Let’s go to the word of the Lord right now. And, let’s take a look at the gospel according to Mathew, actually it’s the gospel according to the Holy Spirit, written by Mathew under the spirit’s inspiration, that’s why we say gospel according to Mathew.
Chapter 25, it’s a well known passage and let me read it with you and then see where the Lord leads us as we explore it. Mathew, chapter 25 beginning with verse 14. It says:
“…. Again it will like a man going on a journey who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money; to another two talents and two another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
The man who had received the five talents, went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent 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 5 talents brought the other five. ‘Master, he said, you entrusted me with 5 talents, see I have gained 5 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 the 2 talents also came. ‘Master, he said, you entrusted me with two talents, see I have gained 2 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 the one talent came. ‘Master, he said, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you had sown and gathering where you had not scattered seed, so I was afraid and went out and hid your talent 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 had now sown and gathered where I had not scattered seed. Well then, if you had put my money on the deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents for everyone who has will be given more and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has, will be taken from him and throw that worthless servant outside into the darkness where there’ll be weeping and gnashing of teeth’.”
Father, we commit your word to you and we open ourselves to your illumination, your teaching, your inspiration as we seek to explore your word. Give us those precise insights that you want us to have tonight for our growth, our improvement in our believe into serving you, intensify our desire to be worthy servants, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
I was struck, as I was preparing my thoughts on this passage by the first word in this narrative. It says ‘again’. I’ve read this passage in Spanish all the time, when I preached to the Latino congregation, but it was the first time I became aware of that ‘again’ in the beginning of the narrative. And it cued me into, again what?. Evidently when you see something like that at the beginning of a parable of any text it is referring of something that has come before, or something that the Lord said previously to that. So it’s saying again, in reference to something that he has said before.
So I started inquiring a bit about that and I started reading the context. And I looked at the previous two chapters or so and I tried to find out what Jesus was referring to with that ‘again’. And so it became clear to me, and if you look yourselves you’ll realize, the parable that is before this one of the talents, is the parable of the ten virgins which deals with the coming of the Lord. There’s a fancy word that refers to things in the Bible that speak about the second coming and about the latter days. It’s called eschatological. I won’t ask you to pronounce it right now, but it refers to that idea of things that refer to the future coming of the Lord.
If you look at, beginning with chapter 24 and on, and of course we know that the Bible wasn’t written in chapters, that’s just a convenience that was added later on, you will see that a good portion of the things that go before this passage have to do with the end of the age, the coming of the Lord in the future.
And, you know, these are very, very serious passages. I mean, the tone that predominates in these passages is a tone of seriousness. It’s like…. it’s not a celebratory tone, it’s not celebrating or rejoicing as much, I think it’s focusing on another aspect of the second coming of the Lord. Certainly there will be celebration and joy on the part of the people of God who have received Christ as a savior and are covered by the blood of Christ and are expecting the Master to come, and so for them there will be celebrations.
But, interestingly enough the tone that the Holy Spirit chose to emphasize in these passages that are contained in chapters 24 and 25 as well, is a tone of seriousness and of a certain kind of severe expectation. The word reckoning comes to my mind as I look at these passages, and certainly it refers to that coming time, when the Lord will manifest himself.
And it speaks about separation between the good and the bad, the faithful and the unfaithful, the obedient and the disobedient, those who are prepared and those who are not prepared, so that this entire segment of scripture is talking about that coming time when things will be clarified, when all the ambiguity and all the ambivalence of life in God at this time in history, will all of a sudden become clear. And God will judge.
That’s what judging is really. It’s discerning, it’s separating truth from untruth, doubt from certainty, lie from truth, on and on and on. And so, this is what you see, for example in the separation of the sheep and the goats, and the parable of the ten virgins of those who were wise and waited for the Lord appropriately and who were ready when he came, and those who weren’t wise and mismanaged their resources and their time and they are caught by surprise.
All of these texts have in common also a long time passing, before what has been promised finally takes place. And they need to be faithful until that moment comes. The need to deal with ambiguity, with uncertainty but with enough knowledge that we are responsible for what we do. And if we don’t do the right thing, if we don’t manage our resources well, if we don’t use the time appropriately, we’ll have to give and account.
