This is the second of a two-part sermon. Click here to read part one. We study the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 to learn 7 principles of giving. We covered the first 4 principles last week. We tackle the last 3 here.
Every week I publish my sermon notes so that you may read them for yourselves. For my parishioners, this could be a good review from the weekend before. And it gives you a chance to see what I intended to say! For other pastors and ministers, feel free to borrow and use any of this material. I'd love for God to be glorified by you incorporating these notes into your own worship.
Splits & Royalties: 7 Principles of Giving (Part 2) - 03.03.13
Matthew 25:14-29 NIV / Video: “Floored - Parable of the Talents”
Introduction: We are in the My Story sermon series, learning how to tell our life story in the best way possible. What is the story we want to tell with our lives? What will be our legacy? What story do we want others to remember about us?
Last week we learned that giving is an important part of the Christ-follower’s story. We learned that tithing is not so important because of the actual amount we give or not give, but is important because of the heart of why we give. We considered 5 reasons why giving is so important.
Why Giving Is So Important:
Reason #1 - Giving makes me ___MORE LIKE GOD___.
Reason #2 - Giving draws me ___CLOSER TO GOD___.
Reason #3 - Giving strengthens my ___FAITH___.
Reason #4 - Giving is an investment ___FOR ETERNITY___.
Reason #5 - Giving reveals my ___SPIRITUAL MATURITY___.
Ultimately giving is more about my spiritual maturity than it is about the actual gift. Our finances are the last part of our personal life that we will release in trust to God. We hold on to our money and our wealth as a form of security. We cannot trust in God AND trust in our money at the same time. Giving is the discipline of learning to trust God. And it reveals to us the truth of our spiritual maturity.
The principles behind giving were important to Jesus - the master teacher. Both the gospel of Matthew and Luke tell us the parable of the talents, and both are recorded in the final week of Jesus’ life. Why was this story so important to Jesus? Because in it we find 7 underlying principles of a giving lifestyle! We’ll covered the first 4 last week.
7 Principles of Giving from the Parable of the Talents:
Giving Principle #1 - ___It all belongs to the Master___.
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.” Matthew 25:14 NIV
Giving Principle #2 - We receive equal to ___OUR ABILITIES___ not equal to ___ONE ANOTHER___.
“To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability.” Matthew 25:15 NIV
talent = 6,000 denarii
one denarii = one day’s wage for a common laborer
so each talent would be worth 20 years of labor!
Giving Principle #3 - What am I doing with what I’ve been given?
“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.” Matthew 25:16-17 NIV
- Do I have a sense of ___URGENCY___?
- Do I have an ethic of ___WORK___?
- Do I have the objective of ___GROWTH___?
Giving Principle #4 - ___STEWARDSHIP___ - managing during the Master’s absence.
“After a long time the master of those servants returned...” Matthew 25:19a
Being a good steward reflects the truth that none of what we have is ours because of our efforts alone. Our strength, our health, our opportunities, even our next breath comes from God’s goodness and mercy to us.
Ultimately we are caretakers of what Christ has entrusted to us for this brief time that we are on Earth. He will return some day. Everything will be restored to Him as Creator and as Owner. Today I want to talk to you about the last 3 giving principles Jesus taught in the Parable of the Talents along with what is at stake for each of us!
Giving Principle #5 - ___ACCOUNTABILITY___ - when I report the results of how I’ve done.
“After a long time the master ... returned and settled accounts with them.” Matthew 25:19b
There will come a time when Christ will return and he will settle accounts with us! How have we done? Have we managed the resources he has entrusted to us as if they belonged to Him for His benefit and His kingdom? Or selfishly for ourselves? Have we managed with a sense of urgency, an ethic of work, and the objective of growth?
One of the other parables Jesus told about was the workers in the vineyard who took over the vineyard as their own. Have we done that? The last servant in this parable of the talents returned the talent back to the master. At the very least he knew the talent belonged to the Master. How about us? Are we guilty not only of not managing the talent well, but of outright stealing the talent and using it for ourselves? Jesus is clear that there will be a day of accounting. Let’s manage each day with that in mind!
Giving Principle #6 - ___PROBATION___ - the reward of being entrusted with more based on my faithfulness.
“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!’” Matthew 25:21 & 23
Sometime we have the misguided idea of our eternal life in Heaven as if it will be eternal floating on clouds playing harps. BORING! God has work for us to do. Exciting, wonderful, fulfilling, God-designed work! It will be work you will long to do, that will give you an eternal purpose.
Jesus tells us that our assignment in Heaven will be based on how well we do with what we’ve been given here on Earth. Notice that even though one servant received 5 talents and another only 2 talents, that their reward in Heaven was exactly the same! Verses 21 and 23 are identical! In Luke’s version of this story, both are given multiple cities to manage! Imagine being entrusted with the leadership of heavenly cities!
Are you handling your resources now as if you are on probation? Do you understand that how you handle your affairs here on Earth will play an eternal role in what you are entrusted with for eternity?
Giving Principle #7 - ___RISK___ - the understanding that safety and growth are incompatible.
“So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.” Matthew 25:25
We really don’t understand this at all! We believe that safety is the most important thing. We pray that God would keep us safe. But Jesus teaches that safety and growth are incompatible! Growth requires risk!
Why don’t we want to take risks? Because we are afraid. The third servant admits his fear: “So I was afraid and hid your talent...” Here’s something you need to know about risk. When you take real risks, you will be afraid. Risk and fear go hand in hand.
