Advent2W

 


 

  Advent

Sermon of November 19th

   God Entrusts To Us
Talents With Which to Serve   

Matthew 25:14-30

 
Let us pray. Speak to us Lord, speak to us.
For we are listening. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. 
 

  

Talking about Jesus’ teaching is one thing and living out the teaching is another. God’s word is not for our amusement, but for advising and guiding us to be the person that He wants us to be; particularly in the in-between time.

Last Sunday, we heard the parable of the ten bridesmaids, this morning, we are given the parable of the talents, and next Sunday, we will hear the parable of the sheep and the goats. All these parables are about the reign of God and the end time. According to Jesus, when the end-time comes, it is not necessarily everyone who can enjoy a ‘happy ending’. Yes, we may not like that idea, but this is what the Son of God tells us.

Today’s parable focuses on trustworthiness. The master was going on a journey before he left, he ‘commissioned’ his slaves and entrusted his property to each of them according to their ability. One had five talents, another had two, and another had one.

A talent is not a small amount of money, it is equivalent to fifteen years of a laborer’s wages. Therefore, the amount of ‘talents’ tells us at least two things, first, these slaves were not ordinary servants, second, the master had thought thoroughly how much his slaves could handle. 

Now, the master was on his way, and two out of three of the slaves were doing well, they established a business plan and diligently worked on it. And both of them got a double return. But the one who was entrusted one talent chose a different path. Instead of thinking about how to use the entrusted asset, this slave played-it-save; and out of fear, he decided to spend his energy on digging a hole and burying the asset. Not only was it a risk-free plan, this servant thought, it was also a method which cost nothing but a few hours of digging a hole and covering it up.

Jesus tells us after a long time, the master returned and decided to settle the account with his slaves. The two servants to whom the master had given five talents and two talents came to the master and reported how they had managed the entrusted assets. The master was pleased with their performance and to both slaves, he said, “Well done, good and trustworthy slaves; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.”

Now, it was the third slave’s turn. I wonder what this slave had in his mind when he approached his master; I suspect, he had not prepared for what was going to happen to him.

He stood in front of his master. The master said to him, “how are you doing?’ This slave was nervous and his hands were trembling. He took a deep breath and tried his best to craft a report to justify his doing.

The master looked at what was in this slave’s hands, no more no less, it was exactly what he had entrusted to him. He looked at this slave and awaited his explanation.

The slave said, “Master, I know you are a harsh man. Your expectation is high and you give no room for failure.  Because of this, I am afraid and did not take any chance. I dug a hole and hid the talent in the ground. There it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.”

“Wao!” The master was furious as if he never heard such ridiculous thing, he said to this slave, “You said you know me that I am a harsh man: demanding and unreasonable. And you dared to do nothing about what I have commissioned you to do.” Shouldn’t you have at least taken what I entrusted to you to the bank and put it into a GIC account so that I may get some interest from it? You lazy and wicked servant, you didn’t even bother to make such a ‘no-risk’ effort. What do you think I should do to you? Give back to me my asset and I will give it to the one who well used my resources. And you, Get out of here, you are worthless.” Then his master ordered other slaves to tie him up and throw him outside into utter darkness where there was miserable mourning and great fear.

Through this parable, Jesus tells us, God has expectations from his hand-picked servants and those who are chosen are not ordinary for the master. He knows each of them, their character and their ability. The story did not tell us of a number in the master’s mind as to how much profit his slaves should make. But the underlying expectation is that they have good use of it. Besides, the master even gave freedom to his slaves with regards to how they should manage the entrusted assets.

Although there were three slaves, we are given only two different management styles. One to use it, another one to bury it. The story did not tell us what made the two servants ‘use’ the entrusted fund to do something. But it hints that these two slaves may have had a different understanding of their master. On the other hand, we are told the reason the lazy and wicked slave decided to not take a chance. He said he knew his master and was afraid of him.

First of all, did this slave really know his master? He justified himself by pointing out that his master was a person who reaps before he sows and gathers before he scatters. But it is the opposite of what the master did to all of them - the master entrusted all the chosen slaves talents.

This slave did not really understand his master; he was afraid of a master that he had created in his own mind. He also distrusted his master’s judgment. The master entrusted him a task that he could handle and this slave did not trust him. Instead of spending his energy to well use the talent, he decided to dig a hole and bury it.

I don’t think we need to cut this parable into little pieces in order to find out what Jesus is telling us this morning. Last Sunday, the parable of the Ten bridesmaids reminded us that ‘we have a job to do’ in this in-between time. In Christ through the Holy Spirit, God has entrusted his assets to us according to our ability to do this job. Some have received more than others, some have received only a little, but we are given the portion that we can handle.

I intentionally keep the term “slave” in the story because this is who we are. The apostle Paul reminded us that we are either slaves of evil or slaves of righteousness. Through Jesus’ sacrificial acts: his suffering and crucifixion, God brought us back to his regime. Therefore, we are set free from the evil power, and now we belong to the master of righteousness – who is our Creator God.

When our God entrusts his assets to us, this is never a small thing. We all know how that feels, just like the first time you are told to take charge of a project, take on a new role; the feeling of excitement and nervousness flows inside you. However, this kind of feeling only exists if you that is your dream work – a task you have passion for.

I still remember the facial expression on one of our member’s face when she informed me that she would be transferred to Vancouver to a new post in the navy. She did not mind to uproot her whole family from Ottawa and moved there.

In Baptism, we are transferred and assigned to a new post in God’s kingdom. Are we excited by our new identity and our new post? Do we consider living under the roof of God’s kingdom as a privilege and Do we feel honoured when God summons us to take care of his possessions? Maybe we should ask ourselves in what way do we identify ourselves with this parable.

Another word that draws my attention is the word ‘trustworthy’; it also can be translated as ‘faithful’. In Greek, this word ‘pistós’ means properly, fullness of faith; typically, of believing the faith God imparts. It is not about how much we believe we can handle but we trust that God knows our ability and he will not give us more than we can handle. Is this what we believe?

When challenges occur in life, it is easy for us to dig a hole and put our heads into it. But can this solve the problem? No. Therefore, the ‘I am afraid’ or ‘I cannot do that’ is maybe only an excuse for us to run away from our responsibility as a royal priesthood, a chosen people, and a holy nation of God. Or the voice “I am afraid’ or “I cannot do this’ is merely a voice from the deceitful devil. If you have heard that voice and buy into it, you should seek help from God and denounce the evil power.

We are all given ‘talents’ large or small, I like the way that the translators have translated it because it is really not merely about money. All that we have received from God are talents and they are meant to be used and make a good effect for the sake of the kingdom of God. The point is to use the God given talents to glorify God – For it is for His glory that we are created. 

 

©2017, Pastor Mei Sum Lai, MDiv. Please do not reproduce this article in whole or in part, in any form, without obtaining the written permission of the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

_____________________

Did you miss reading a sermon? The 4 previously posted sermons are listed below:


Updated: December 2nd, 2017