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"Talents on Loan from God" (Sermon on Matthew 25:14-30)
November 16, 2008 | The Rev. Charles Henrickson

Posted on 11/16/2008 12:25:37 AM PST by Charles Henrickson

“Talents on Loan from God” (Matthew 25:14-30)

“Talent on loan from God.” So proclaims a certain radio host. At first, it sounds like he’s bragging about himself, as though he’s “oh so talented.” Of course, he’s speaking tongue-in-cheek, to play with his image. But as he himself explains in a more serious vein, to say, “talent on loan from God,” is really saying something about God, namely, that whatever talent we have is a gift from God, on loan from God, and thus any credit or glory goes ultimately to God.

That is very true. And that message comes through loud and clear in our text for today, the Parable of the Talents, from Matthew 25. You and I have been gifted by God with varying talents and abilities, to be used faithfully for God’s purposes, and any credit or glory belongs to our gracious God. You and I are stewards, entrusted with “Talents on Loan from God.”

The Parable of the Talents makes up the middle part of Matthew 25. Last week from this same chapter we heard the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, and next week it will be the Sheep and the Goats. Each of these texts tells us something about the kingdom of heaven in relation to the Second Coming of Christ. Last week, in the Parable of the Virgins, the point was to be ready for Christ’s return, whenever he may come, even if there’s a long wait. Today, the Parable of the Talents makes the further point that, while we are waiting, there are things for us to do. It is not just an idle waiting. No, our master gives each of us talents to use for his purposes, which we are to make the most of, while we are waiting. You and I have talents on loan from God. Therefore, let us use them.

The parable picks up right where last week’s left off, depicting what the kingdom of heaven will be like as we wait for Christ’s return: “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.” This is a picture of the church in the time between Christ’s ascension and his second coming. It is a picture of now. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ has entrusted his disciples with his property, his goods, his possessions. Right away this sets the story in the realm of stewardship. What Christ has entrusted us with are his belongings, not ours. They are on loan to us his servants, to be used according to our master’s wishes. The idea of stewardship is that all this stuff we have is not ours. It belongs to our master. We are his stewards, managing the resources he entrusts to us. And what is required of a steward is that he be faithful.

“To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” Notice that in this parable the amounts entrusted to the servants vary. Some have been given more than others. This tells us that here we are not talking about the basic and fundamental gift of salvation, since that is the same for each and every one of us alike. Rather, we are talking about the various gifts and abilities and opportunities that God gives us, since those do indeed vary. They are not the same for every Christian. For every St. Paul or Martin Luther, men of enormous talent, undaunted courage, intellectual brilliance, and historic opportunity--for every once-in-a-millennium saint like that, there are thousands of unsung ordinary saints who may not have the same “gift set” as those “superheroes of the faith,” but who nonetheless are called to faithfulness in their use of the gifts that God has given them. That’s you and me, my fellow servants of the giving Master.

Here we want to avoid two extremes. On the one hand, don’t overestimate the gifts God has given you, as though you are some indispensible pillar of the church that the church just cannot survive without. That’s pride. On the other hand, don’t underestimate the gifts and abilities God has given you, either. That’s a false and excessive humility. Listen, you do have things you can contribute to the life of the church, according to your calling. You may not think it’s much, but God has gifted you the way he has so that you can use your gifts in the service of his kingdom. Yes, he has. Little things can mean a lot. What matters is that you are faithful.

How has God gifted you? God has things for you to do with those gifts. Are you a child? God wants you to develop your talents in an all-around way--your mind, your body, your knowledge of the Bible and the Christian faith--so you can live out a life of service to your fullest potential. And even now, you can help out in home and church and school, showing the love of Jesus in how you live toward others. Are you a father or a mother? You have been given the gift of children, entrusted to your care. What higher stewardship can there be? You fathers, you have the calling and the duty to teach your children the Word of God--yes, fathers, that is primarily your responsibility, to raise up your children in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. That’s your #1 job. My calling is to help you do that. You seasoned saints, those of you with a little more free time on your hands: God is not finished with you yet. Not by a long shot. You have years of wisdom and experience to draw on. You have skill sets acquired through life that can be used in God’s service, in the many tasks to be done in the local church.

