Pentecost 24 – "He Trusted Them" – Matthew 25:14-20


sermon-11-19-17

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”

trust-2Parables can be tricky things to interpret. Knowing how to accurately translate a parable from ‘earthly story’ to ‘heavenly meaning’ is not easy to do correctly. For example, what are we supposed to do with these “TALENTS” that this man distributes to his servants? What do the ‘TALENTS’ stand for? In Jesus’ day, ‘TALENTS’ were measures of silver. One “TALENT” was lots of silver. Is that what this is about then – the unequal distribution of ‘silver’ or ‘wealth’? Or are we to interpret a ‘TALENT’ as abilities and skills.

And what are we to make of the fact the man gives his property to his servants, “each according to his ability”? How are we supposed to find ourselves in this story and apply it to our lives? Are some given more or less money, more or less abilities and skills, more or less opportunities than others because they’re more or less ABILITY to handle them properly? And, which one am I?

So, I’m telling right now, the only two details in this parable that I’m confident in identifying, is that the “man” is our Lord, Jesus Christ. And “his servants” are His followers, His disciples – you and me. And the “it” is the Last Day when Jesus appears again to judge the living and the dead.

I think that the safest and surest thing to make of this parable then, is simply that when Jesus Christ comes again on the LAST DAY, He will hold His disciples ACCOUNTABLE for what they have done with what HE has given them – NOT the FIVE THINGS, or the THREE THINGS, or the ONE THING that He has given them – but everything – because really, all that we have comes from Him.

As Luther puts it in his Small Catechism, “EVERYTHING that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, hose, home, land animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace heath, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.” (Small Catechism – 4th Petition)
But of course our life consists of far more than just the MATERIAL THINGS we need for the support of the body. All we need for the soul comes from Him as well. He has “redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.” (Small Catechism – 2nd Article)

How do even begin to measure that in terms of 5 or 3 or 1? But the real issue of this parable is not, how do you measure this, but what have you done with the life your Lord has given you?

The scene opens with a man who distributes HIS PROPERTY to HIS SERVANTS and leaves. In Jesus’ own words, the distribution to each of His servants is a matter of TRUST. “He entrusted to them his property.” IT’S HE WHO TRUSTS THEM.

I know that we talk a lot about how we should TRUST in HIM. And we should. And we tend to pay a lot of attention to how much WE TRUST HIM. But that’s not where this story begins. It begins with HIS TRUST in His servants. If they TRUST HIM, it is only because He first gave them His Trust to work with.

“Trust” is a risky thing. “Trust” can be broken. “Trust” can be betrayed. Where there is ‘trust’ there are no guarantees, no insurance coverage. You get guarantees and insurance coverage when you don’t trust. It’s always safer to ‘not trust.’ But in this story, the man “entrusted to them his property… Then He went away.” No contracts, no guarantees, no threats. No monitoring or performance reviews. He “entrusted to them his property… Then He went away.”

So before we go very far with this story, there is something very special going on here with this man and his servants that we ought to admire and appreciate. How loved and honored these servants must feel in being HIS SERVANTS and the fact that He TRUSTS THEM.

I read an article some time ago about a college freshman who said that of all the girls in her dorm, she was the only one whose mother hadn’t insisted that, before leaving for school, she go on the pill. She wrote her mother this beautiful note that said, ‘thanks for trusting me Mom.’ THERE’S A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP GOING ON THERE.

That’s the ‘relationship’ that this man had in His servants. How do you handle a ‘trust’ like that? How do you respond to your master’s trust in you? Of course, we servants don’t have a very good record when it comes to dealing with the trust entrusted to us by our Lord, do we?

The one who was ‘entrusted’ with five talents “traded with them.” Literally, he “put them to work.” And the one ‘entrusted’ with two talents did the same. And whatever these ‘TALENTS’ are, they did the best they could do with what they had been ‘entrusted’ – each according to his ability.

AND THEN, “AFTER A LONG TIME,” the master finally returned.

Now, whom do you suppose was more pleased and excited about his trust was handled – the servants or the master? The servants can’t wait to tell their master what they had to show for His trust in them. “Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.”

And the one ENTRUSTED with two talents is just as excited to hand over all that his master’s property has produced. They are both SO GRATEFUL for the trust that He had in them. “Thanks for trusting me, master.” THERE’S A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP GOING ON THERE.

