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Gracious Giving and Fruitful Living

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Introduction

Nothing teaches responsibility like having children. It’s an amazing experience to meet these little creatures for the very first time and to know, without any doubt or hesitation, that you would die to keep them safe. And, I think the most terrifying part of being a parent is that you do want to keep them safe and you do want to protect them, but you also know that if they’re going to flourish and if they’re going to grow into the person that God intends for them to be, if they’re going experience the best things in life, you’re not going to be able to protect them from everything or always keep them safe. Teaching your children to grow up is difficult and gut-wrenching because it means that you cannot and must not protect them from everything. Parenting would be easy if our only job was to wrap them up in bubble wrap, keep them in the basement, and ensure they never witness anything difficult, but the best parents work themselves out of a job.
Last year, GK started Kindergarten, and I remember so clearly these weird emotions that I had. On one hand, I was excited for her and proud of her that she was going to have the opportunity to meet new people and experience new adventures and learn new things. But, on the other hand, I was terrified. I didn’t know how she would be treated or who might try to take advantage of her. I didn’t know what bad habits she might be tempted to learn or what bad influences she might become friends with. I was examining these other five and six year olds like a TSA agent looking for terrorists. But, here’s the thing: My primary job as a parent is not to simply keep my children safe, as important as safety is. My primary job as a parent is to whatever is necessary to help these little girls become the women God intends for them to be, so bubble wrap and basements won’t do. There’s going to be risks involved. This morning, we’re going to see that this principle applies not only to our children but to every single thing that God has entrusted into our care as await Christ’s return.

God’s Word

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Ready and working

“like a man going on a journey” Now, if you’ll remember where we are in , you’ll remember that we’re in the last of Jesus’ sermons in the gospel of Matthew, a sermon that we call the Olivet Discourse. And, in this sermon, Jesus is describing to his disciples what to expect in the last days, what to expect in this time of turbulence and tribulation as we await the return of Christ. And, we’re in this series of parables that Jesus is using to explain to us how we are to wait for him and live until He does return. In the parable of the ten virgins at the beginning of chapter 25, Jesus tells us that we must watch for Christ’s return vigilantly so that we are able to endure until the end. This week, Jesus is telling us that our job isn’t just watching vigilantly, but it is also working diligently. Jesus is making sure that his disciples know that their responsibility before God isn’t just to pass the time but to be productive for God’s glory while living on God’s mission.

A Generous Master

“entrusted to them his property” So, Jesus tells the story of a wealthy master who’s going on a long journey. While this master is gone on his journey, he entrusts his considerable estate into the hands of three of his servants. Now, this guy was like Jeff Bezos or John Rockefeller rich. It says that he divides his money into talents and distributes them among his servants. A talent could vary in worth, but it typically equaled 20-30 years of wages for an average day laborer. And, this man distributes eight talents among his three servants. So, we’re literally talking about millions of dollars that this guy is entrusting into the hands of his servants.
“entrusted to them his property” Remember what Jesus is talking about here. Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of heaven. So, he’s saying this is what God’s kingdom, this is what his kingdom is like. So, it’s not difficult to understand who’s who in this parable. The master is Jesus and the servants are his professing disciples. Jesus is going away for a long time, and He is going to entrust his Kingdom into the hands of his disciples. To understand what Jesus is saying, it’s especially important to catch what he says in the opening line. He says that this what the servants receive is not theirs. This is his property, and they are his servants. He is still the master over all of it. They will have to give an account for what they’ve done with all of it, because it’s his and not theirs.
Now, in clearest view here is money, but its much bigger than that actually. The word translated as ‘servant’ in the ESV actually means bondservant or a slave. That is, it’s a person that literally belonged to his master and whose entire well-being was dependent upon the master. If the master was generous and kind, then being a bondservant could be one of the best occupations an average person could hold in Biblical times. If there was a particularly generous and kind master, it was not uncommon for free men to willfully bring themselves into slavery under the lordship of that master. These masters would treat their servants as part of their families and entrust them with great responsibility in their estates so that they could hold positions of great respect and prominence. But, if the master was harsh and stingy, then being a bondservant was to be enslaved to a life of neglect and abuse that you would despise and hate. In view here is not just the wealth of these men, it’s their entire well-being. It’s everything that they are, and everything that they own. All of it belongs to the master. All of it is at his discretion. It’s his to choose and do with as he wants. It’s their wealth. It’s their kids. It’s their breakfast. It’s their job. It’s their home. It’s everything.
And, here we have a master with a practically immeasurable amount of wealth, and he’s going to be gone for a long time. So, he takes this enormous estate and he distributes it out among his servants so that they can manage it for him in his absence. He has the right to do with what he has any way that he wants, and he chooses to entrust it to these men. This master could just have them digging ditches or collecting rocks, but instead he’s allowing them to live with his riches and to manage his accounts. And, even better yet, it was the common practice of Jesus’ day that if your master entrusted something into a your care, even if you were a slaved, and you turned a profit, then you were allowed to keep a percentage for yourself. He’s giving them the opportunity to take part in his wealth! He’s giving them the opportunity to enjoy what only he rightly deserves and is entitled to! This is a generous and gracious master. These guys were slaves and now suddenly they find themselves in the possession of millions. They weren’t entitled to it. They didn’t deserve it. But, their master had given it to them anyway. The question becomes, what will they do with the master’s trust? What will they do with the master’s generosity? What will they do with what he’s given to them?