The issue is not my fear but ___my response to fear___.
This is why giving in a sacrificial way, when we don’t see how we can make it, is such a faith-building exercise. When we give selflessly instead of selfishly holding back, we learn to place our faith in God and not in ourselves or our own resources. This is what grows our faith. The more we act - in spite of our fear - the more faith we have. Our goal should always be to exchange our faith in our selves and our stuff for faith in God. Because that’s the only Person Who is worthy of our faith anyway. Everything else will disappear. Everything else will let us down. Only God is worthy of our trust.
When Jesus taught this parable he taught both sides of the equation - not only the two faithful servants, but also the unfaithful one. The one who hid the talent in the ground. Here Jesus shows us how important this lesson really is. Jesus shows us what’s at stake!
What’s at stake:
#1. Loss of my ___REPUTATION___.
“You wicked, lazy servant!” Matthew 25:26
Jesus does not mince words. He describes the third servant as wicked. As lazy. Sometimes we think of being lazy as just the absence of work. But Jesus says the heart’s motivation of the lazy person is evil, wicked. Why? Because the servant presumes that he has the choice of working or not working. That, however, is the choice of the master - not the servant. What is the reputation you are after? The one of faithful servant entering into your Master’s happiness someday? Or the one of wicked, lazy servant because you thought caution was the way to go.
“The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least?’” Matthew 25:26 The Message
Let’s risk everything now to live faithfully for the LORD. Let’s risk everything on this side of eternity so that we might hear those words, “Good and faithful servant” on the other side of eternity.
Illustration - Jim Elliot was a young missionary who was killed by the Waodani tribe in Equador in January 1956. Later the very men who killed Elliot became Christ followers themselves because of his sacrifice. Several years before Elliot wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Are you giving now what you cannot keep in order to gain what you can never lose?
#2. Loss of my ___ORIGINAL GIFT___.
“Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents... Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” Matthew 25:28, 29b
Jesus takes the story even one step farther. The only talent given to the third servant is taken away from him and given to the first servant! One of the things that is at stake is the very gift I was given in the first place. What is it that you are good at doing? What do you see as “yours” as “your ability” as “what makes you special?” If you use it for God’s kingdom, unselfishly sharing it with others, then God will give you even more. But if you keep it to yourself, even what you have will be taken!
#3. Loss of my ___GREATER RESPONSIBILITIES___.
Sometimes we learn as much from the Bible from what isn’t written as from what is written. Recall that the first two servants were given even greater responsibilities - put in charge of many things. Of course nothing is said about the third servant. He lost not only his original gift - he also lost the opportunity to do even more! There is an opportunity cost to this probationary life we are living. What are you risking losing in eternity some day because you are afraid to risk today?
#4. Loss of my ___FELLOWSHIP WITH THE MASTER___.
“And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 25:30
This is the greatest tragedy of Jesus’ entire parable - and must be included. There are 3 other issues at stake - loss of reputation, loss of the original gift, loss of the opportunity for greater responsibilities - but this 4th “at stake” is the greatest downside of all: LOSS OF FELLOWSHIP with God. This is what “outside - into the darkness - weeping and gnashing of teeth” mean. This is what it will be like for those who are deprived of the fellowship with Almighty Father God.
Some will immediately challenge this on the basis on a theology that says one cannot lose one’s salvation. There is no inconsistency. Nothing can take you out of Jesus’ hands if you are a Christ-follower. Having said that, one of the most crucial marks of the authentic Christ-follower is the change in the heart from a self-serving person, to a Jesus-serving person. A Christ-follower is a giving person, who knows that everything belongs to the Master, and that he or she is a steward of the Master’s resources.
God does not force this issue with anyone. You do not have to name Christ as the Lord and Master of your life. You can - if you choose - remain to yourself and serve your own self. But you cannot serve self and God at the same time. One will be Master. And it is that Master with whom you will share fellowship.
Conclusion: Over these past two weeks we have talked about the very heart of the character of God - His top evidence of His grace, His mercy and His love - that is, the way He gives. No one gives like God gives. If I (you) want to be like God, then I (you) will want to be be a giver like God. The parable of the talents shows us the 7 principles of being a giver like God. It is a great parable because it doesn’t take much imagination to understand what Jesus was trying to say. No one needs to go to seminary to “get it.” Our problem has never been one of understanding how to be a giver. Our problem has always been our decision - our act of the will - to be a giver.
Illustration - I want you to imagine that you are a solitary traveler in a lonely desert. As you travel, you become very thirsty. Just ahead you see a rusty old pump at the edge of an oasis. Attached to the pump is a note that reads, “I have buried a bottle of water to prime the pump. Do not drink any of it. Pour 1/2 to wet the leather. Wait and then pour the rest to prime the pump. When you have drawn your fill of water, refill the bottle and bury it in the sand for the next traveler.” --- Will you drink the water from the bottle or follow the instructions. Will you only worry about your own thirst and drink the bottle dry? Or will you pour every drop of the water into the pump? The dilemma is this: do you trust the note and take the risk OR do you take care of your own needs?
Jesus gave us the note that will take care of us and others too. That’s what this Parable of the Talents really is all about. We give everything we have to God and His kingdom because it all belongs to Him. And we trust God to take care of us and our needs along the way. Let’s pray.