And so there’s that element also of giving an account of how you’ve dealt with the things that you have been given, the knowledge that you have been given, the resources that you have been given, and the amount of instruction which admittedly is limited. But, which is enough for you to do certain things.
So, I want to point that out, you know. So, when Jesus says ‘again’, he’s sort of referring….. I think that what he did here was like a master teacher that he was, he chose to focus a certain truth from different angles to make a sort of 360 degree view of that zone of spiritual knowledge that he wanted to point out at that moment. So he tells the parable of the ten virgins, and saw a certain perspective; and the sheep and the goat, another perspective; and the thing about the day and the hour that is not known, another perspective, and all of these things are supposed to form a good image, a good sense of how we should look at the future and how we should look at this time of Christian living in regard to the future. That’s an important piece of knowledge.
But let me point out to you one of the things that really strikes me and I’m just going to be meandering through this passage here, because there’s so much wonderful content here. But you know, another thing that impresses me about this is the tone of seriousness, the severity of the character of this mysterious man that is presented as a coming bride groom, as a businessman, as a judge who is evidently Jesus.
And the picture that is painted of Jesus is not of a nice, tender, mellow guy with a long, blond hair and blue eyes, with a little sheep on his knees, which I find annoying at times, to tell you the truth these days, because it emasculates Jesus, it truncates and cuts off the complexity, the contradictory character of Jesus. He’s many things that contradict each other all in one. And I really get angry when people impoverish the complexity of Jesus, how balanced he is, how elusive he is, how hard it is to pin him down to one particular temperament or attitude. I mean, he is all kinds of things.
And here, the side of Jesus that is presented is that severe guy, no nonsense, business-like. He has established certain governing principles for his people and he expects them to adhere to them. And when he comes he is going to see whether they’ve paid attention to them and whether they have heard well his instructions. You know, that tone of Jesus is everywhere. And I think it is an important thing, that’s not a subtle thing that I’m pointing to here, because I think one of the lacks of Christianity in many parts of the world, and I believe that it’s certainly true here, in America, among American evangelicals, it is… we’re missing that sense of holy fear of God and of Jesus, that I believe is necessary for us to have the kind of diligent attitude that God expects of us, to be the type of believer that can execute the way God expects us to execute in this world.
So, for me it’s not a small theological nuance of anything like that. I think that the way that we focus Jesus and the God that we serve is very important. Greg was alluding to that in the beginning when he spoke of Jacob, when Jacob has this dream and he sees angels coming up and down, and you know, that really strange narrative of him wrestling with an angel the whole night and finally the angel exasperated at the fact that Jacob was holding on to him and yielding to Jacob’s insistence to bless him, which again, there’s an element there of conflict and severity of the Kingdom of God, and of struggling, and of forcing things on God and God, you know, being annoyed but at the same time, liking the warrior spirit of his creature. Finally the angel touches Jacob on the thigh and dislodges the joints and Jacob stayed limped for the rest of his life. And Jacob’s holy fear, my God I didn’t even know that this place existed, what a terrible place this is.
And this idea that as you draw near to God you may walk for the rest of your life with a limp, because you have come close to God. And being close to God is a dangerous thing, it’s a severe thing. God can kill you if you don’t watch it. And God hasn’t changed his character. I mean, we have changed our perception of God and we have chosen to project on him our desires as a generation, but God is the same now and forever, and he hasn’t changed his character as far as I know. He didn’t consult some magazine here: Christianity, and he said: Oh, oh, this is the way my people think I am, well, great I’ll just change my persona.
That’s not the way God act. I mean, God is the same. He’s not going to be changed or blackmailed into being anything that he doesn’t want to be, and he’s the same God.
And I think we need to rescue that fear, that awe of God. For me it’s not something that freezes me or prevents me from doing things for the Lord, or that makes me paranoid about him. On the contrary, it excites. I mean, that’s the kind of God that I want to serve: a God of character. A God that is totally independent of my selfish desires and my inconsistencies, my sinfulness. A God who sticks to the truth and to principles and just follows them. And I’d better watch out, he’s is mighty, he loves and he would do anything for me, even give his life for me, in a sense, as he did through his son, but he’ll smack me on my head if I’m not careful as well. And that kind of God I want to serve. That kind of God encourages me, stimulates me to service, you see.
