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Sermon for 19 November

The Parable of the Talents 
Matt 25:14-30


Today’s parable seems to talk about money. That is the subject of the story. But parables are called parables because there is a parallel to draw from them.

So is it talking about money or about something different?

Jesus spoke to us through many parables. Why did he do this and why are they important?

- first of all, he wanted to make us think, to chew over what he was saying

- he wanted us to recognize the need to apply thought and judgement to situations

- he wanted some things clear to us his followers, where we have some understanding of who he is and his principles, but which might be a mystery or nonsense to other hearers because they don’t have that

- he was also fulfilling a prophecy in Psalm 78 as to how he would speak to us

So what happens in this parable?

- three slaves have been given responsibility for a very large amount of money while their master is away

- they are given this money in amounts which the master thinks is appropriate for individual ability

- two of the slaves use this money well and double what they were given

- one does nothing with it

- the master returns after a long time

- the two who have doubled the money in their charge are thanked and congratulated and welcomed into "his joy”

- the one who has done nothing with the money is thrown out on his ear. In fact, he is not just called useless but wicked, for not doing something with the money.

- the money from the wastrel is given to the one who had the most.

Jesus concludes the parable with some rather stark remarks

First: "for those who have more, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but for those who have nothing, even what they had will be taken away”

Second, somewhat brutally: "as for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

Do you see what I mean about Jesus making us think when he gives us a parable? Just running through this it seems full of inequality and injustice. But it’s not the case.

this parable is absolutely not about money and that is abundantly clear from the third slave’s situation.

Jesus didn’t want to just leave us with simple teaching. Life is complex, people are complex, judgement is not always straightforward.

Maybe Jesus makes the parable about money precisely because that is the last thing that it could be about.

It is about what cannot be bought.

So our challenge is to try and work out what Jesus is trying to tell us here

Question 1 : Is God telling us something about himself in the story?

My assumption is that he is the master. He seems a harsh master but if you look more closely, he is only harsh in judgement against those who waste what he gives them, and it is only the third slave that actually calls him harsh – the one who doesn’t really understand the trust and generosity behind the action.

A talent is actually a very large sum of money, more that any normal person could ever imagine having, and the master is giving each person in the story a very large sum of money in trust while he travels for a long time.

So the Lord is telling us of the trust that he wants to place in us.

Question 2 : Does the context of the parable help us know what he is trusting us with?

All of what is recorded in Matthew before and after this parable is about the time after Jesus has gone and the time when he may return. Passages about the signs of the end of the age, the son of man appearing, the parable of the ten virgins and their lamps.

Jesus isn’t a master leaving us money to look after but he is leaving his gospel, his message, and the Holy Spirit.

Question 3: What is he telling us about his relationship with us?

Why slaves? Why not sons or daughters in this case?

Unless we receive the gift of forgiveness and salvation that he is offering to us, we are in bondage. That gift enables us to live. To go out and prosper. If we reject that gift, if we do nothing with it, we will not enter the master’s joy, we are rejecting his parenthood. There will be no place in his house of many rooms.

That third slave is the one who rejects forgiveness and rejects a life with Jesus.

But apart from the first and most basic gift of life that he presents us - he is then giving everything else we need. When we receive his gift of salvation and embrace it, we are welcomed into his joy. We become sons and daughters and we are trusted with so much more.

Question 4: What does he want us to learn from the story?

Beyond just being part of his household, he wants us to prosper, to grow in the abilities we have and to bear fruit. He gives us a freedom and he gives us his Holy Spirit to help us grow in that.

His Spirit is there to prosper all of the natural talents we have. He calls us to draw on these and use them. He says very specifically, that each is given according to his ability, to his or her capacity. Given freely. The more we step out in his strength, the more effective we will be.

These slaves were called. They were given a responsibility that the master knew that they could take on.

They were not given more than they could handle. They were given something that he knew that they had a talent for, but as they used these abilities in God’s strength, they became capable of handling more.

RT Kendall, in his book, Parables, refers to this Talent as being an Anointing. When we operate in his strength then the supernatural seems natural, the extraordinary seems normal, the unimaginable becomes realizable.

So there is much for us to learn as individuals. But I think there is a message for us as a church body in the parable today too.

Why is it a lesson for us as a church?

We know that we are being blessed as a church at this time.

With growth in our numbers

With those who are willing to serve

With our finances

We are being blessed with unity

With vision

With care for each other

With a desire to grow in faith

With a desire to learn

This blessing is following the principle in the parable. We are stepping out in faith and with the wind of the Holy Spirit behind us. Those things that should prosper are prospering. This wonderful idea of a doubling of a portion in the parable appears here in Matthew but is an ancient principle too – Isiaiah 61:7 – and this should spur us on.

The challenge appears as a push in Luke 12:48 "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

I think it is a blessing that we are seeing an increase in things being asked and demanded of us.

