Being Found Serving in the Joy of Our Lord
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Matthew 25:14-30
November 15, 2020

As we are nearing the end of the church year our attention is drawn to Christ’s coming again in glory to bring this world order to an end and deliver to us the new creation. As we do not know the day or the hour of His coming, our attention turns to Christ’s teaching us to be found serving Him in His joy. To talk to us about this, Jesus speaks the parable of the talents. Let’s make some observations about the parable and then draw out some points from it.

Jesus talks about a man who was going on a journey. This is the connection in the parable to anticipating Christ’s return, since He has ascended to God’s right hand from which He will come again in glory. So the man summoned his servants and handed some of his property over to them. These were “his own” servants. He knows them and they know him. He thinks there is a relationship of trust and love between them and himself. So he entrusts property to them, trusting that they will put the property to use for their Lord’s glory. So he gave five talents to one servant, two talents to another, and one talent to a third, each according to their own ability.

The word “talent” here refers to a unit of measurement of silver or gold for use in commerce. In Matthew 25:27, the terminology changes from talent to “money.” The word there is the word for silver. Thus, a talent in the parable was literally a silver coin used as currency.

Thus, the word “talent” in the parable does not mean our English word “talent,” as in the ability to do something well. Nevertheless, if we apply this parable to giving of our time, talent, and treasure in support of the ministry of the Gospel, we can take the talent to stand for more than just money, for time and talent, as well, since we are taking the parable to be about using the things the Lord has given us for His purposes and glory, as we live in anticipation of His coming.

The servants who were given five talents and two talents, respectively, traded with them to earn more talents. They put their Lord’s money to use to gain more money for their Lord. This is one of the central points of the parable, putting the talents to use for the benefit and glory of the Lord. This point is like the substance of it. There is another major point that will involve the motivation, which we will discuss in a few moments.

The Lord also gave a talent to a third servant. What did he do with it? He dug a whole in the ground. He put the talent in it and filled the dirt back in. He did not use the talent to gain more for the Lord’s glory. He buried it. We soon learn that he did so because of what he thought of his master. This involves the motivation.

The Lord returns to “settle accounts” with his servants. The ones that had been given the five talents had earned five talents more for his Lord. The one who had been given two talents earned two talents more. These two servants were joyful to be able to give back to their Lord the original talents and five and two talents more. They had put the talents their master had given them to use for their master’s purposes and produced a benefit to their master.

The Lord says to them “well done good and faithful servants. Enter into the joy of your master” (Mat. 25:21, 23).

When we come to the third servant, the situation is different. This servant admits that he took the talent that had been given to him and buried it in the ground. He then explains why. What he says is central to Jesus’s teaching in the parable regarding motivation.

This servant said: “I knew you to be a hard man. You reap where you have not sown and gather where you have not scattered seed” (Mat. 25:24). In other words, the servant says that his master benefits from the labor and sacrifice of others, and he judges his master for this. The servant holds his master in judgment. He thinks of his master as ruthless and selfish. He does not really trust nor love his master. So he was not about to put his master’s money to use for his master’s purposes and benefit.  And maybe part of the problem was that he was thinking that whatever he did should be for his own benefit. It is not fair to put in so much effort if it will not be of benefit to me. So I will bury the talent my master has given.

As we think of this parable in terms of stewardship, that is, giving of our time, talent, and treasure to the Lord to support the ministry of the Gospel here at church, there are a some things this parable teaches us. These are the points we want to draw from it.

First, it teaches that all that we have comes from God.

Second, the parable teaches us to receive all things from God in trust, that is, faith, and love so that we do not receive from God in a spirit of fear and bitterness, but in a spirit of joy that delights in God. Jesus teaches us this when He describes the thoughts and feelings of the third servant toward his master. The problem the third servant had was in his attitude toward his master, and his attitude about what he should get from his service. The first two servants have the exact opposite thoughts and feelings about their master, since they put their talents to work for their master. They exhibit no difficulty in their service being for their master’s glory.

This teaches us to receive in faith, delighting in God, joyfully putting to use what we have been given for God’s glory and service; and this for the only reason that we trust and love God for His abounding grace and mercy in Christ, and because of His abounding goodness and generosity as our Creator. Jesus teaches us to pray for this kind of a willing spirit.

Third, Jesus teaches us that no servant has the right or the authority to judge another servant in these matters. In the parable, it is the master alone who can settle accounts with the servants. So it is as the Apostle Paul says in Romans 14 at v. 4: “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).

So in the church, a Christian’s use of time, talent, and treasure the Lord has given is between the Christian and the Lord alone. This stems from the fact that it is the Lord alone who has the right and authority to settle accounts with His servants. If any of the servants had been exercising such right, they would have been interfering with the Lord’s sole right and authority and taking upon themselves an authority that they do not have.

But why would a servant judge another in these matters? This judging can arise where one servant begins to measure his use of time, talent, and treasure against another. Then judgment and criticism arises. But such a thing is not only contrary to the Lord’s sole authority, it is also not consistent with the Spirit that is involved. Where the putting to use of the talents arose solely out of trust and love of the master, there can be no measuring among the servants, one against the other, for they all are serving for the joy of the Lord, according to the ability the Lord has given.

So let there be no judging among Christ’s people along this line. How a Christian serves the Lord with the time, talent, and treasure the Lord has given, is between that Christian and the Lord alone.

Fourth, we don’t want to miss talking about the wonderful thing that the Lord says to the two servants who put the talents to work for the Lord’s glory. “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Certainly, we are not saved by our works before God. We are saved by faith in who Christ is for us. Yet, the servants also had great joy when the Lord rejoices with them in their service. Certainly, when we are talking about what the Lord would want us to be doing with our lives while we are looking toward His return, we would want to be found doing what is pleasing to Him, and what joy this brings to us. And as we are doing what is pleasing to Him, we are living in the joy of our Lord. Certainly, we are justified apart from works. But if we ask what faith will be found doing because we are justified by grace, we would say that because we are justified by faith apart from works that we want to be doing what is pleasing to our Lord.

Now maybe we get concerned about the words “well done,” because they sound evaluative. But let us not hear them as evaluative but as the Lord praising His servants out of His grace and love.

Thus, the Lord praises the servants not so we can think that Jesus is teaching us to earn His grace and love toward us—you already have that, but so that He may encourage us with His joy to live out His grace and love toward us in willing service to Him.  And so to pile trust and love and joy upon trust and love and joy—to the one who has faith more will be given (Mat. 25:29), the Lord speaks those beautiful words to his servants: “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

As we wrap this up, we see that our Lord does want us to put our time, talent, and treasure to work in His service, but not as a matter of coercion, but out of the delight we have in Him from faith.

And we also realize this. We are dealing with a merciful and gracious Lord. He knows our circumstances and the totality of our lives and commitments. He knows all of the things we have on our plates. He knows where we have come from and where He is leading us. He knows what we have given up and what we have given. He also knows how we could do better, but in faith and trust and love. He is patient with us. It is wonderful that we work these things out with our Lord in His grace and love toward us, and in our trust and love for Him.

May the Lord give you joy and peace as you find your way, living, giving, and serving out of trust and love and the joy of your Lord. For whatever we do, we do motivated by faith and in joyful anticipation of these words of grace to you from Christ: “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Amen.



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