And I think modern Christianity has lost that, many of us have lost that. In our desire to make God sugar sweet, and syrupy and attractive, we have turned him into that sugar daddy that gives us things when we ask him. And if we neglect to see that other side, and I think that rather than push to action and service and reverence and holiness and desire to serve him and diligence, it has neutralized the American Christianity in many corners, and it has allowed us to relax and to do whatever we please and on, and on, and on, and that’s not the tone that I see of God from Genesis to Revelation.
And do you remember that last week I alluded to that when I dealt with the passage of Deuteronomy 21, where we see the God who loves and affirms Israel when they’re in Babylon, because he’s punished them and sent them there and said ‘you’re going to stay there for 70 years’. But at the same time, in the same breath, also says ‘but I’m going to bless you and I know the plans that I have for you, plans to bless you and prosper you instead of destroying you. So have hope, be encouraged, work hard, be entrepreneurial because at the end of those 70 years I’m going to call you back and I’m going to return you to the land and I’m going to bless you again.’
So you know, it’s those two sides of God that we always need to keep in mind. And this is what I see here. One of the dimensions of this passage is this conflict between fear and entrust, delegated authority and expectation of rendering of an account; expectation of results and at the same time satisfaction at effort, even if it renders different results and different degrees of benefit to the master.
I mean, the complexity of God’s character is here very well played out again for us, and that’s an important aspect. So, I would say one of the insights that I have here of this passage, is precisely the need for us to rescue that sense of the severity of Jesus, because this guy, this man, this main character, he goes away and he comes back, after a certain amount of time.
See, in verse 19 it says “…..after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them”.
See, when the Lord comes to bring his people back, there will be a settling of accounts. It’s not all going to be just celebration and it’s not just going to be settling of accounts with those who were unbelievers. He’s going to settle accounts with us as well. The Bible speaks of an aspect of judgment at the end of time when God will judge us, not to send us to hell or heaven, because we are in Jesus, but to determine what did we do with the gifts that he gave us.
Now, here it’s a little problematic because you know, in the end it says that “…. Throw that worthless servant outside into the darkness, where there’ll be weeping and gnashing of teeth”. It’s sort of an allusion, a reference, a veil reference to hell. And I don’t think that what is being said here is that our entrance into the kingdom of heaven will depend on what we did, because we know that the entrance into the kingdom of heaven is depending on whether we received Jesus Christ or not as our savior. That’s what’s going to determine.
But, you know, it makes things very complicated and too long for us to solve tonight, because scripture is clear on that, but there is one thing that scripture doesn’t say though and this I can tell you with a lot of certainty, that one day, you and I believers, children of God, followers of Jesus Christ, the Bible is very clear on that, and I don’t have the time to give you all the versions and all the references. We will also have to come before the throne of Christ and there will be, kind of, a little…. It’s kind of an exam of what did you do with what I gave you? how did you use your time? How did you invest the gifts that I gave to you?
And the Bible also suggests that there will be like different degrees of rewards. I don’t think we have more than that. That believers who receive different degrees of recognition depending on how they worked for the kingdom, how we worked for the kingdom. Some will receive great glory because they gave a lot to the Lord, they gave their hearts, their emotions, their energies to the Kingdom of God, they journeyed, they worked hard to see the Kingdom of God advanced. They didn’t put any limits on what God’s and what was theirs. I mean, they worked hard and they will receive the enthusiastic approval of the Master.
And, interestingly enough, they will be given certain rewards which is also suggested here as the master says to the servant ‘you have been faithful in the few things, I will put you in charge of many things’. In a parallel parable to this one in Luke, chapter 19, the master says to the faithful servant ‘well done, my good servant, because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities’.
So, it’s this idea that, you know, in the coming kingdom of God we are going to receive authority. I mean, this idea that we have of heaven of being, you know, you get a white robe and a harp and you sit on a cloud and you play music for all eternity. That’s the most boring thing in the world that I could imagine. I think that’s a version of hell perhaps, that someone mistook and put it for heaven.
