from being a servant to that of a friend.  He brings them into his inner circle.  They have proven their faithfulness and are now rewarded.

Then, we come to the third guy.  Just as the others were ready to explain their activity, so is he also ready

to defend his lack of any effort.He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.'  But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed and gather where I scattered no seed?  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 

The sad thing here is that the guy didn't even try to use his talent.  For good reason he wasn't entrusted with much.  He proved to be disappointing even in the little that was given to his care.  Because he has failed so miserably, the master takes his lone talent and gives it to the guy who had five.  The master knows this guy will make good use of the talent.


So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.  For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

That's all interesting, but you may be thinking, "What does any of that have to do with me?"  It's always a grave mistake to think our Lord's words are intended for someone else.  Let's think this through.  When it comes to talents, they don't "just happen."  As parents, one of your responsi-bilities is to help your child not only discover but develop whatever talents God has given them. 

We have talents so that we can both make a living and enjoy hobbies.  Think of how your life would be different if you had never discovered or developed the talents God has given you.  Some people seem to be able to do any number of things well.  Others may have just one thing they do well.  The point of the parable is not to emphasize the number of gifts, talents or abilities the Lord has gifted to you.  It's about your being faithful in using whatever the Lord has given you.

Far too often we live as if our faith has no impact on the decisions we make in our daily living.  The big difference between the one who had been entrusted with five talents and the one who only received one was that the first guy lived as though what he did and believed mattered not only for him but for the community as a whole.  What we believe not only matters but it shapes how we live.

Think of it this way.  The Islamic suicide bombers truly believe that what they're doing is for the greater good.  They ultimately, if tragically, practice what they preach.  What they believe makes a difference to them and they want that difference to impact the world.  No matter how woe-fully misguided you think they are, they are acting on their beliefs because their beliefs matter to them.

To live as if our faith doesn't matter is to deny its power as well as deny the One who gives it.  Perhaps the greatest modern tragedy for the Christian Church is that we fail to live as if what we believe has any meaning in our lives.  You not only bury or ignore the talents God has given you but you deny Him as the Giver of all good gifts.  You act as if the Lord doesn't matter to you.

Did Christ die so you could live as you please but with a free pass to "get into heaven"?  Christ died on the cross for your sins.  He died to free you from the bondage of sin, death and the devil.  With this freedom, the Lord enables you to use the talents He has given you for the bene-fit of others.  By His grace, we will be found faithful.  We will rejoice that because the Lord has touched our lives and allowed us to discover and develop our talents.  Our faithfulness will be evident in our lives to the glory of His name.  Amen. 


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