One more Sunday before Advent! Turn to Matthew 25.
As I reminded us last week, spiritual disciplines, for the most part are not suggestions. Disciplines, many of which are commands, are the essential methods of growing in Christlikeness.
Spiritual disciplines are more than just methods. They are expressions of our faith and love and reverence for Christ. Engaging in spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible meditation, worship, evangelism and so on are all expressions of our love for God.
Now, one of the most visible and tangible means of expressing our love and appreciation for God is through service. Serving God and serving others is a staple of the Christian way of life. I want to be careful here because this is not an absolute statement, but in large part, we can estimate how much a person loves Jesus by the degree in which they serve God’s Kingdom. Service to others is a staple of the Christian way of life. Serving others is who we are – not just something we do.
What do I mean by all that? I think we’ll answer that as we look at Matthew 25 and the parable of the talents. This parable is often misunderstood. First, a talent in Scripture refers to a large sum of money. Secondly, this parable is not about the talents, not about the money - it’s about the servants and what they did with the money.
Let me set the scene – At the beginning of chapter 24, Jesus and the disciples go off alone and start talking about the end times. Jesus starts talking about all this crazy stuff, doom and gloom, nation against nation, massive destruction, moon turns to blood, the sun turns dark … Putin has one ring to rule them all.
As Jesus talks about the End Times, He repeats two key phrases – Keep watch and Be Ready. And being ready means doing what you’re supposed to do until He arrives. This parable is in the context of Christ’s return.
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ “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!’ “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ “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!’ “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
In this story, the master leaves. No one knows where he’s going or when he’ll return. Before he leaves, all he says is, “I’m entrusting you with what I’m giving you – see you later.” That’s it! There are no instructions. No commands. Yet we find two of the servants take their money and double it, while one stays home, buries the money in a closet, and does nothing but sit on the couch and watch Dr. Phil.
So what does that tell us? It tells us that what we do with what God has given us is a choice. You and I can choose to do something for His Kingdom or we can choose to do nothing. The content of what we’ve been given or how much is irrelevant. The truth is, each person has been given something, and with that comes a choice.
Now here's the beauty of our God - He's given each of us something. No one gets left out.
The question is not what did God give me, but what am I doing with what God gave me. So not only is service a choice, but ...
How do we know there’s an expectation? In this parable there were no instructions. Yet, it is evident that the master expected the servants to do something. After the master returned he celebrated with the two who did something. But the one who did nothing – look at verse 27 -
The expectation is there. On whom? Every person who received something and guess what – everyone receives something. Every person can contribute! Now the expectation has less to do with the results are more to do with the fact that we’re doing something with what we’ve been given.
We need to be clear here - true Christian service comes from Christ and the expectations of Christ will change throughout your life.
What motivated the two servants to invest the money? The parable doesn’t tell us, but if you if notice two things: they were excited for the master’s return – “Look what we did!” and notice the master’s response of joy and elation. What motivated them? I think they loved their master and so what we see is a genuine response of love, and respect and honor.
Whitney wrote this: “No fuel for service burns longer and provides more energy than love. I do some things in the service of God that I would not do for money, but I am willing to do them out of love for God and others.”
Perhaps the greatest indicator of love for Jesus Christ is one’s willingness to serve in any capacity in which Christ calls. And listen, “Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it.” Too many serve only when asked,or when it fits their schedule, or when it’s something they want to do and that is shallow Christian service.
True Christian service is about ...? God and neighbor. So we need to evaluate our service. Evaluate objectively and through the Holy Spirit - we want to make sure we're responding to the Spirit - that we're saying yes to the things He wants us to say yes to and vice versa.
Here's the point - it's either "Well done, good job, here's a blessing" or "Poorly done, bad job, here's the consequence."
We have to understand that God's grace, love, mercy and forgiveness never condones irresponsible behavior. There are rewards, if you will for obedience and "rewards" for disobedience.
And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
FYI - punishing the children is a common Semitic idiom to express continuance. God makes it very clear how sin in one generation affects those who follow after. But that's the point - the point is this - God is a just God. He will bless obedience and administer justice to the disobedient.
So what does that mean for us? Do what you can with what you've been given.
The greatest among you will be your servant.
Let me close with two quotes: “Serving typically looks as unspectacular as the practical needs it seeks to meet. That’s why serving must become a Spiritual Discipline. The flesh connives against its hiddenness and sameness. Two of the deadliest of our sins - sloth and pride - loathe serving. They paint glazes on our eyes and put chains on our hands and feet so that we don’t serve as we know we should or even as we want. If we don’t discipline ourselves to serve for the sake of Christ and His kingdom and for the purpose of godliness, we’ll ‘serve’ only occasionally or when it’s convenient or self-serving. The result will be a quantity and quality of service we’ll regret when the Day of Accountability for our service comes.” Whitney, Donald S.
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do something I can do.” Helen Keller
We are all called to do what we can with what we've been given.
Evaluate / Respond / Serve