But it’s not that way, that’s not what I see in scripture. What I see in scripture is that the after life, the heavenly place will be a place of great activity, of great variety, diversity. We will retain the human dignity, we will retain the call to be creative and there will differences of glory and authority that we will receive according on how we invested here. It’s going to be a place of diversity. There will be nations. The nations will be recognized, they will have their names, they will have their dignities. There will be government. There will be much of the same things that we see here, but in a glorified way, divested of all the fallenness, all the ugliness, all the poverty that characterizes existence here. It’ll be like taking a silver vessel that’s all tarnished and lacking brilliance and putting it to just, you know, making it bright, and making it new and returning it to it’s original condition of beauty. That’s how it will be, so all the things that we see here in the world, I believe somehow they will be prevailing in the new heaven, and the new earth but in a more dignified way.
So we will be exercising authority. I don’t know what creative things God has for us, but I know they are wonderful, they’re exciting. Maybe we’ll be flying through the planets and through the universe and doing things that we can’t even imagine now. It will be an immensely creative eternity that we will live.
But a lot of that will depend on how we invest here. I think that much I can dare to kind of, think about the glorious future that God has for us. And passages like these give a sense of that, you see. And so, I believe that this is what the scripture is saying here, that depending on how we deal here in life with what God has given us.
And let me tell you something else that I see here, which is that these 3 servants each received something, and in scripture, for example if you look at First Corinthians, chapter 12, it says that to each of us the manifestation of the spirit has been given, which means, you see, every believer receives the Holy Spirit when she receives Jesus, as her savior. We have the Holy Spirit in us. And it is impossible for the Holy Spirit to be in us without the spirit manifesting himself somehow. And manifesting itself means, the power of the spirit, the gifts of the spirit, the attributes of the spirit. They are impossible to contain, when you have the spirit of God the gifts of the spirit of God are in you as well.
So, each believer, everyone who is here, who believes in Jesus Christ as their savior, has had the Holy Spirit given to them and therefore you have received something of the spirit in you. Let no believer say, I don’t have anything to give to the Lord. I don’t have any gifts, and just…. you know. And many times we don’t say that consciously, but we do say that subconsciously, and that’s why you have a lot of Christians in church who don’t do anything for the Kingdom of God, they just sit there. They come on Sunday, they listen to a preaching and sing a couples of chorus and then they go home and their life makes no difference to the kingdom. It’s because they’re telling him: ‘I don’t have anything’.
And what these texts tell me is what God has given each of us a talent, a gift, a measure of spirit. You have that. I don’t care if it’s the first day that you….. if you’re just a recent convert. You have a gift, you have the manifestation of the spirit of God in you and much more importantly God expects you.
Listen to that, believer. It’s not optional. It’s not just for the evangelists or for the spiritual, God expects me and you to do something with what he has given you. that’s the tone of this passage. What you see here in this passage is a marketplace, kind of a scenario. It’s business-like. I mean, there are employees that are called servants and there’s a boss, a chief executive officer, who’s the master. There are resources, economic resources, -that’s doing something for the kingdom, by the way. Thy good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in the small things.-
Little things like that is what you do to put your talent to work. What you see here is this idea of a business-like transactions. You see it very clearly. It says ‘…. It will be like a man going on a journey who called his servants’, they’re employees and he’s the said, as I said, the executive officer ‘….and trusted his property to them’. He entrusted his property to them. In other words, hey, when an owner or a boss entrusts his money or his facility, or his machines to an employee, they better deal with those machines well or that money well. Don’t deal with it irresponsibly. He expects you.
You see, he’s putting it in that terminology because we are supposed to apply it to our relationship with the kingdom. When God blesses us with his Holy Spirit he expects results. He has entrusted us with that. He has assigned us.
It’s not a neutral thing where God just simply deposits it in you in a passive sort of way. No, when God puts his gifts in you, when God calls you into his kingdom he says ‘I want you to make sure that you take good care of what I put into it and that you work at it. And I’m going to come back at some point and we’re going to take account of this and we’re going to see what you have done with it.