Jesus is a Generous Master

The question becomes, what will they do with the master’s trust? What will they do with the master’s generosity? What will they do with what he’s given to them?
APPLICATION: Brothers and sisters, Jesus is the master of immeasurable wealth. It all belongs to him. Mount Everest raises to his praise, and the oceans bow to his honor. All the gold and diamonds of Africa, all of the oil of the middle east, and all of the technology of Silicone Valley is in his possession. Every blaspheming Muslim, every scoffing atheist, and every indifferent Christian were created by him and through him and for him. Ft. Knox is a cereal box in his kingdom and the US treasury only has what He allows. And, you, you were born a slave. You come into the world naked, and you’ll leave this world as dust, if the Lord tarries. Except that this master is kind and generous and gracious, and He intervened into the midst of your poverty and pestilence, and He brought you into his Kingdom. You didn’t deserve it. You weren’t entitled to it. And, He was free to do with his Kingdom whatever He wanted, yet He wanted you and brought you into his Kingdom, and now, as you await his return, as you await his triumphant arrival at which all the nations will bow and cry out, He has given to you from his riches and from his wealth into your household. Every face sitting around your dining room table, every dollar that gets direct deposited into your account, every ability that you have naturally and supernaturally, every day you feel good, every breath in your lungs, every beat in your chest, they’re all his! They’re all gracious, undeserved gifts from him to you so that you can manage them to his glory. And so, the question is, what are you doing with what you’ve been given? What are you doing with your Master’s generosity?

The Servants Respond

“he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money” So, Jesus tells us that there are three servants but only two different responses. He says that the first two servants, the one with five talents and the one with two, leave ‘at once’ to begin turning a profit with what has been entrusted to them. They don’t waste a few days and then start, since they have so much time. They don’t go to the movies or on a vacation. They immediately get to work so that they can make the most of the opportunity that the master has given to them. The last servant, however, has a different response. He doesn’t invest the money. He doesn’t buy real estate or invest in local trade. He doesn’t even find bankers that he can leave the money with and receive back a small amount of interest. He just digs a hole, grabs a chair, and drinks some lemonade. The other two leave and work immediately, and this dude does nothing.

The Master Returns

“after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts” So, two are working and one is chilling, and the master returns, and he comes to settle accounts with them. Now, this is exactly what all of them would have expected their master to do. It’s the only thing that makes sense. They know their master is a wise and prudent man, and the first thing that he’s going to want to know when he sees them is what they’ve been doing since he’s been gone. You can imagine how eager the man with five talents was to stand forward and to show how he has doubled his master’s wealth, and the master is thrilled with him! He commends him, and he celebrates what he has done, giving him a great reward. Then, the man with two talents steps forward just as eagerly, and he, too, has doubled his master’s investment. He has expanded his master’s estate. And, the master gives him the exact same commendation and the exact same reward, and he has the exact same joy as the man that had made the master more than twice as much as he had made the master.

Reward is Based Upon Faithfulness

APPLICATION: And, Jesus is teaching us. He’s teaching us about the nature of his kingdom for his disciples. The five talent man was more able, had more responsibility, more opportunity, made the master more money and yet the two talent man received the same commendation and the same reward. You see, in the Kingdom of God, reward is not based upon ability, and reward is not based upon return. God doesn’t base your reward on his bottom line. In the kingdom of God, reward is based upon faithfulness. We obsess over all of our inabilities, so much so, that we are rendered paralyzed and powerless in the kingdom of God. We can’t do everything so we end up doing nothing. But, what we learn is that whether you are five talent man or a two talent man the question is not your ability, it’s not even what percentage of his Kingdom God has entrusted to you. The question is whether or not you will be faithful with what you have. The question is whether or not you take all that you have and use it to God’s glory. The only limitation that you really have is your own disobedience, for God has given you every dollar you need to be generous, every ability you need to be faithful, and every opportunity you need to be fruitful. Oh brothers and sisters, jealousy and insecurity are irrational in the Christian life! You don’t need anyone else’s gifts or anyone else’s opportunities or anyone else’s resources to receive your full reward. You only need to be obedient!

