Thursday, February 25, 2021

Matthew 25 - Part 2


Read Matthew 25

Read Matthew 25:14-30

God numbers every hair on your head.  Some of us are making his job easy.  Some try to camouflage those hairs with dye and highlights, but he knows every detail about you.

Some of you might put your hair in a man-bun.  That might not be my preference, but God can still count what’s on your head.

It’s not about your hair.  It’s about the fact that God knows you.  He knew you before you were born, and as we contemplate this parable, consider, he knows your abilities.  He knows what you can do.

Between a parable that tells us to be ready and one that reminds us to be known by our love, we find the Parable of the Talents.

In this parable that we should calibrate our minds to think of the end of the age, one servant gets 5 talents of money.  Another gets 2 talents and yet another gets 1 talent.  The master in the parable gave each servant—trusted each servant—in accordance with his abilities.

The servant given 1 talent was not overwhelmed by what to do with 5 talents.  His master knew if this servant put his abilities to work then he could put the money trusted to him to work as well.

Perhaps the 1 talent servant’s abilities would peak a putting the money into a 1-year CD.  He wouldn’t want to tie up his master’s money for too long.  The Master was shrewd.  When he came back, he would probably want to take his money and his interest and invest it in something with higher risk and higher reward, so the 7-year CD would be out.

But a 1-year CD would give his master some return on his investment.  If the master was not back after a year, this servant could put the money into another 1-year CD or into a money market account.  There would be no risk and the return would be low, but it would be something.

This servant had the ability to do this.  It took more time and effort to bury the talent in the ground than it would to put it in the bank.  If he buried it in the ground, he had to check it frequently to see that it was secure.  He would be anxious about having to protect his master’s money.

This servant took a risk, but the risk offered no reward.  The best he could hope to accomplish was not to lose the money.  His master knew he could do better, even if it was just a little interest.

The master also knew that the servants to whom he gave 5 and 2 talents would not be challenged to use their abilities with only 1 talent.  The master knew what they could do, which surely involved investments with greater risk and the potential for greater reward.

A century ago, author John Shedd penned these words.

A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.

It has been reworded a few times and used by the likes of Albert Einstein and Admiral Grace Hopper and surely others, but it speaks to us living out the fulness of our abilities.  There is risk in life, but some see the risk as part of the challenge and others fear it.

Our Master knows what we can do.  He provisions us in accordance with our abilities.  When we shy away from using our abilities for his purposes, we should experience dissonance.  There should be internal conflict.  Our hearts and minds should wrestle with our choices.

Over time, we can become numb to not using our God-given abilities.  We convince ourselves that it’s not for the best.  We talk ourselves out of producing fruit for our Master and for the body of Christ.  We bury our talents in the ground and frustrate ourselves in the process, but we can grow comfortable with not using our talents.

When we trust in the Lord with all of our heart and our Master trusts us with something, we take that something—whatever it is—and put it to work at once.

There is no hesitation.  There is no delay.  There is no doubt.  We do not act in haste.  We act out of preparation.  We are ready for our Master to trust us with what is next. 

In so doing, we come to know abundant life.   

Consider the readiness of the first two servants to make their reports when the master returned.  Look.  See what I have done with what you gave me.

These first two servants looked forward to their master’s return. They wanted him to see how well they had done not only with their master’s money but with his trust.

They faced risk but they produced reward.  They might have considered burying the talents in the ground, but they had abilities that they knew would produce more.  Fear did not govern their choices.  The love of their master compelled them to do the best they could with what he had given them.

Their reward was that they would get promoted.  They would be given greater charge and responsibility.  Surely there is some status with that, but these things were secondary to the real reward.

Come and share your master’s happiness.

The master who they so longed to please wanted to them to know the joy that he knew.  For all of the things that the third servant saw in the master that led him to act in fear, the thing that he missed was that the master loved his servants.

He wanted the best for them.  He wanted them to realize their potential.  He wanted them to know the happiness that he knew.

You can’t get there just waiting for the master to return.  You have to use what he gave you. Put it to work right now.

We must use what our Master gave us.  We must put it to work at once.  We are called to produce a return on investment.  Elsewhere we might call this fruit.  We are to produce good fruit for our Master.

In the previous chapter and the first parable of this chapter we find counsel about being ready for the return of the Lord.  How are we to be ready?

Producing good fruit for the body of Christ and bringing glory to God in what we do gives us a good start.

I can’t get through a message on this parable without asking the question that is never stated but ever so obvious.  I will put it in our context.

What did you do with what God gave you?

What did we do with what God gave us?

Some do not want to ask and surely do not want to answer this question.  We know that we all have some talents that we buried in the ground.

Some are afraid of burnout.  If I keep using the gifts that God gave me, someday I will burn out.  It will be too much.

You will not burnout putting the gifts of God to work to produce a return for him unless you start comparing your return to that of others.

Thinking that you are producing more than others, produces conceit and self-righteousness in us.

Thinking that you are not producing enough, brings shame and guilt and they were never invited into our lives by our Master.

Remember that each servant was given a different amount of money—trusted with a different amount—based on his ability.  The master in the parable didn’t say to the second servant, “Good job, but you are nowhere near the performer of the first servant.”

The servants were not in competition with each other.  If there was a competitive factor it was within themselves.  They wanted to be better than they were before they were trusted with so much by their master. 

The master knew their abilities.  I think he knew what they could do because they were trusted servants.  They had been trusted before and produced a good return.

There is an acronym that I came up with almost 15 years ago.  It is TURN.  Each letter represents a nugget from this parable.