You know, that should fill us again with that holy fear. I see a lot of young people here and I say that not to make you kind of scared, and maybe I should make you a little bit scared. But all of us here understand that when God calls us into universe he expects to get profit from us. I mean, he’s putting something very beautiful and sublime in us, his Holy Spirit and he’s going to come back when that time of reckoning comes, which we don’t know when it will be, because that’s the whole thing again, as I told you before. He’s going sort of optionally say ‘well, you know, did you…..? No, he’s going to come with a very business-like tone and he’s going to open his accounting books and he’s going to say: ‘ok, you received a gift of music, ok, what did you do with it? Did you just use to sing MTV songs or did you use it to bring people to the knowledge of my son Jesus?
Oh, you received a gift of making money? And, yes you went to…. You got an MBA, a master in business administration at Harvard, guau. Excellent! Ok, what did you do with that for my kingdom? How did you advance my kingdom? And you say: ‘Well, I don’t know, I mean, I went to church and put a couple of bucks and I prayed every Sunday and I did go to church.’ And he says: ‘No, no, no, I gave you an ability to make money and didn’t mind if you bought yourself a house and a car, that’s great, but how did you advance my kingdom with your talent? Did you bless my church? Did you invest in my kingdom? Did you give money for the causes for the spread of the gospel? Did you teach other young people, for example, to get out of poverty and to become people who would also make money and give to the kingdom? What did you do?
Ah! I see here that you were given an intellectual gift and you were able to write well, and analyze well and learn things and read a lot and retain with the intelligence that you were given, did you use that to just write scholarly books that collected dust in the tenth floor of the basement of a college library?, or did you use that gift as well to enlighten people and to advance their understanding of the Kingdom of God and did you become and apologist even as exercised your secular scholarly role for the values of the Kingdom of God? Did you use your intellect to give solidity to the teachings of the gospel and to contend for the faith even as you discharged your scholarly gifts in the academic world?
In other words, you have a gift young person, older, adult, whatever, how are you using that gift to advance the Kingdom of God? There is a part that is inescapable. Everything that you have belongs to the Kingdom of God and everything therefore should render some interest to the kingdom: your money, your intellect, your looks, your energies, your experiences that you have had, the privileges that you have been privy to over your life, everything. You should always give a cut to the Kingdom of God, always, always, because God will be asking you at some point, what did you do with the gifts that I gave you? There are no excuses, there are no excuses. You must do something with it.
You know, I’m going to start wrapping this up, but there is one of the many things that touches me about that, it’s how God puts that in, again, in a parallel parable, in the Book of Luke, there’s something here that’s always struck me as I meditated on this passages. He says “a noble of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return”.
It’s the same thing but Jesus puts it in a different way. So, he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. It says “put this money to work, he said until I come back, put this money to work, he said until I come back”.
That’s the new international version. The idea in the original Greek of the word that is translated in English in this version as “put my money to work”, the Greek original, and by the way it’s the only place as I understand that that word is used in all the New Testament, is the idea of “trade until I come back”. In Spanish the idea is “maintain yourselves busy until I come back”. It’s a phrase borrowed from the world of business. In the old, I think in English, the King James version is “occupy until I come”.
But the basic idea is, you know, invest, become involved in entrepreneurial things, trade, use your imagination. It’s a general assignment. See, the master doesn’t tell the servants specifically what to do. He doesn’t tell them, you know, build a business or start a bank or put a manufacturing plant, or something like that, he says just “trade”, become busy, become involved with what I have given you and make sure that you give me back profit.
You know, like in good executive fashion he has delegated according to a governing principle and has given certain general expectations and then he says, ‘now it’s up to you how you do it. I’m not going to get into micro managing you. Now, you use your imagination and go ahead and do it and when I come back let’s see if you can give me profit.’ All he wants is profit according to certain guidelines that he has given them.
By the way, that’s the way corporations, good corporations are run. There’s a board that gives certain directions, and certain alignments or certain basic principles, and then the staff, the owners are supposed to run with it and come back and give board members and the stock owners profit.
