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When we burry our resources out of fear, we do spiritual harm to ourselves.


Matthew 25:14-30 (CEB)

14 “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who was leaving on a trip. He called his servants and handed his possessions over to them. 15 To one he gave five valuable coins, and to another he gave two, and to another he gave one. He gave to each servant according to that servant’s ability. Then he left on his journey.

16 “After the man left, the servant who had five valuable coins took them and went to work doing business with them. He gained five more. 17 In the same way, the one who had two valuable coins gained two more. 18 But the servant who had received the one valuable coin dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.

19 “Now after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The one who had received five valuable coins came forward with five additional coins. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five valuable coins. Look, I’ve gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Excellent! You are a good and faithful servant! You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’

22 “The second servant also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two valuable coins. Look, I’ve gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done! You are a good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’

24 “Now the one who had received one valuable coin came and said, ‘Master, I knew that you are a hard man. You harvest grain where you haven’t sown. You gather crops where you haven’t spread seed. 25 So I was afraid. And I hid my valuable coin in the ground. Here, you have what’s yours.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You evil and lazy servant! You knew that I harvest grain where I haven’t sown and that I gather crops where I haven’t spread seed? 27 In that case, you should have turned my money over to the bankers so that when I returned, you could give me what belonged to me with interest. 28 Therefore, take from him the valuable coin and give it to the one who has ten coins. 29 Those who have much will receive more, and they will have more than they need. But as for those who don’t have much, even the little bit they have will be taken away from them. 30 Now take the worthless servant and throw him out into the farthest darkness.’

“People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.

Introduction: Things We Can’t Talk About

There are a few things that we’re not supposed to talk about in polite society:
My impression is that this has led to a place where we neither know how to talk about those things, nor how to be polite.
There are some pastors who will try to preach stewardship sermons and make them sound like they’re about something else.
It’s about your time, or your talents, or you spiritual resources.
And you know, maybe it’s about money too.
This is admittedly my first stewardship season in this position, but I think that’s kind of dishonest and shady, to say nothing of being wimpy.
So, let’s be totally honest up front: Today we’re going to talk about money.
We’re going to talk about money as a church situation.
We’re going to talk about personal finances.
We’re going to talk about the spiritual impact of money in our lives.
There very likely will be points along the way that make you feel uncomfortable.
I would point you back to last week, to allow the uncomfortable moments to have their full effect, and let them teach us something.
Sometimes the uncomfortable or painful parts are pointing to a deeper spiritual wound that needs to be healed.


What is heaven like?

Matthew 25 is in the running to be my favorite piece of scripture.
It’s easily in the top 200, maybe 300.
Jesus in this chapter is trying to answer a question that I am sure we have all considered at one point or another: What is heaven like?
Will we have robes? And will they cover more than hospital gowns?
Do I have to learn to play the harp?
If everyone is a perfected version of themselves, will there be sporting events in heaven that don’t end in a tie?
This is an aside to be sure, but note how Jesus responds:
He doesn’t give a detailed description of heaven.
He doesn’t list facts.
When he’s asked to describe heaven, Jesus starts telling stories.


The king in this story is a pretty easy stand in for God, and the king hands over his possessions.
The Greek word for “valuable coin” as we read today is “talent.”
A talent was worth 15 years of wages for a laborer.
So, maybe the worst idea we’re going to have in this sermon, I’m going to do math...
$7.25 is the minimum wage.
Assuming you work a full time job, that’s $15,080 a year.
Fifteen years, or one valuable coin, would be $226,200
That means the man with two valuable coins got $452,400 in today’s money.
And the man with five coins got $1,131,000
Each, according to the text, according to their own ability.
These guys must have had some kind of previous experience in managing money.
But interesting that the King didn’t give it all to the best guy.
I’m not financial expert, but I think the term for this is diversified portfolio.
Everyone gets a little bit, so that if one part fails, there’s not a total collapse of the system.
So in this story, everyone gets something. That’s a fact that’s worth holding on to.

Risk and Reward

So the story goes, the first two guys play the stock market.
As luck would have it, they make all the right trades and investments, and both wind up doubling their investment.
But it is worth noting that this was lucky.
They were every bit as likely to lose their master’s money.
They were every bit as likely to make some bad investments, and come back empty handed.
In so many ways, this seems like the irresponsible choice.
Yes, they got lucky.
But they weren’t being prudent right out of the gate.
The third guy, also known as the guy who had the least ability at least according to the king, decides on a different approach.
Maybe he knows that he’s not as good at the stock market as the other guys.
Maybe he is afraid of the risk.
Maybe he just wants to look good for the King and give back everything he’s been given.
Whatever his reason, he buries his money in the ground.
So to be really clear, he was given $226,200, and he’s going to give back $226,200.
No one loses anything in this story.
This is not a story about whether or not you experience failure.
It’s a question of whether or not you are willing to risk failure.