T is for trusted.  These were trusted servants.  The master knew what they could accomplish.  Even the third servant was trusted.  A single talent might have been worth a hundred thousand dollars, probably more in today’s currency.  He was trusted in accordance with his ability.

U is for urgent or urgency.  The first two servants put their master’s money to work at once.  They did not act in haste.  They were prepared to be trusted with more.

Do you ever wonder how major military operations take place in a very short time?  The logistics to bring forces to bear on the other side of the world takes planning.  Plans are revised on the move and on the ground, but planning and preparation are ongoing.

Most of these plans will never be executed, but when you have to be somewhere in overwhelming force and be there now, you don’t huddle up and say, “What should we do?”

You are ready to act confidently with urgency.

R is for Return on Investment (ROI).  The servants knew the master expected a return.  The first two turned this expectation into a mission statement.  The third started preparing his excuses.

N is for No Fear.  All of the servants experienced fear, but the first two would not give it purchase in their minds, their decisions, or their lives.  Purpose nullified fear.  They made their decisions without giving fear time or space in their thinking.

The third servant let his fear govern him.  His battle was lost before it began.

Fear is resident in our human nature.  Fear is the leveraging factor of the world.  Fear can be debilitating if you give it a say in what you do.

Fear must not be a part of our new nature—our Christ nature.  We make our decisions based upon our trust in him, even when we don’t understand where he is leading us.

If you noticed the title, it reads:  Parable of the Talents—2021.  I will add a couple things that might have been controversial in 2020.  Perhaps they still are.

The first is white privilege.  Is it real or perceived or manufactured?  That’s not where I am going.  If you think you have it, do not do what the world says and divest yourself of it.  Put it to work for the Lord immediately.

If we have been given something that gives us privilege or advantage or status in this world, put it to work for our Master and do it right away. If the color of your skin gives you advantage—white, black, brown—then put that trust to work for your Master right now.

Here is one that I came up with—American Privilege.  I believe that it does exist.  You may or may not agree, but I am convinced that it does.  Being an American gives me status that so many in the world don’t have.

While serving with the United Nations in Iraq and Kuwait, I used to take runs through the DMZ.  I had no radio and no uniform markers on my running gear.  My tee-shirt likely said Marines on it somewhere, if I was wearing a shirt. It was usually 100 degrees or more so the shirt often became optional.

One day, I was a few miles from my headquarters running on one of the roads that usually didn’t have any mines on it and I saw a Hummer with a .50 caliber machine gun approaching in the distance from the Kuwaiti side of the DMZ.

The vehicle drove right up on me with the .50 caliber pointing at me.  I said the only Arabic words that made any sense to the locals on either side.

Ana Ameriki.  I am an American.  The Kuwaiti soldiers executed the military maneuver they knew best and retreated.

If I was in uniform, I had the United Nations patch on my right shoulder and the United States flag on my left.  It is common in that part of the world for people to get up in your face when they want to make a point.

Most Americans don’t care for this but I knew that throat punching some local trying to get in my face wouldn’t go over so well.  The way you get someone out of your face is to turn somewhat sideways and let them talk over your shoulder.

If I wanted to put an end to the conversation, they got the left Shoulder and the American flag.

Flying back from Africa the last time, we scheduled a couple days in Rome.  If I was going to fly halfway around the world and preach for two weeks, I was going to see something on the way back. 

There had been a fire in the airport the night before and everything was in disarray.  The customs and immigration line went on forever and we were at the back.  Out of nowhere, an immigration officer came and started calling for those with American passports.  They gathered us up and walked us through immigration.

We only had to show the outside of our passports.  In 5 minutes, we were through the checkpoint.

I have many more examples of American Privilege. I will not divest myself of it but will use it to produce fruit for the Lord.

If you have something extra that was given to you by nature of your skin color or geography or anything else, consider it a gift from your Master and put it to work.

Consider the Apostle Paul.  He was everything Hebrew that he could be.  Circumcised on the eighth day.  From the tribe of Benjamin.  A Pharisee.  He had not only checked all the blocks but excelled in them and he said he counted all of that for loss.

It was only faith in Christ Jesus that matter in his relationship with God.

In Paul’s enumeration of everything that he now counted as worthless—the King James Version would say dung—what was not there?

Paul did not divest himself of his Roman Citizenship.  It had nothing to do with his relationship with God but everything to do with taking the gospel to a godless world. Paul was born a Roman citizen.

His citizenship got him out of beatings and out of prison.  In a single sentence—I appeal to Caesar—Paul’s fourth missionary journey was funded by the Roman Republic.  Now, it was typical government travel with a shipwreck and a snakebite, but Paul leveraged his Roman citizenship to do the Lord’s work.

Paul divested himself of the baggage that got in the way of his relationship with God and he leveraged the advantages of his birth to produce good fruit for God.

Whatever you have been given that gives you privilege, status, or other advantage in this world, use it to produce good fruit for the body of Christ and your Master.

You have been trusted with what you are given.  Image the first servant telling his master, “No thanks to the 5 talents.”

Act with urgency.  Do not hesitate.  Do not delay.

Produce a real return on your Master’s investment.

Kick fear to the curb.  Do not let it debilitate you as you live out your God-given purpose.

Let us not throw a pity party because we don’t think we have been given much and let us not divest ourselves of what we have been given because the Father of Lies is trying to seduce us to do so.

This message will conclude as many before it.  I love the Parable of the Talents.  It is so rich.  So here is the question never asked but answered by all three servants.

What did you do with what I gave you?

Here it is for us.

What did you do with what God gave you?

And here it is in the first person—something to chew on this week.

What did I do with what God gave me?


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