People are coming to us with questions

With needs

Wanting the support of a family

Wanting love

Wanting prayer

Wanting healing

Wanting release

Wanting reconciliation

Wanting to know more of Jesus

Wanting to walk in his way

The wonderful and remarkable thing to me is that as we see these needs and embrace them, then we are all feeling much more fulfilled. We are relishing our call to serve. We are entering the "joy of the master”

In looking out for others, our own needs are being met as we give.

How many of you forget your own needs when you just think about others?

How many of you feel more loved when you reach out to others?

How many of you feel less worried about your own needs when you think about, and do something about, those of others?

As a church, we are trying to discern needs in our community and where we can help.

To support the young in faith

We have an active Sunday morning and we have 100+ youngsters that we are in touch with. We now meet in the crèche, in the church rooms, in the parish hall, in the upper room in the vine.

As we grow we need teachers and leaders, and places to meet.

To support our whole congregation in faith

We want to make sure that when we gather together, it works. We encounter God. We grow in faith.

On a Sunday, in a whole variety of forms, the 8am, the 915, the 1045, the 5pm

And beyond just Sunday to Sunday, in smaller groups, in homes.

We have been blessed in unity as these developments have occurred, but we desperately need that to be our heart.

To support the young day to day

We are going to start a new after school club in the new year. Here in church. A warm environment to get a snack off the bus and do some homework, and make friends.

We really want to be and to be seen as a body that cares, and we need your practical support in that.

To support every person who needs care

Our food bank

Our prayer chain

The Pastoral team

We need carers to be part of that and we need to ensure that what we do is totally trustworthy.

To help us all grow in a knowledge and understanding of the bible

In our preaching and teaching in every place.

To help all of us grapple with the difficult questions of life

We need God’s truth to underpin everything and his Holy Spirit to bring it alive.

To seek God’s healing for those that need it

Yes, even healing. Mind, body and soul. Jesus and his followers saw healing in New Testament days. God continues to heal today, in all sorts of ways. Scary but true. In fact, not scary, but really pretty exciting actually.

More are sensing the need and desire to pray for and support others. We need New Testament healing today in our broken world.

I was standing at the back of church the other week, and watching everyone go up for communion. And as we often do, we had offered a chance for those who would like to, to sit and talk with someone in the Bedgebury chapel – the area just to our side.

I was struck by how difficult it is for us to make ourselves vulnerable - to be honest about the weakness or struggles that we have, to ask for help. Us, men, find that especially challenging.

Often we need to go through a bit of pain to grow stronger. If I go to the gym, i sweat and I get hot and I ache afterwards, but I know it’s done me good. If I run around the village that we tend to holiday in, I sound like an old dog when I get to the top of the hill, but it is easier coming down, and I fall into my stride. I am fitter for purpose.

As people, if we stop exercising, if we close up, shut down, go tight as a ball, our muscles seize, we are good for nothing.

Can I encourage you, if you are feeling you are missing out, even if you don’t know what it is you might be missing; in fact, especially if you don’t know, start talking. Sit with one of us afterwards. Let us talk with you and perhaps even pray with or for you.

Start to understand why you were fearfully and wonderfully made. Uncover his purpose for you, his gift, and ask for his Holy Spirit to help you grow in that.

And when you think about call, then think about the two dimensions, they may cross, but they may not

- in my week – - or home or at work - or in my education – in my retirement – outside of a Sunday – what am I doing? Where am I heading? What skills and talents do I have?

- in my Christian life – what is my gift? Where does the Holy Spirit want me to grow? Is it in words, in wisdom, in prayer, in prophecy, in healing, in some other dimension?

And what is my balance between the two?

Let me read 1 Corinthians 12 1-11 to you. I leave it there as a hook for us to think about what spiritual gift God might be entrusting us each with. What is the talent he is handing us? To the measure that we can handle.

This is a translation from "The Message”

What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It’s different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can. For instance, by using your heads, you know perfectly well that the Spirit of God would never prompt anyone to say "Jesus be damned!” Nor would anyone be inclined to say "Jesus is Master!” without the insight of the Holy Spirit.

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful:

wise counsel

clear understanding

simple trust

healing the sick

miraculous acts


distinguishing between spirits


interpretation of tongues.

All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.

That chapter in Corinthians also contains the passage where we are talked of as being a body with many parts, all needing to work together. The key is that our gifts all need to be working together for the good of all in the Power of the Holy Spirit; not with a mind and direction and strength of their own.

And the fruits of the Spirit are these: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

The story should be a wake-up call for us as individuals, not because of the threat but because of its promise. The parable and the message in it should change our lives. We should prove ourselves to be eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28). He should be the air that we breathe, to have his holy presence, living in us. We are lost without him. We need more of his Holy Spirit desperately.

There is a purpose for your life. You have been fearfully and wonderfully made. Discern what that purpose is, sense it. As individuals we need to hear the call that God has for us and respond to it. Seize the gift of life that Jesus purchased. Look to live in all its fullness with confidence and without fear.

I want to close with a passage from 1 Peter.

1 Peter 4, 711

The end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober mindso that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply,because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides,so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 

Posted: 19/11/2017 at 14:14
Tags:  Sermon  Simon
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