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Buried Talents

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TEXT:           Matthew 25: 14-30

QUESTION: Why was the master so angry with the slave who guarded his talent by burying it?

ASSERTION: This story is not a parable, but an allegory. The "talent" that is buried is the Gospel not shared. When we fail to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others we risk the disappointment of the Master, Jesus Christ.

INVITATION: Let each of us become evangelist God and Christ has called us to be. Share the Gospel with others. Don't hide it away as your own possession to guard.

Move 1:       Introduction

This text is commonly referred to as "the parable of the talents." Be cautioned that Jesus is not offering financial investment strategy in this teaching. In Jesus' day the word was talenta, and it meant a unit of measurement that was the highest one that existed in the ancient world.


“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Matthew 25:14-30, NRSV)

Prayer for Enlightenment

This is an allegorical story, similar to the story of the 10 bridesmaids. Each part of the story stands for something else. Each part points to something beyond itself. And this morning I want to do what I would call an experimental sermon. We’ll do some “what if” thinking about this passage and experiment with its meaning.

Move 2:       What the Story is Not About

In order to have a new and fresh understanding of this passage there is something we need to do first. We need set aside our old notions about the story. Most often this story is interpreted to be about stewardship, managing and using our own financial resources and the resources of the church. That’s one approach to the story and it’s not without its merits, but let’s set it aside for this morning.

Another approach to this story is that it is about using the spiritual gifts that God gives us. That’s a good and useful interpretation, too. But for this morning let’s set that one aside as well. Let’s begin with what troubles us about this story.

Move 3:       What is Troubling About this Passage

Why did the master get so angry? He is apparently a loving master, a trusting master. One who trusts everything that matters to him to his slaves. So, why did he get so angry when he returned? More to the point, why did the master get so angry at the slave who saved his talent and returned it safely to the master?

Move 4:       What Know and Don’t Know

•        We don’t know for sure who the master is. The master could be God. But the text doesn’t tell us for sure.

•        We don’t know where the master is going or how long he will be away.

•        We don’t know who the slaves are. We just know that they belong to the master and we know that the master trusts them with everything that is important to him.

•        We do know what a talent is. A talent is as much as a man can make in 12,000 days of work. When you do the math that means that a talent is worth as much as nearly 33 years of labor.

•        We know that men in Jesus’ time only lived about 40 or 50 years.

•        So, a talent represents a lifetime of work.

Move 4:       What If

Now we’re ready for the experimental stuff, the what if.

What if the master is Jesus? We know that Jesus called those whom he trusted, those whom God gave him. We know that Jesus told those who belonged to him that he was going away, but he would be back. Then he trusted them with the things he valued most, the Gospel.

What if the talents are the gospel of God? Jesus trusted his disciples with the good news, that God’s Kingdom has come near to us, God loves us and sent his only son to atone for our sins and make us heirs of God’s Kingdom. All have to do is repent and believe the promises of God.

Move 5:       So What

What does all this mean to us? As baptized Christians, Jesus has called us to his side. He first trusted the Gospel to his Disciples and they entrusted it to us each of us. Some of us have received five talents, some may have only one. But Jesus entrusted us with the gospel and it’s up to each of us to share the good news with others, in our own way, in our own time.

The only thing that may anger Jesus when he returns is if we bury the Gospel in a hole and never share it with anyone.

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