In Matthew 25 there is a story there of these three guys whose master leaves with talents, or bags of gold according to my version, and later when he comes back the one he left with five has earned five more, the one with two has earned two more, and the one with one of course has gained nothing more. We know that the master gets angry and calls him wicked and all what follows.
Two reasons why I’ve picked this parable to introduce my sermon: first is because it is common that any teaching with regards to talents and treasures will never miss it. And of course I didn’t want mine to be different.
But secondly and more importantly is the significance in this parable that is often ignored whenever it is taught. The fact that this parable uses material elements to help us pursue something spiritual, when quite unfortunately we often see it as a spiritual lesson from which we can draw helpful principles to pursue material elements (read verses 26-30 to understand better).
If you notice the punishment the master condemns the wicked servant to, you realize there’s more involved than just some bags of gold. He doesn’t only order that his one bag of talent be taken from him, but that he be thrown into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That is a description synonymous with hell.
Hell doesn’t sound like a fair judgment for someone who simply didn’t make enough wealth to me. And neither does heaven sound like a reserve for those who physically excelled in their crafts alone. If it were so then a majority of us will no doubt miss heaven, with me leading the way as I doubt I have enough wealth and physical accomplishments to show when Jesus comes.
The parable therefore associates our physical talents (gifts of whatever kind that the Lord has given us) with a spiritual fate. So that the punishment we risk for not being faithful stewards is not poverty, or failure to be successful, but hell.
This significance should never elude us, as our spiritual fate hangs on the balance with regards to everything that the Lord has entrusted to us.
Two Alternative Approaches
Two things I want you to keep in mind;
- First, that we are only stewards and our Master Jesus will in the end require an account from us and judge us not according to how we thought best to invest his gifts to us, but according to how He tells us we ought to invest them. He won’t judge basing on our brilliance; He’ll base His judgment on our obedience. We live in a time when the brilliance of man is really exalted you know. And we Christians are not exempt. But you see, while brilliance will set us on chasing after a stellar career, and wealth and whatever you can think of, obedience will set us on chasing after souls. Our brilliance might reward us with homes here on earth, but obedience sets its sights on the reward of mansions up in heaven.
- Secondly, you may either prefer to see talents purely from a physical standpoint and go on to spend your resources however you may please as you wait to go to heaven, something many of us do, or you may choose to give them the spiritual approach I’m suggesting and treat them all as God’s and therefore decide to invest them extensively in God’s work.
Whichever way you approach it; there will be an implication to how you will design your life around this idea of stewardship.
If you think only of talents physically, then it will make sense, even as a believer to wait until when you have ‘this much’ before you can begin investing in the work of God.
We are prone to saying that, aren’t we? “Oh I can’t support your ministry now, whatever I’m earning is so little it can barely even support my own needs.” Listen, God does not only know how little you earn, but He is the one who has given you that little; and along with it the command to be a part of expanding His Kingdom.
But if you think of them spiritually, you will realize you already have so much the least you can do is throw yourself headlong into the work God has called each of us to.
A physical look will obscure so much from us. It will get us focused purely on what we think we need, and never once allow us to think about what is needed from us. And so the question is not how much more talents and treasures we need to grow, but how faithful are we with what we already have.
Of course the society that we live in will keep bombarding us with ideas on how to fulfill the former. There will be seven ways of how to make more wealth, and seven steps to take if you are going to be a millionaire by 25, and this many ways, and that many ways, and just a million ideas on how to keep having more.
We are that preoccupied with wanting increase, yet how sad it is that we completely ignore the very thing that brings increase; and that is faithfulness! Or are we not told that it is he who is faithful with little that will also be entrusted with much? And be careful not to mistake this faithfulness for how diligently you work to multiply your talents, but it is how diligently you work to invest those talents in the things of God.
We’ve been fooled into thinking that if only we can have more physically then we can do better spiritually. So we want to wait until when we can have a better paying job before we can support the missionary. Or we’ll wait until when we’ve retired and have more time on our hands to start visiting the orphans.
But that is unfortunate because the truth is; if only we can do better spiritually then we will do so well physically. God gives us time and treasures both for our good and for His glory. But the mammoth mistake we make is daring to think that we can find our good apart from His glory.
God’s Glory on Earth
Perhaps I should remind us what His glory on earth is. His glory is when the orphan and the widow are cared for, and justice rendered to the helpless. He delights in this; preferring it to going days without a meal hypocritically (Isaiah 58:6-7).