All of us, together, make up the body of Christ. And just as in the human body, where we need all parts doing their job--the toenail and armpit, as well as the eyes and ears and mouth--so also in the church we need all hands on deck, each doing his part, large or small, for the body to function to its fullest.

So Christ gives us gifts that vary--“talents,” to return to the imagery of the story. You know, we use the word “talents” to mean the gifts and abilities and skills that people have, things they can do. But in this parable, the term “talents” refers to money. A “talent” was a unit of money. So let us not forget that the “talents” we can use for the work of the kingdom include, yes, our money, that stuff in your bank account and pocketbook. Those financial resources are gifts from God--he gives us the ability to earn our money, after all--and our money likewise can be put to good use for God’s kingdom through the work of the church. Your money doesn’t belong to you, really. It belongs to God--all of it, 100%. Now some of it, of course, you need for food and shelter and clothing, for you and your family. Beyond that, though, some of the money God entrusts to you can be put to use for the church’s ministry. To help the poor and needy. To support the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments here in this congregation. To spread the gospel far and wide through the various mission and ministry efforts we support in the church at large. Yes, your talents include your dollars, which are not really yours but God’s, entrusted to you to use wisely and faithfully, to extend God’s kingdom.

Well, let’s cut to the chase. A couple of the servants put their talents to work, earning more in the process. They don’t end up with the same amount, since they didn’t have an equal amount to start with. But they were equally faithful with whatever amount they had been given. However, there was this one guy who spoils the story. He doesn’t do anything with the talent he was given. He hides his master’s money, digs a hole and buries it.

Now the master returns. The faithful servants, the faithful stewards, report in, telling the master how they had put his money to work. The master’s response, in each case? “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.” Here we see a most gracious and generous master. It was his grace and generosity in the first place that gave them anything to work with. It was his money they were managing, not their own. So it is for us. The talents and abilities we have, we realize come from God’s gracious hand. “He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.”

Then, on top of that, our gracious God has redeemed us in Christ to “live under him in his kingdom and serve him.” More grace! Christ’s holy precious blood has purchased and won us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. The cleansing water of baptism has brought us into Christ’s church and given us the Spirit to live and work for his kingdom. Grace upon grace! And when Christ returns at the Last Day, the fact that he will actually commend us, saying, “Well done,” and calling us “good and faithful”? Wow, that can only be by God’s grace! For I know, when I look at my stewardship--my stewardship of time and talents and treasures--I haven’t always “done well.” I have been wasteful and selfish, not always so “good and faithful.” So these are rewards of grace, pure grace, Christ will award us when he welcomes us into his eternal joy. You and I would have no reward at all, were it not for the unfathomable forgiveness God graciously bestows upon us for Christ’s sake. And yet he does! That is what is so wonderful, isn’t it? The grace of God in Christ, to entrust us with any kind of a stewardship in the first place, and then, amazingly, to reward us by his grace, in spite of our many failures. What a gracious Lord we have!

And so the one guy who buries his talent and doesn’t do anything with it--it is his unbelief that damns him. There was no living faith there, for faith always produces its fruits. This is truly a case of, “Faith without works is dead.” The wicked and slothful servant had the wrong belief about his master. He insulted and assailed the very character of God, revealing his unbelief.

But thank God, you and I know our Lord to be a good and gracious master, a most generous Lord. He has gifted us with talents in abundance, each of us with the right amount for who he wants us to be and what he wants us to do. Whatever your talents--your natural gifts and abilities, your acquired skills, the opportunities God sets before you for love and service, yes, including your money--these are the talents you can put to use in God’s kingdom to do his work. We do this individually, and we do it collectively as church. It is required of a steward that he be faithful. Through these means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, your faith is being strengthened, and that in turn will strengthen your faithfulness. To be a faithful steward, you need the ongoing forgiveness of God to pick you up when you fail, and you need the continued strengthening that only comes through the ministry of the gospel in the church. These too are God’s gifts to you to help you be the faithful steward God wants you to be.