You know, actually, I’m not sure these two servants actually knew what their ‘TRADING’ had produced until the master showed up and they were AMAZED. It’s going to be like that for us. We TRADE with what we have been ‘ENTRUSTED’ by our Lord. And most of the time we NEVER SEE what comes of it. But when the Lord comes, we’ll see what came of it – and be AMAZED. AND we’ll see how much we have benefited by what others have FAITHFULLY TRADED WITH on our behalf that we never saw until our Lord appeared.

And in HIS joy, the Master says to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little. I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

Please notice here that the master DOES NOT commend them for their profitability or their success. He commends them for their FAITHFULNESS. “Well done, good and ‘faithful’ servant.”

And the servants, how do you suppose they feel right now? Again, it’s his JOY WITH THEM that fills them with such JOY WITH HIM.

AND THEIR HEARTS ARE ABOUT TO EXPLODE FOR JOY when He says to them, “Enter into your master’s joy.” “Really? We thought that this WAS your joy. You mean we haven’t even entered into the REAL THING yet?”

But there’s still one more servant in this picture as Jesus paints it – “to another he gave one talent.” And “he went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.”

Here’s a man who knows nothing of that ‘SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP’ between servant and master that we’ve been talking about. For him, everything that the master has ENTRUSTED to him becomes a stifling burden that he feels OBLIGATED to be responsible for. Honestly, he wishes that the master had never ENTRUSTED him with it. He lives in ‘FEAR’ that the master may actually one day return from his journey and demand an accounting – “show me what you did with the life I entrusted to you.”

‘I know what I’ll do,’ he says. ‘I won’t actually throw away my baptism or my confirmation vows or all of those sermons and communions that were entrusted to me. No, I’ll just bury them somewhere where they’ll not be such a burden and hindrance to me. That way, if I ever actually have to give an account of what was entrusted to me, I can dig up the past and present my baptismal certificate and say to my master, “here, you have what it yours.”

Compare this servant’s perception of the master to the other two. They were blown away with ‘REPENTANT JOY’ because HE TRUSTED THEM. But this man says, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid.”

In his Large Catechism, Luther makes the point in his explanation to the 1st Commandment – “You shall have no other gods…” – that your God is whoever you believe Him to be. Luther writes, “To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in him from the heart. As I have often said, it is the trust and faith of the heart that makes both God and idol.”

This servant believed that the master was “a hard man” who demands what he DOESN’T FIRST GIVE. AND THAT’S THE MASTER HE GOT.

The master uses the servants own words against him. “You say that you believe that I am a hard man reaping where I do not sow and gathering where I have not scattered seed. NO YOU DON’T. If you really believed the line you’re feeding me, “then you would have invested my money with bankers, that at my coming you should have received what was my own with interest.”

The master’s judgment, “you wicked and slothful servant” stands in terrible contrast to the previous, “good and faithful servant.”

“Take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

In terrible contrast to the previous judgment, “enter into your master’s joy,” we hear, “and cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

In the parable we heard last Sunday, the take away was, ‘be like the wise virgins and not like the foolish virgins.’ Today it is obviously, be like the first two servants and not like the third. And the key is not in focusing on the THINGS that He has entrusted to your stewardship – but on the ‘VERY SPECIAL RELATIONHIP’ that you have with Him. He has ‘entrusted’ what belongs to Him to you.

Whether it be wealth or talents and abilities or opportunities – they all come from your Master who has entrusted them to you.

And if your master chooses to entrust you with suffering and sadness and even persecution for His name’s sake, you need to know that this is also His – and just as the faithful martyrs have always done – receive it with joy knowing that He is paying you the highest honor of entrusting you with what it His.

This is the Lord whom you have. He is the One who humbled Himself and became the SERVANT OF THE LORD that we should all be. He came into this world and trade with all that His Father ENTRUSTED to Him – which “according to His ability” – was everything, the life of the world. And in His great joy, He traded everything He had – even His own life – to gain an entire Kingdom of men and women, boys and girls for His Father. And on the 3rd Day, He entered into His Father’s joy.

That our Lord, Jesus Christ, would now entrust us with the stewardship of what belongs to Him by virtue of His suffering and death on the cross, is THE HIGHEST HONOR that any servant of the Lord can ever know. As we leave here, we go to ‘trade’ with all He has entrusted to us – BECAUSE THERE’S A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP GOING ON HERE.

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