His glory is the young girl being rescued from the treacherous hands of the sexual trafficker. His glory is people from every tribe, tongue, and nation; the Muslim, the Hindu, the Buddhist all coming to the knowledge of Him. His glory is the missionary who dedicates himself to this being taken care of properly by we who remain.
His glory is the whole Church committing itself wholeheartedly to His all-time purpose of seeing His Kingdom established in all the earth.
So it is foolish of us, and sad, when 2.9 billion people on the face of the earth are yet to hear about the Good News, when human trafficking now claims 20.9 million victims globally, when one in every nine people on the planet will go hungry to bed, when 783 million people do not have access to clean and safe water worldwide, while the global church commits only less than 2% of its annual income to such causes, and spends a majority of what is left on ourselves.
On huge buildings you wonder who will fill when the call to evangelize the world we’ve neglected. On state of the art instruments and stages you wonder when worship ever became so expensive.
There is no denying that we’ve relegated God’s glory to a secondary priority. Yet our good is found in His glory, and His glory alone should be our everyday pursuit. If we cannot find it, if we cannot be a part of it, if we cannot be His instruments to establish it, then I doubt there’s anything good for us to look forward to.
We are no different from that wicked servant, for we have determined it better to spend our talents on cars, homes, career pursuit, comfortable worship, and everything else but establishing God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
It is Hard for the Rich to Enter the Kingdom
And we are no different from this young rich man in Luke 18 who comes to Jesus excited about following Him. He flaunts his goodness saying how he has kept every command since being a child, only for Jesus to tell him there was one thing remaining. “Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor” he says, “and then come and follow me.”
The young man finds this too hard, for he had great wealth, and he turns away. And Jesus, a little earlier having looked at him and loved him, now looks at him walking away with pity and turning to his disciples says “how difficult it is for the rich to enter into the Kingdom of heaven.”
“What could He have meant? Don’t we have very wealthy guys in this Kingdom? Don’t we have some of them with us even here in our church?” you ask.
We do, but there’s a chance a good many of them are yet to enter into the Kingdom. The reason I say that is because what we often define as entering the Kingdom is far different from what Jesus is teaching here. He didn’t mean “pray this prayer after me, believe in your heart, stay away from sin, join with other believers every Sunday to worship as you await my coming.”
That’s not what turned the young rich man away. What turned him away was being asked to give everything he owned for the sake of the Kingdom. That’s what it means to enter the Kingdom. It means being enlisted to a war. It means serving this Kingdom with all you have. It means giving up things for the sake of this Kingdom. And that only gets harder to do the more the things you own. The more the money you have, the bigger your position at work, the closer to the dream job you are, the bigger the family you have, it just gets harder.
So even though we have a bunch of wealthy people, and some really talented individuals blessed in every imaginable way in church, majority of them are yet to truly enter the Kingdom. They are yet to put everything they own to the service of the Kingdom.
They have accepted by faith God’s grace that leads to salvation, but also rejected that selfsame grace inviting them to commit everything they own to God’s work; perhaps lacking the faith to believe that God will be faithful to His promise both to sustain and to reward.
The Giver of Everything Deserves Everything we have
If I may ask, who gives us all we have? And to whom do you think we should dedicate all we have? There is this truth that we must accept: that the cause to which we dedicate our treasures and talents will tell anyone who cares to find out whom we think we received them from.
If to ourselves, then no doubt we think we have earned them with our hardworking spirit. If to our relatives and friends then we must think that it is because of their kindness that we have what we own, and so we owe them. Maybe it is through their sweat that we went to school. But if it is to God’s cause, then our claim that all we have is thanks to His mercy stands unquestioned.
It is a lot easier to look back and see our efforts and those of others that were instrumental in getting us where we are than it is to see God’s supernatural hand. Angel Gabriel never walked you under the scorching sun from office to office when you were searching for a job. Neither did angel Michael write you a recommendation letter to attach to your CV. You endured all that hassle alone.
And God didn’t rain down money from heaven like He did manna when you needed school fees. It is your dad, or mom who worked so hard or maybe even borrowed for you to sit your exams.
Should it surprise us then that our natural inclination whenever we are blessed is first to reward ourselves (get that car, that house, basically everything you’ve ever dreamed of having), and then reward our relatives and friends, and finally spare something small for God?
“He didn’t work as much as we did and so He shouldn’t take more than we should”, we think. But that is foolish because we could never work any harder than He gives us the strength to, and we will never make any more than He graciously provides us with. So He deserves everything we have, not just some of what we have.