A King’s Response

So when the King returns, he settles up with his servants.
The first two guys tell the same story: You gave me this, I doubled it.
The King then invites them to celebrate with him, which we shouldn’t over look is a pretty big invitation!
The third guy comes along and essentially calls the kind shady.
I know you’re a bit of a hard guy, and that you take advantage of people.
First of all, is that true? (Remember who the King represents in this story after all)
But then the third guy lets us know what has been motivating every decision he has made through all of this: fear.
It turns out fear is not a great motivator in the long run.
At best, it will leave you exactly where you are.
The King freaks out on the third guy.
He starts by saying that even the third guy doesn’t believe what he says about the king.
If you knew I was a jerk, you would have at least invested the money with the bankers.
No, you’re just scared.
It would appear that there’s no room in the Kingdom of God for those who are motivated by fear.

What it means for us?

Money is Spiritual

Everything is spiritual

Usually I pepper these sermons with Greek or Hebrew words to give us a deeper understanding of what’s going on under the text.
In the Hebrew language, the one that shaped the religion that Jesus was born in to, there is no word for “Spiritual.”
To have a word for “spiritual” assumes that you can divide things in to spiritual and not spiritual.
Jesus would have been totally against this.
Jesus doesn’t want to ask you how your spiritual life is.
Jesus wants to ask you how your life is because everything is spiritual.

How we approach money will have an impact on our soul.

I used to lead a Jewish Christian Dialogue at my last church.
A rabbi friend and I would share the stage, speak for a little bit, and then answer questions from the crowd from each of our perspectives.
One of the questions I remember was whether it was right or not to give money to a beggar on the street.
On the one hand, both of our religions insist on taking care of the least of these, and being generous.
But on the other hand, they’re just going to use it to buy drugs or booze or something, and we shouldn’t support that, right?
My Rabbi friend said that some of the teachers in his tradition said when a beggar asks for money, it’s not the beggar that God is judging.
It’s the person they asked.
If you show me your checkbook, I can take some pretty good guesses at the state of your soul.
If you are generous, if you are giving, if you are (like the first two guys in this story) a bit reckless with your generosity, then my guess would be you have a pretty good grasp of the kingdom economy.
If you are stingy, if you invest most heavily in yourself, if you hoard money out of fear, if you are inclined to bury what God has given you, then my guess would be that you’ve fallen in to a very familiar trap.
Jesus said that the love of money is the root of all evil.
Not money itself.
Loving money too much.

It’s not our money

The Cadillac.

One time when I was in high school, my parents went on a trip while I stayed home and worked.
Since I didn’t have a car of my own, they left me my mom’s car, which happened to be a Jet Black Cadillac GTS.
This was the car to end all cars.
Crazy stupid fast.
Leather everything.
6 CD Changer (remember when CDs were a thing?)
Beautiful car inside and out.
So what did I do with that car?
I spent the week driving 5 MPH under the speed limit, and cleaning it out night after night.
I knew that if anything happened to that car while it was in my care, I would be six feet under before I could place a call to State Farm.
It wasn’t mine, so I treated it with respect.

It’s all on loan.

The only person who owns anything in this story Jesus tells is the King.
The good guys, who take big risks on behalf of the king? They give the money back.
The bad buy, who buried the cash? He gives it back to the King.
The bankers? They don’t own the money.
The stock market? Not their cash.
Part of what helps in conversations like this is to remember that nothing we own is actually ours.
Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”
Haggai 2, God says “The Silver and the Gold are mine.”
James 1:17 says “Every good and perfect gift comes from God, the Father of Lights.”
Everything we have is on loan from God, and we will have to eventually settle accounts.
Were we risky with our talents, our abilities?
Did we invest our time well, or did we bury it in busy-ness?
Were we generous with our finances, or did we keep everything for ourselves?

Church Finances

The original plan.

When we read the book of Acts, we get some pretty clear indications of how the Church was designed to work.
Believers gather together, and specifically pool their resources.
They had some intentionality behind that plan:
Acts 2:45- They would sell pieces of property and possession and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them.
Their money could address bigger needs than any one person could.
Acts 4:32- None of them would say ‘This is mine!’ about any of their possessions, but held everything in common.
Pooling their money helps them remember that everything they have is on loan from God.
Acts 6:2- “It isn’t right for us to set aside proclamation of God’s word in order to serve tables.”
Pooling their resources together allowed for some folks to specialize in preaching, proclaiming, and teaching the Gospel.
Not to put too fine a point on it.
This is what the ultimate design for the institution of the church was all about.