Grace upon grace upon grace! Until our Lord returns, he will strengthen you for his service and stewardship, so that you will faithfully use your “Talents on Loan from God.” And when our Lord returns, he will commend you and welcome you into his unimaginable and unending joy. “Glory Alone to God!”

TOPICS: Religion
KEYWORDS: lcms; lutheran; matthew; sermon
Matthew 25:14-30 (ESV)

[Jesus said:] “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. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘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.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘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.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘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, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

1 posted on 11/16/2008 12:25:37 AM PST by Charles Henrickson
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To: lightman; old-ager; Cletus.D.Yokel; bcsco; redgolum; kittymyrib; Irene Adler; MHGinTN; ...


2 posted on 11/16/2008 12:26:45 AM PST by Charles Henrickson (Lutheran pastor, LCMS)
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To: Charles Henrickson

It’s interesting how the Gays in this country are now protesting, not realizing that this country is only blessed because of the contributions of Christians, to the philosophies that are the foundation of our constitution. Unfortunately, people do not understand that all blessings come through God and his son Jesus when people follow his teachings. Even people who live in wickedness are blessed only because of the goodness that coexists. These people are making a grave mistake by declaring war on God’s children. It says in the bible, that when it rains and the fields are watered both god’s people and those not god’s people benefit. Look what happened to Germany when they declared war on his children, look where it ultimately got them? It was only because of the intervention of the United States after the war, that they were delivered from that hell. Our nation was founded on the principals of Christianity. Those people should never want to find out what it would be like if they ever got their way. They don’t want to know, no they don’t!

3 posted on 11/16/2008 1:24:35 AM PST by rodeo-mamma
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To: rodeo-mamma

Save for later.

4 posted on 11/16/2008 3:07:44 AM PST by proud2beconservativeinNJ ("In God We Trust")
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To: Charles Henrickson

Thanks, Pastor.

5 posted on 11/16/2008 4:46:32 AM PST by Conservativegreatgrandma
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To: Charles Henrickson

Thank you for your sermon.

I struggle with the amount/percentage. I have to be realistic and prepare for retirement, etc., (to help myself), so I don’t know where to draw the line.

Certainly, God is not an extortionist and we shouldn’t give under duress or fear of being punished if we don’t, then again, if I give more than realistic, then it will be a giving with worries about my own finances and not with a glad heart. See what I mean? I struggle with this issue.

6 posted on 11/16/2008 5:02:31 AM PST by Chong (Read My LIPSTICK!)
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To: Charles Henrickson

Thanks for the sermon pastor Henrickson. It’s sad that these days too many people don’t use their God given talents, but expect others to do their part.

7 posted on 11/16/2008 5:11:00 AM PST by Arrowhead1952 (Bail Out / Ba rock O = Bend Over [BOHICA])
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To: Charles Henrickson

I’ll have to tell you this, our pastor’s sermon was this same topic today!

8 posted on 11/16/2008 3:04:49 PM PST by Arrowhead1952 (Bail Out / Ba rock O = Bend Over [BOHICA])
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To: Charles Henrickson

Nice use of El-Rushbo to drive the message home! My WELS pastor used the same sermon text, and his sermon was very much like yours (except Rush never came up!).

I have found myself wondering if Obama has ever heard a “regular” sermon like this. I have seen his former pastor deliver these crazed rants on YouTube, and never once does he reference the Gospel.

A wise pastor once told me that his sermons are built around the idea that he may only have this one chance to speak to a visitor about their salvation. I wish the Reverends Wright, Jackson, and Sharpton shared this view.

9 posted on 11/20/2008 9:48:56 PM PST by tacnuke
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