A Servant Like That
A Servant Like That
FUMC McMinnville, November 16, 2008
Matthew 25:14-30 (NLT)
14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. 16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money. 19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’ 21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ 22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’ 23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ 24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ 26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ 28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
A Servant Like That
FUMC McMinnville, November 16, 2008
One of my favorite stories is contained in an old issue of "The Guidepost Christmas Treasury." I have told the story before but for me is it like one of those bed time stories that you could listen to over and over.
It is the story of a young man named Paul. It was the Christmas season and Paul had received a special pre-Christmas gift from his brother. It was a beautiful brand new automobile.
On Christmas Eve, when Paul came out of his office, a street kid was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it. When Paul went to get into the car the kid asked him, "Mister, is this your car?"
When Paul replied that it was, and that his brother had given it to him for Christmas, the boy said, "You mean your brother gave it to you, and it didn't cost you anything? Free, for nothing? Gosh, I wish..."
The boy hesitated and Paul knew what he was about to say. He had heard it many times over the past few days. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the boy said jarred Paul all the way down to his toes. "I wish" the boy went on, "that I could be a brother like that."
I like this story because it takes me by surprise. I realize that more often than not I would prefer “to have a brother like that” than “to be a brother like that.” I like this story because deep down in my heart I really wish I did have the desire to be a brother like that.
What about you? Which would you prefer to be said about you; that you had a brother like that or that you are a brother like that?
This story about the young boy and the question I pose are not that far removed from the teaching we find in Matthew 25.
Notice in the story that Jesus told that all three servants are similar. Each was a recipient of a gift. None of them had done anything to deserve or to earn the gift. There was no sense of entitlement, in fact even though they were expected to use the gift, the ownership remained with the master.
We fast forward to the end of the story and an accounting is made of the servants. Two are described as “good and faithful” and one is said to be “wicked and lazy.”
I think we realize that the servants in this story represents each of us and the master? Who is the master? God.
The purpose of the story is to push us to answer the question, “Do you want to be like servant 1 and 2 or do you want to be like servant 3? What do we want God to say about us?”
I think most of us would hear what Jesus said, we would point to the first two servants and say, “I want to be a servant like that!”
What went wrong with this third servant? We have to go to the end of the story in order to see what the problem was.
Listen to what the servant said to the master in verse 24
‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’
The problem for this servant was that he had a total misunderstanding of the nature of the master. He had his mind made up about the master even before he received his talent. He thought the master was harsh and did not care about anything as long he got his due. This servant did not really know the master. He just saw the shadow of the master and built his whole life on a faulty premise.
What is your understanding of God?
A.W. Tozer was right when he said that “what we think about God is the most important thing about us.” If we view God as a tyrant then we’ll filter everything through this lens.
Some of us may be secretly angry with God because we think God did something, or didn’t do something that we think He should have. As a result, our view of God is skewed. Our preconceived notions prevent us from seeing God as a God of grace, and as a result we refuse to serve God with what He’s given you. When we blame God we end up burying our blessings.
A faulty view of God can also lead to excuses. In verse 25 the third servant declares that the reason he didn’t do anything with what he had been given was because he was afraid. His fear paralyzed him and so he decided to play it safe. He hid the money to make sure it wouldn’t be lost.
A wrong view of God always leads to fear. We read: “So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground…”
This is what led to the downfall of this servant and it is what causes us to fail. We think we know the master; we think we know God; God is a God of wrath, who punishes people and causes sickness and we build our entire life around the wrong God and it leads to fear.
Did you notice the word that is repeated in this last servant’s statement?
‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth.’
“I,” “I,” “I.” When we have the wrong understanding of God, it leads to fear and life becomes about self.
We are supposed to hear story and say, “I do not want to be like that servant.” Instead we are supposed to look at the first two servants and say “I want to be a servant like that.”
Notice the difference in the way the first two servants understood the nature of the master. When they approach the master they both say, “Sir you gave me.” The New International Version translates it, “Master, you entrusted me.”
These servants knew the master. They did not see a tyrant. Instead they saw grace, kindness, trust.
You see, our understanding of God affects everything about us.
This story is truly amazing. Those who first heard it must have thought that Jesus was out of his mind. This story went against everything someone living in the first century saw as normal.
From the opening line this story is intended to be a shocker. In the Roman culture no significant property holder would entrust his property to a slave, not even for a short period of time. This man was giving these three slaves the equivalent of 120 years of daily wages to manage. Think about that. Take you annual income and multiply that by 75. That is the equilient to what he gave the first servant. Take your income and multiply it by 30 that is what he gave the second servant. Now multiply you annual income by 15. That is what he gave the third servant. This man is either crazy or incredibly trusting of his slaves to do the right thing.
What two of the slaves did next was also shockingly offensive to a Jewish audience and could have felt uncomfortable to many Christian audiences until well into the 16th century. They committed a grave sin, called usury, by making money with money. And they did it with relish, taking the money and working it "immediately" until they doubled their investments. The third represented the most morally, even biblically appropriate response -- burying the money (15 years wages in his case) to protect it.
What the master did in response to the first two slaves would have been seen as another offense. He commended the usurers, and even promoted them from slaves to, in essence, vice presidents in the family business. The third, who did the most morally correct thing, gets extreme condemnation. He is called wicked and lazy, he is still treated as a slave, what was given to him was taken away and split with the new vice presidents.
So in the normal scope of things, this story makes no sense if we make the focus of the story “money.”
Question: What is the real gift in this story? Is it the talents or bags of gold?
The third servant saw the Gold as the gift presented by a hard master.
The real gift is “trust.” The story is not about how much the servants were given but that the master trusted them at all. The size of the gift in this story really doesn’t matter. The sum of the money given was 120 years of wages but did you notice that the master referred to it as “little.” He said, “You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities.” If everything belongs to God to begin with what we are given is always small in comparison. If we are talking about the gift as being possessions, the master does not need what the servants bring back.
The gift that is given is grace. The gift is trust. The appropriate response to grace, to being shown trustworthiness is trust returned or faith demonstrated.
There have been times when I have looked at this story and wished that Jesus had told it differently. If we look at this story through the eyes of 401K’s and Wall Street there should be another servant. Someone who took the money and instead of using it or burying it, invested it and lost all of it. Through the lens of money that would make the story more realistic. But you see, the story is not about money or possessions. The story is about trust. When we take a risk for the master based on trust there are no losers. Faith/ trust acted upon always produces more faith.
Some of you maybe thinking, I sure will be glad when this sermon is over. In fact I will be glad when this whole consecration Sunday stuff is over. The last thing I need is a sermon or a program that tells me I need to give.
If that is what you are thinking then you have missed the whole purpose of this sermon or Consecration Sunday. More than that you have missed what Jesus is saying in this text.
You see this story is ultimately not about money. It not about 1, 2, or 5 bags of Gold. It is not about whether we give 1%, 5% or 12% of our income to the church.
The issue is Trust. God says, “My gift to you is trust. I trust you with all that you have. Will you trust me?”
Our understand of God affects what we do.
What we do with what God has given us demonstrates what we believe.
Trust yields more trust. Jesus said, “To those who use well what they have been given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance.”
I want to be a servant like that!