Settled Accounts

Sermon based on Mt 25:14-30 for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

Dear servants of the Lord: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Lord, our Master, has entrusted us with talents. To some He has given more, to others He has given less. He has entrusted to us what is His, so that we would use it faithfully. He will return at a time we do not know and settle accounts with us. He will examine what it is that we have done with His property; He will scrutinize our faithfulness with what He has entrusted to us.

Some things stand out in what Jesus says in our Gospel reading. First is that the master gives His own property to his own servants. The talents belong to the master. Jesus says that the talents are the master’s property. Second, the master gives differing amounts of talents to the servants, to each based on his ability. One received five talents, one received two talents, and one received one talent. Finally, the master doesn’t compare what one servant has done relative to the other servants, but each is examined relative to what was entrusted to him.

The servant who received two talents wasn’t given five talents because he did not have the ability to put all five to good use. Likewise the servant who had the ability to put five talents to good use was not given only two because the master wants to maximize his return. He knew the servant has the ability to put five talents to good use so he gave him five talents. So also to the servant who received one talent. The master knew that the servant had the ability to put the one talent to good use.

The faithful servants put their master’s talents to work, each according to his ability. As faithful servants, they desire their master to receive the benefit of their labour, so that he might see some return on his property entrusted to them. The wicked and slothful servant does not put the master’s property to work. It’s not that he used his master’s property for personal gain. He didn’t steal his master’s talent. He didn’t squander it in reckless living like the prodigal son. He just buried it. He hid his master’s talent instead of using it.

When the master returns, he isn’t being unreasonable in expecting the servants to have earned him profit. They are his servants. He gives them his property. It is not unreasonable for the master to expect them to be faithful over what has been entrusted to them.

The faithful servants receive their reward – they are invited to enter the joy of their master. They are also given more. “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” The master says that everything that was entrusted to them is little compared to what they will receive now.

These faithful servants did not look at their master as a hard man. They enjoyed the benefits of being in his service. They were blessed with talents that he gave them, giving their lives purpose. Then, the master gives them more blessings by inviting them into his eternal joy simply for being his faithful servants.

The wicked servant had completely the wrong picture of his master.  He thought his master was a hard man, even though nothing indicates that it is true. Because he did not view his master rightly, he hid his master’s talent instead of using it. According to the master’s own words, the wicked servant would have been faithful even if he had just deposited the money with the bankers so that the master would have gained some interest. But he did something that required more work. The wicked servant did more work to dig a hole and bury his master’s talent under the ground than I would have required of him to deposit it with the bankers.

The wicked servant had the wrong understanding of his master. His master was not a hard man. Look at what he gave to his faithful servants merely for being his servants. What the master gave them wasn’t based on how much they had returned to him, but that they had taken what they were given and actually served the master. But the wicked servant did not see the love and mercy of the master but only thought him to be a severe man, and he was unwilling to serve him.

Are you willing to serve God with your talents? Are you giving to God what is His property? Or are you hiding what He has given you and not using it for the benefit of His kingdom? Or worse, are you squandering what He has given you in reckless living?

To those under the Old Testament covenant, who were not giving offerings to God, God said, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.” (Mal. 3:8-9) These Israelites looked at God as being a hard master and did not give to Him what was His. Yet, God sought to show Himself not as a hard master, but as a generous, loving, and merciful master. Thus He continues, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the Lord of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the Lord of hosts.” (Mal. 3:10-12)

We are not under the Old Testament covenant which required tithing – the giving of ten percent of income to the Levites and for the upkeep of God’s house (Nu. 18:24). We are simply God’s servants to whom He has given His property. But God does not want us to look at Him as a hard master. He tells us to give not begrudgingly or to impress others, but freely and generously out of a cheerful heart (2 Cor. 9:7). Give to God and, “Put [Him] to the test… if [He] will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

There is no blessing in clinging to what God has given you and burying it in the ground. Use it for God’s work. Support the congregation. Let’s increase our mission budget which goes to spread the Gospel around the world. Let us test God and see if He will not open the windows of heaven for us and pour down for us a blessing until there is no more need.

See, God is not a hard master. He’s not demanding to see a high return on the talents He has entrusted to you. He simply desires you to be a faithful servant. He has done everything for you. He sent His Son to earn forgiveness for you. Jesus died to pay the penalty of your sins. Jesus even died for your sins of burying God’s talents that He has entrusted to you. He died for your misuse of His talents. God is not a hard master. He wants to set you over much. He wants you to enter His eternal joy. And on top of it all He has given His talents to you so that you can cheerfully use them in generosity and without coercion.

See, your account has already been settled. Jesus paid off your account. Everything that was required of you has been fulfilled. Jesus fulfilled everything demanded of you by the Law. He died to pay for your sins. He died to give you eternal life in the joys of paradise.

Everything that has been entrusted to you is little compared to what you will receive when Jesus returns.

Do not look at God has a hard master. Enjoy the benefits of being in his service. You have been blessed with talents that He has given you. And the master gives you more blessings by inviting you into his eternal joy simply for being his faithful servant. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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