And you know, that is the way God deals with you and me. You know, God has delegated to you a gift, a blessing, an assignment, an endowment of energy, of creativity, of power, of talent. And he says: you know, you can use it any way you want, and every once in a while I’m going to sit with you at a table and we’re going to have a cup of coffee and you0re going to tell me what resources you might need, and you’re going to tell me, you know, in the light of your life and the different circumstances in your life and where you’re at, what you can do and what you cannot do and how I can help you what your fears are. You know, as you go to college and as you begin a trade or a profession, my spirit will be with you and I will bless you and I will support you and I will back you one hundred percent and I will give you more resources. I will minister to you and I will hone your skills and I will be bless you, and I will put you through tests to make you better. I’m going to be committed to you, but I’m going to give you freedom as well to decide, how you’re going to bring profit into my kingdom with what I have given you.
That’s a wonderful thought, I mean, it fills me with a great sense of responsibility too. The fact that, you know, this one part that God respects me so much that he doesn’t turn me into a robot and tells me: ‘you have to go here and there and here and there and then over there’. He says, ‘No, just get involved in business. Take risks, be creative, be enterprising, take initiative, invent things, dare to experiment and even fail, that’s ok. Don’t worry about it, as long as your heart is in the right place, I’m going to support you 100%. Be creative’.
See, God delegates to you his power, his gifting. The one thing that he wants you to do is to make sure that you work to bring him profit, and that’s all he wants really. He wants you to be committed to bring him profit to his kingdom and to his interests. If he sees that inside of you, you and him are ok.
I tell you, there, I see God calling us more and more clearly in my life. It’s a governing obsession of my life and my ministry that, you know, I have to be experimenting with things. I have to be putting little pieces of the money, the capital that God has given me in different places, little time bombs that I hope will explode in the right moment. I’m always experimenting with all kinds of things. I’m not sure what it is that God wants me to do, but I just know that I cannot stay still, because he has said ‘be occupied until I come. Trade, invest, be creative, be daring, because that’s what I expect of you.’
And so I have an assignment but I also have a lot of freedom and that should fill you with great optimism and creativity. Dare to do things for the Lord. I mean, you know, in school ask the Holy Spirit how can I serve you? how can I be an evangelist? How can I bring others to the knowledge of Jesus Christ?
If God has given you an athletic gift, how can you use that gift there? I mean, at your job, whatever. You know, many of us don’t receive more from the Holy Spirit because we don’t have this desire, this consuming sense of duty to the kingdom and that’s really all that God wants. When we start investing in doing things, God sends his limitless energy and gifting to us. And he says: ‘yes, go on, go on, I’m with you 100%. Try it, don’t worry. If you fail, if you fall just get up and clean your knees off and go on to the next experiment’.
That’s what he wants and he’s not going to disrespect you by telling 100% what you have to do. He loves you too much. He respects you too much. He has too high a sense your dignity but he gives you a zone of action and he says, ‘move within that zone and don’t worry about it, I’m behind you’.
You see, I finish with that because this is the problem with that. This parable is not really so much about the guys who were faithful as to that one man who was unfaithful. I think that is the word of pathos, the drama of this parable lies. In the fact that this man allowed fear to freeze him, to paralyze him and to prevent him from acting. And you know, many times that’s what kills us in the kingdom, it’s this fear that I don’t know what to do. I don’t have the skills, I don’t have the gifts. I mean, who am I? I’m a…. you know, a useless, inert, metal piece lying on the floor. And God says: ‘No, you’re and exquisite instrument that has my spirit inside of you and I want you to dare to do things, to believe in what I have given you, what I have invested in you.’
And so, this is why, the whole drama at the end when this third guy comes, he says ‘master, I was afraid of you’ –there’s the word fear- ‘I was afraid of you because you’re a hard man, you take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow’.
Notice that the master doesn’t contradict him. He is a severe business man but the important thing here is that he is also very fair and the one that he gave 5 talents, he gave more so the guy was able to give him more. The guy that he gave two talents, gets the same enthusiastic reaction. He says ‘well done, my good servant, because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter you will be blessed’-that’s in the Luke narrative. In the other one is the same thing, ‘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’.