Think of Ananias and Saphira in the book of Acts. As a matter of fact, those two took to the church way much more than the 10% we normally bring in tithes and think to ourselves “till next month God, we are done for now”, excusing ourselves with confidence from giving to any other work of God.
Perhaps it will jolt us back to sobriety if we recall that those two were not struck dead because they failed to give. They died for failing to give everything. And aren’t we guilty of lying just like they did when we treat every other thing as being of greater priority to God’s calling? At least they only kept some little money for themselves and gave the rest to God. We are worse because we keep very little of our careers, education, money, family, time, for God and give the rest to ourselves.
But God doesn’t want just some 10% of your income, He wants it all. He’s not after some little portion of your time, He wants it all. He doesn’t want just some of your life, He wants all of it.
Our Treasures are only but a Mighty Catch
Of course I’m not asking you to go to your bank, withdraw everything you’ve ever saved and send to a missionary without even caring to ask how your family will survive. What I am asking is; have you ever even once considered that? Have you ever let yourself imagine that God owns everything you have and entertained the thought that He might ask for all of it and you would obediently give it away? Because until you are ready to give God everything you own, even the little you give is only but a futile attempt to cover your selfishness.
Consider this phone, or this Bible. It is mine, and you naturally expect that I keep them for my use as I do need them. But suppose I think it better to give them to someone else for a birthday gift or something like that, would you think of my actions as stupid and insane? Of course not, because as the owner I have every right to use them as I please, even if that use means giving them away.
The same is with God. He owns your career, and it is not crazy for Him to choose that after years of you studying engineering He sends you to be a missionary somewhere you may never apply your skill. Or bless the work of your hands with lots of money only to direct you to give all that to some family which needs it more.
We must always remember that the greatest proof that you believe God owns everything you have is not in how often you say He does. The greatest proof is in how willingly you part with anything and everything whenever He asks for it.
All of us in here have probably said it before that “truly God owns everything I have. Were it not for His mercies, I wouldn’t be here.” But it is few who will willingly give away that career, and part with that money, and give up on that dream when He calls.
Few will join with Peter and Andrew, standing between the Master and a great catch; a catch so big it would have saved them a lifetime worth of labor, a catch so miraculous it would have answered their every dream, a SportPesa jackpot of sorts, and still turn away from that catch and say to the Master “We will follow thee.”
Few of us think of Him as that much more precious, and more glorious, and more worthy that we would let go our treasures for His sake.
You see, our talents, our times, our wealth, our careers, our knowledge, everything that we have, are only but a great, mighty, miraculous catch. That’s all that they are! But they will never be greater, nor satisfy more than the Master at whose command we let down our nets (our efforts); than the Lord at whose word the catch was drawn to our nets.
Until we begin to treat them, our talents and treasures, as infinitely less in comparison to the giver of them, they will never amount to anything worth bringing us joy.
We are promised a Reward
To this point I probably sound to you like someone who just wants you to give, and give, and lose, and lose, until there’s nothing left for you. My intention however is that you will give until there’s nothing left of you; of yourself. Of the selfish human heart that wants to keep amassing.
You are probably asking with Peter a question that is not sinful to ask. In Matthew’s account of the story of the young rich man, right after Jesus has told His disciples how hard it is for the rich to enter into God’s Kingdom, Peter, the ever sincere and predictable one, asks Him “Lord, we have left everything to follow you, what then will there be for us?”
Peter was speaking for men who had left homes to follow a man without a place to lay his head. He was speaking for the few who didn’t say “allow me to first go and bury my father” but left the dead to bury their own dead. He was speaking for men who had hated father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes even their lives, just to become Jesus’s disciples.
It is for such men who had taken such a radical step to follow a man who claimed to be the Messiah, a step that bordered closely with being foolish, that Peter was asking “what is in it for us Lord?”
If you are asking the same, if you are wondering what it will profit you to sacrifice so much for Christ’s sake, then I will let Christ Himself answer you.
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” – Matthew 19:29.
There is immeasurably more to gain. For such is the Kingdom into which we are all being invited to truly enter today. Such is the fullness of the Christian life, that in giving we gain; for it is more blessed to give than to receive. Such is the beauty of our faith; that in dying to ourselves, we become alive in Him. In dying to our treasures we are rewarded with immeasurably more in Him.
Our heavenly Father bids us today to come and lose the things we treasure in this life for His sake, for in so doing we will find life. Will you?