Specifically Laboratory.

I haven’t been here that long...
But I think I can see the original plan of the church going on here.
When we pool our money together, we can do some pretty amazing things for those in need.
We can support Washington City Mission.
We can fill all kinds of Operation Christmas Child Boxes.
We can send the JLTM youth group on a mission trip.
We can provide resources to our neighbors who have fallen on some hard times and need help with bills and groceries.
When we pool our money together, we can remember that none of it belongs to us in the first place.
We can have some serious spiritual conversations about the love of money in our lives.
We can get honest about the places we’re being a wee bit too selfish.
We can help each other live more generous lives.
We can proclaim God’s word.
We can have a beautiful worship space and facility.
We can have unbelievably talented musicians.
We can hear great sermons from ruggedly handsome pastors.
We can work together to raise our children in the Gospel.

What happens when someone buries something?

When someone buries something, pretty terrible things start to happen.
We can’t help those in need, in fact we have to turn them away.
We have a smaller and smaller impact in the world, at which point fewer and fewer folks are going to want to be part of what’s going on here.
We start to lose our way, assuming that our financial resources are ours alone, or are a result of our work alone, or we get caught up in a sense of entitlement.
There will be those who need to hear the word of God, who won’t.
Real numbers:
There are 54 households here at LPC.
Paula ran the numbers for me without the names, so I have no idea who I’m speaking about or to right now.
Only 24 households have contributed anything in 2020.
That’s a whole lot of folks that have buried something.
But, to put an optimistic spin on it (as I’m want to do), that also means that we have a tremendous amount of room to grow.

Where do we go from here?

Take the next step.

Remember, this whole story starts as a story about what heaven is like.
My favorite part of heaven is that I’m not there yet.
Every day though, I can take one more step to get a little closer.
What’s the next step for you financially?
Maybe you are already giving quite generously to Laboratory. Thank you! Thank you for being here! Could you take the next step and give a little bit more?
Maybe you aren’t giving anything to Laboratory yet. You know what? Thank you! Thank you for being here! Could you take the next step and give a little bit more?
Maybe you’re sitting here thinking “Oh my word Pastor J, my finances are a wreck! I’m in a ton of debt, I don’t make enough, things are tight. You know what? Thank you! Thank you for being here! Could you take the next step and work yourself out of debt a piece at a time?
Maybe for you the next step is to become a more generous tipper at the restaurants, staffed by folks who are probably stressed to the breaking point in this pandemic?
Maybe for you the next step is to give to the beggar on the overpass you drive by every week.
Maybe for you the next step is to just pray and recognize that everything is on loan.
What’s the next step for you?

Write it down.

I praise God every day for the invention of the smart phone.
Whenever someone comes up to me and asks if we can meet this day or that day or whatever, I always pull my phone out right then and there and put it in my calendar.
I always use the same line: If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t happen.
We have sent around to folks, and in fact I had Paula make a few more out in the narthex for us this morning, this little pledge card.
We use this for planning for the next budget year, so that session can make an informed decision about how to allocate our resources.
But I also think it serves as a means of accountability.
So this might be odd...
If your next step includes giving to LPC, and I hope it does, go ahead and fill out the pledge card as normal.
If not though, if you’re one of those folks who needs to get your own financial situation righted or you need to be more generous with those around you or whatever your next step is, go ahead and put that on the card and turn it in anyway.
You don’t have to put your name on it or anything, we won’t check your homework.
It’s totally between you and God, but putting it on paper, at least for me, provides an extra shot of accountability.

Celebrate with the King.

I think one of the reasons pastors don’t talk about money much is because they missed the main point of Jesus’ story.
None of what I’ve said today was meant to cause guilt.
None of what I’ve said today was so that I can get a raise and get my own GTS.
Though if anyone’s got one lying around...
None of what I’ve said today was meant to inspire dread.
Quite the opposite.
The King, in response to the servants who did it well, is to invite them to celebration.
And yeah, I just got here, but it’s not too early to imagine the celebrations we can have.
Imagine a full sanctuary.
Imagine the hungry people we can feed.
Imagine the stories of our youth coming home from mission trips.
Imagine the friends they will invite to hear God’s word on a Sunday night.
Imagine the smile on the face of the hurting soul who finds healing and grace and joy and justice in Jesus Christ, because we were bold enough to share that story.
I just got here, but I have a sinking suspicion that we’re going to have a LOT to celebrate in the coming months and years.
The question is: Do you want to join in?
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