He says exactly the same thing to both men who were faithful, even though they gave radically different results: one gave two and a half times as much as the other one. And yet, they both enjoyed the same kind of enthusiastic approval on the part of the master. It’s not, you know, how much you give back to the Lord. It is how much effort you put in, how pure your heart is for the Lord, how intense your desire to please him and to serve him, what you do with what you have been given: if it’s little, that’s ok; if it’s a lot, it’s ok.
I mean, it’s awesome to think that billionaires, Christians who have given tens of millions of dollars to the kingdom to endow chairs in seminaries and in Christian colleges, and to build gyms and all kinds of stuff, will probably get the same reaction from the Lord in the day of judgment as some Christian who gave ten, twenty dollars sacrificially, the tithe that he could give on a Sunday, and he worked just being an usher in the church or praying for people. The quadriplegic in his wheel chair who couldn’t do much for the Lord but who prayed faithfully and interceded for the church and for people, to the best of his ability, will get as much as the evangelist who traveled all over the world preaching and who brought thousands of people to the Lord.
Scripture tell me that they will both receive the same enthusiastic endorsement from the master. You have done well, come and enjoy the blessing. Come and enjoy the pleasure, come and enjoy the approval, the acceptance of your master.
So people, it’s not about, you know, you paralyzing yourself with ‘will I do a lot or will I do little?’ Do not ever let fear or pessimism prevent you from attempting great things for the Lord and doing what is at hand.
When you see in scripture many times you see this idea: the Lord asks Moses, what do you have in your hand? He asks the disciples, ‘go and see what is among you.’ They come back with five loaves and two fish he says ‘that’s enough, with that I’m going to bless the whole multitude.’
Now, this guy allowed fear to conquer him and he didn’t dare to risk losing the gift that God gave him and so he just took it and hid it and gives it back intact. Well, I might say ‘well, what’s wrong with that? I mean, at least he gave him back the money that he received. It’s not enough.
You see, if all that you can offer Jesus Christ when he comes in his glory, is simply who you were and how he blessed you when he called you into his kingdom and you haven’t done anything to advance his kingdom, it’s like you wasted the master’s resources. He will be angry. You will enter heaven but you will enter with a sense of sadness in your heart, because you don’t have the approval of the master. It will simply be because simply you have a passport and it’s stamped and you can come in.
How many believers in the day of the reckoning will enter the kingdom of heaven and eternity with a certain kind of sadness instead of all the joy that they should be experiencing because they toiled and worked hard for the kingdom here on earth?
I mean, I don’t know about you, but when I die I want to die with a sense ‘man, I gave a good try. I did the best that I could and maybe I made a few messes and I failed a few times, but I used what the Lord gave me and I invested and I took risks and I took steps of faith and I was restless for the Lord and that will enable me to enter into that foreign, unknown land with a certain amount of expectation.
When I enter into the kingdom of heaven into eternity I want to come in with joy and celebration that I have done the best that I could. Wouldn’t you do that as well? Never let fear paralyze you. Never let low self esteem paralyze you. Never let a sense of ‘oh, in my family no one has ever done anything before of greatness, and therefore I’m condemned to the same kind of thing.’ That is a deadly spirit that doesn’t belong in the heart of a child of God. You have been given something beautiful, powerful, irresistible, sublime, and if you put it to work it will bear fruit, so make sure that you make an effort at it. Try. That’s all that God wants you to do. Try. And at the end you will see that God will not disappoint those who trusted him.
I’m calling you tonight to a life of investment, of exercise, of entrepreneurship in the Kingdom of God to understand the huge, beautiful sublime responsibility that God has entrusted you with. Souls, that need to hear the word of salvation. Institutions that need to be blessed with your gifts. A church that needs to be revived. A gospel that needs to be preached in all kinds of ways. Make sure that you use what you have for the Kingdom of God. God expects you to. Do not be afraid. Just do the best that you can and that will be pleasing enough for the master.