Be Faithful with the Little

APPLICATION: “You have been faithful over a little” The most amazing thing that this master says is, “You have been faithful over a little.” Remember that we’re talking about millions and millions of dollars here. And, these servants deserved zero of it, and yet, this master praises them for being so faithful with so little. You see, everything is little from the perspective of God. Bezos’ $151B are pennies from the perspective of the infinite God. God does not operate in a deficit economy. God operates from an everlasting surplus! So, however proud or ashamed you feel about the ‘little’ that you have, just offer it to God! Until Jesus comes, offer all that you are and all that you have to his glory, every, single day. Be generous with your ‘little’ house, and be faithful with your ‘little’ intellect, and be diligent with your ‘little’ family. Be faithful and obedient with every ‘little’ thing that you have. Whatever health you have, whatever car you have, whatever job you have, whatever money you have, just be faithful. Find a way, and find it ‘at once’, to bring God glory through it all! Brothers and sisters, there are no menial tasks and no menial offerings in the Kingdom of God! There are only opportunities for faithfulness and unfaithfulness. Whether you’re a preacher or a deacon, a teacher or a greeter, a mommy or a single, whatever opportunity and ability God has given you, be faithful. Because one day, God is going to take the mop out of your hand and the tears off of your face, and He’s going to replace them with a crown! He’s going to take your paper money from you, and you’re going to walk on streets where the gold is pavement! Be faithful with whatever ‘little’ you have, and you will be given much, brothers and sisters.

The Wicked and Lazy Don’t Love

“You wicked and slothful servant!” As excited as the first two servants must’ve been to present their earnings back to their master, the final servant must’ve been equally as loathsome to present his. He had no return, and he had nothing more to offer the master than what he began with. He only had dirt stained money from a hole in the ground. Knowing that he had better have an explanation for himself, he launches into a speech that he must’ve prepared. “I know you! I know what a fearsome and awesome man that you are! I know that no one had better lose a nickel of such a man’s estate. I know you, and I didn’t want to incur your wrath!” And, I want you to notice something subtle that’s easy for us english speakers to miss in verse 26. Notice that it ends in a question mark. I believe this whole passage hinges on that single question mark. You see, the master isn’t affirming that this servant knows him; he’s denying it. “You think you know me? You think you haven’t even the slightest clue about who I am? You think I am who you describe? You don’t know me at all! You don’t love me, because if you loved me, you would have worked for me and increased what is mine, and I would have shared it with you! To hell with you!”

Buried Gifts Won’t Do

APPLICATION: You see, the problem with the last servant is not his lack of ability; it’s his lack of belief. He claims to know the master, but his life proves otherwise. If he really knew that his master reaped where he didn’t sow and gathered where he didn’t scatter, then he would not live as such a lazy, coward. The master’s departure showed more about his servants’ character than it did their ability. And, God is using Jesus’ delayed return to reveal the character of our faith. You see, an unbelieving life, even when paired with a believing mouth, will be condemned by the return of Christ. And, unbelieving lives will be evidenced by timid and unfaithful living. Regardless of what you say and regardless of what you sing, your belief will be made clear by what you do with what Christ has given you. Brothers and sisters, buried gifts just won’t do! Houses and cars and children and marriages and 401ks that bring Jesus no glory will bring condemnation on your head. Timid, reluctant lives that say God controls everything, but then lives as though God controls nothing, will invite Jesus’ judgement.

Take Risks!

APPLICATION: Iron City, timid, reluctant living is irrational in the Kingdom of God! The only reason for disobeying what God tells you to do with what He has given you is if you don’t believe He’s in control! Do you believe in God or not? Do you know God or not? Iron City, it is not too late for us. There is still a breath in our lungs. There is still a beat in our chests. There are still people hearing God’s word. Let us, by faith, take risks for God’s Kingdom! Let us, by faith, advance God’s mission. Let us, by faith, take the little that we have and invest it in the economy of God! Let’s risk our children and our comfort and our livelihoods and our legacies that God’s name might be magnified! Let’s be a light on a hill marked by the power of God, living as though we are convinced that Jesus is coming back for us and we don’t have to build an empire here!
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