Read Sermon "Parable of the Talents" text version

Sermon "Parable of the Talents" Matthew 25:14-30

"For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master replied, 'You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"

Have you ever wondered where the saying "better safe than sorry" came from? Well, truth be known, the saying may have been used as far back as Bible times. Why else would somebody take a perfectly good talent and bury it in the ground?! And who would blame them? Certainly not us! We are taught from an early age that

this is the best way to live our lives--better safe than sorry. After all, we so live in a world that is so shaken by violence and danger that even stepping outside our homes carries some degree of risk. The salmonella scare this past month awakened us to this reality. The food we eat can carry health risks, so can the water we drink, the air we breathe, the jobs we perform, and the cars we drive..... "Better safe than sorry." we say. This teaching didn't come from Jesus though. We must have come up with this one on our own...because Jesus never said anything like this. In

fact, he taught the opposite. This morning's Gospel passage, which we have come to know as "The Parable of the Talents," makes this clear. Let's take a closer look... Today's Gospel passage opens with a master who goes on a journey, leaving a different number of talents with several servants. Upon his return, he asks each of them what they did with his talents. The two that doubled the value of theirs were praised and rewarded, but the one who "played it safe" and buried his in the ground was severely punished. The punishment seems a bit extreme--wouldn't you agree? What if the Galilleean stock market was performing like ours has been lately? In this case, it would make perfectly good sense to hide the talent away `till better times! According to ancient historical records, burying valuables was a common practice in those days. This is what persons did: They would leave their valuable possessions in the care of another person --just in case their house got robbed while they were away. Hiding money away was considered to be the safest, most wise way of handling one's assets. So, with this in mind, we can't help but wonder:...why was the master so upset? Well, it so happens....that in this morning's Gospel story Jesus has done it again! He taken an accepted practice and turned it upside down.--causing the comfortable to become uncomfortable, and requiring those who were in

his midst to stop and "think again." And this includes us! We have all heard this parable many times throughout the course of our lives. The passage is most often preached during stewardship campaigns as a way of urging congregations to be good stewards of their money. It is also commonly used to stress the importance of using the gifts and graces that God has given us --so that we may serve others. which is what we think of when we hear the word "talent" today --special skills or abilities, such as teaching, playing a musical instrument or having the ability to prepare delicious meals. And yet, while these are all valid uses of the word "talent," a closer look at the passage that this is not quite the interpretation Jesus intended. We will discover the true meaning of the word and the message that Jesus has intended us to hear when we move deeper --and look beneath the surface of the text. And this is what Jesus is calling us to do this very day--to stop and "think again." English teachers and Biblical scholars agree that the story is an allegory, one in which characters represent someone else and things stand for something else . Take the word "talent," for instance. In those days, a talent was the equivalent of money. It was a piece of metal that was used as a weight, --for measuring with a balance scale. The talent was placed on one side of a balance scale and the expensive metal reveals

--like gold, silver, or bronze on the other. This is the way the value of metals was determined. Eventually, though, expensive metals were made into coins, and the word "talent" came to stand for money itself. Even one talent was equal to a huge sum of money----the amount an ordinary laborer have earned over the course of fifteen years! This means that thee value of the talents that the master left in his servants' care was enormous! And, as the story goes, each servant was given according to his ability. This indicates that the master knew his servants well: No doubt, he had watched them as they performed their daily duties and knew what each was capable of. But this is where the story breaks down. Evidently, the master trusted each person to not just preserve the talents that he had placed in their care but to increase them--to produce more talents. The servants who did this were told, "Well done! Enter into the joy of your master!" But the man who hid the talent by burying it in the ground was reprimanded--harshly. Instructions were given from him to be thrown into the outer darkness, where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Well, we certainly don't want to end up like that one servant! We would have probably done the same had we been left in charge of such a large amount of money. Obviously, this story is not about money--or about things that we do well. The story is about something much more valuable than these. It's about the most precious commodity we have: the Gospel of Jesus Christ! The point of the story, then, is this: What we do with the Good News would