Let’s stand up for a moment, please. Let’s focus on the seriousness of the Christian walk. Let’s focus on that marvelous master that we have, worthy of all our respect. Let’s not underestimate him. Let’s not minimize his glory, his awesome respectability, if you will. Let’s see him for what he is. It is he who has entrusted us with his goods, with his talents, with his gifts and our respect for him should be such that we are going to make sure that we spend the rest of our lives occupied until he comes.
We don’t know when he’s going to come. He may come tomorrow. He may come before the end of this sentence. He may come fifty years from now, a hundred years from now. We don’t know that and the Bible is very clear on that. This passage talks about ‘he went away for a long time’. Whatever the time, however your life lasts, you may have 50, 70 more years ahead of you, 60, 40, make sure that those 30, 40 or 50 years of your life are well invested. Every day finds you working for the Kingdom of God.
I just wanted to share something. I did a funeral this week that really impacted me for a little Guatemalan grandmother who died last Sunday night. And she was a lady who was active, active, active, right to the edge. She’s never stopped. I don’t know, if we know any Guatemalan grandmothers like that, you know. And she, on Saturday night wasn’t feeling well and she called the director of the children’s ministry, she usually ministers with the babies upstairs, and she called and said ‘I’m not feeling well, I can’t, maybe I can’t come in tomorrow’. And the director of the children’s minister said ‘stay home and rest. Really, if you’re not feeling good, you just stay home and rest. It’s ok, we’ll get someone else to fill in for you’. And then on Sunday morning there she was, up there taking care of the babies, and taking care of the kids, and there were a couple of babies who just would not settle down for anybody. They just were crying, crying, crying except for her. She would hold them and they would settle down and the mom came to the service. And she was healthy, pretty healthy and she wasn’t feeling well, but she was really active. And then, she died that night, just out of the blue.
And part of me thinks, I mean, it was tragic. It was a shock, but at the same time I thought, how do I want to spend the last day of my life? She spent the last day of her life serving the Lord and at her funeral, she only had one son in the United States, one son, that’s it. And I figured, this is going to be a small funeral. There’s not going to be too many people there. There must have been at least a hundred and fifty people packing, we were overflowing, there weren’t enough chairs. It’s because she cleaned houses for different families in Boston, people she barely even spoke English, but all of these families weeping as if they had lost a mother, and said, ‘I don’t know how we’re going to get used to this.’ and then it was still overflowing and I felt, God, what’s my life worth? What’s it going to be like when my time comes? And God, I want to be just like her. I want to be giving everything I’ve got till the end for you and for your kingdom. And she was so….. people hardly knew all that she does.
I had no idea, person after person, came to me and said ‘she did this for me, she did that for me’. And I think, I don’t want to waste a minute of it, and there’s a lot of young people here and Satan tells a lie, that you could just waste your…. Just do whatever, go out there, do your own thing, and then when you’re old you can become a Christian before you die”.
God is saying ‘don’t waste your youth’. This message, this is from the Lord but the pastor shared. I spoke on the same text at that funeral and felt it was speaking to me and us, do not waste your youth, don’t waste a day. Make it count. Make it count for the Lord.
So, I just challenge us to really respond to this message. This is God speaking to us tonight. So as we head into this worship time I just encourage you before the Lord to say ‘God I want to make it count. I want to make it count before you.’
So, let’s pray and then we’ll transition into worship. Everybody just close your eyes and: Father, we come before you right now and Father we’ve hunt to make it count for you, Lord God. Father, we know that on that day many of the last will be first and the first will be last, Lord God and Father, we want to use what you have given us for you and for your kingdom and serving others, Lord God. We don’t want to waste even one day, one week, one year of our lives, Lord God, because you are coming soon. Lord Jesus, you have been generous to us, Lord God I pray that our lives will be valuable and relevant in the sight of eternity, Lord God.
Father, let our lives count and be relevant for eternal purposes, Lord God. Let us have a treasure in heaven that is genuine, that is for real, Lord God in whatever way you called us to do it, Lord God, that our lives will be meaningful before you. We offer ourselves before you.
Give us courage to let fear or self doubt paralyze, Lord God. We receive this word. It is from you today and we receive it and we come before you and we say: ‘Lord, here we are. Use us for your purposes, Lord God.’ Amen.