will determine where we spend eternity --not how much money we earn or save --not what we do with the abilities God has given to us. But rather--our destiny will be determined by what we do with our most valuable possession: the Gospel message --the Good News that... God so loved the world that he sent his own son, that those who believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life. And what are we expected to do with it? Clearly, not to keep it to ourselves. Like the children's song that we sang a few minutes ago, we must not hide it under a bushel. Jesus expects us to take it into the world--and use it ....to make more disciples for Jesus Christ. Easier said than done. How exactly do we do this--without appearing to be fanatic? The answer to this question is not at all clear or easy. Each of us has to find our own methods. The important thing is this: We are not expected to do it perfectly --but we are expected to try. Like the servant who hid his talent, I was fear-based --always afraid that I would do or say something wrong. Better to be safe rather than sorry. And this is the way I had lived my life--rarely trying anything new --never doing anything that I could not do perfectly. But this is not at all how we have been instructed to live our lives. God has called us to live life to the fullest--to take risks for the Lord --by being creative in the ways we spread God's love throughout the world.

Jesus' followers had heard the command to spread the Gospel--many times. And yet, like the servant who hid his talent, they too were afraid... Persecution was on the rise. In fact, during the first few centuries of the church, a person could lose his or her life --just by admitting that they were a Christian. Thankfully, we live in a great country that gives us the freedom to believe and worship as we choose. We also have the freedom to go into many parts of the world to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. This parable, then, is a reminder to us that we should keep doing everything we can to continue the good works that we have begun: supporting the ministries of the larger body-- our Annual Conference together with the ministries we ourselves have adopted --such as CROP WALK, the Heifer Project, feeding the hungry in our area, and contributing to the Methodist School in Paraguay--just to name a few. The parable also calls us to think creatively--to consider ways that each of us might become disciples for Jesus Christ in our daily lives. Jesus is sounding the call this very morning, offering us an adventure that is more exciting than any the church has ever led its members to attempt. I believe that this is what it is all about! Jesus Christ gave his life--so that all might be saved

--saved from the loneliness and the "quiet desperation" that plaques so many in our day. The Gospel light has been given so that it might shine--not only on us but on people all over the world. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. 16 times in the New Testament, Jesus spoke these words: "Do not be afraid." Thankfully, God has not given us a spirit of fear, but rather, a spirit of courage and power. And so, as we "tap into" this awesome gift God has given to us, may we surprise even ourselves! There is nothing more beautiful than a person shining with joy over sharing the love of Christ with others. Such beauty is not to be missed. God invites us look around and see the beauty that surrounds us. --All we have to do is open their eyes and look. Poet Elizabeth Browning said it in this way: "Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes---The rest of us sit round it and pluck blackberries." May we not be like those who just sit around and pluck blackberries. Our Heavenly Father wants us all to enter into the joy of his bountiful love. May we be like those in this parable to whom the master spoke these words, "Well done my good and faithful servant!

Enter into the joy of your master!" We might get knocked down a few times along the way. We may even get wounded. But let us always remember these words that a wise person once said: "A person who has been flattened by an opponent can always get up again. But the person who has been flattened by fear stays down for good." Truly, the unwillingness to even try is the greatest failure of all. Leo Buscaglia wrote an interesting article about the risks involved in being the persons God created us to be and the reward that is ours when we are true to our calling: "to laugh is to risk appearing the fool. To weep is to risk being called sentimental. To reach out to another is to risk involvement. To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self. To place your ideas, your dreams before the crowd is to risk being called naïve. To love is to risk not being loved in return. To live is to risk dying. To hope is to risk despair, and to try is to risk failure. But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and

grow and love and live. Chained by his fears, he is a slave, he's forfeited his freedom. Only the person who risks is truly free." Indeed, we have a loving Father who wants us to be free --who longs to be in relationship with us --one that is not based on fear --but rather...on love. Our heavenly Father will give us the courage we need to go forward. --The secret of doing that which we fear has been revealed by John Wayne, who once said: "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway." So, let us saddle us and prepare to enter into the joy of the Kingdom --bringing others along with us. God's grace will "more than" compensate for the mistakes we make along the way. Our biggest mistake would be to not even try. So, instead of running from our fears, let's run straight through them--

and when we do, we will surely discover that we have entered the very center of God's own heart! Praise be to God who has invited us in! Amen.

BENEDICTION: "Now to the one who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us, to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen."

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