“Emmanuel’s Investment” – Matthew 25:14-30

July 24th, 2016

Matthew 25:14-30

“Emmanuel’s Investment”

Auxiliary Text: 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15

Call to Worship from: psalm 8

 

Service Orientation: Those who love the Master are productive and thereby eternally blessed.  Those who despise the Master are not and thereby eternally tormented.  Be smart and honestly ask yourself, “Do I love the Master?”

 

Bible Memory Verse for the WeekTherefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.— 1 Corinthians 15:58

 

Background Information:

  • The parable of the talents is very like that of the ten virgins. Both direct our minds to the same important event:  the second coming of Jesus Christ.  Both bring before us the same people:  the members of the professing church of Christ.  The virgins and the servants are one and the same people–but the same people regarded from a different point, and viewed on different sides.  The practical lesson of each parable is the main point of difference:  vigilance is the keynote of the first parable, diligence that of the second.  The story of the virgins calls on the church to watch; the story of the talents calls on the church to work.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 242)
  • (v. 14) A wealthy person would often have special slaves who functioned as overseers of his household and managers of his business. In many cases some of the man’s slaves were much better educated and skilled than he was.  Highly trusted slaves sometimes had a virtual free hand within prescribed areas of responsibility even when the owner was at home.  When he left town for any length of time, they acted almost in his full authority, having the equivalent of what we now refer to as power of attorney.  They were responsible for handling all the assets and business operations of their owner for his benefit and profit.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 99)
  • (v. 15) “Talent” was first used for a unit of weight (about 75 pounds) and then for a coin, which is how Jesus uses it in this parable. When we use the term for an ability or a skill, that is a meaning which is derived from this parable.  The talents that Jesus gives us include all the intellectual and physical abilities we are born with and those we develop as we mature.  Our talents include all the material possessions that rightfully come into our hands.  And they include the many opportunities God provides us for using our talents to serve him and our neighbor.  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 362)
  • (v. 15) That phrase “according to his ability” is used in the sense “according to his able-ness” (“power” [dynamis] is the actual word). (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 739)
  • (v. 15) He distributed these talents according to his estimation of the ability of each servant to handle them. This is why he did not distribute them equally. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 725)
  • (v. 18) This would not have seemed unusual to Jesus’ listeners, for in the ancient world, it was not an uncommon way to safeguard one’s valuables (see 13:44). We do not know why he did it; he could have been lazy or afraid.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 491)
  • (v. 19) The Bible refers often to Jesus’ return to earth as delayed or a long time in coming: see Mt 25:5, 19; 2 Thes 2:2-3; 2 Pt 3:3-10.
  • (v. 19) The language of “after a long time” reminds us of the previous parable with the late-arriving bridegroom. The return of Christ may take a long time.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 741)
  • (v. 27) They were money-exchangers and bankers all in one. For a small fee they exchanged money, and they also paid interest on money that was deposited with them.  Naturally, as is the case with present-day bankers, the money invested with them was by them loaned out at a higher rate of interest.  In passing, a safe inference would seem to be that Jesus, who tells this parable, is not opposed to responsible capitalism.  Profit promotes employment and makes possible helping those in need, etc.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 883)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What is Jesus trying to tell us in the context of His second coming?

 

Answer:  That God has left His creation in our hands for us to manage responsibly with hard work and diligence until He returns.  We will be unimaginably commended for our godly productivity and unimaginably condemned for our failure to be diligent and productive.

 

To be “ready” for the master’s return means to use the intervening time to maximum profit; it is again about continuing life and work rather than about calculating the date and being alert for his actual arrival.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 951)

 

There is a judgment before us all.  If there is not, words have no meaning in the Bible:  it is mere trifling with Scripture to deny it.  There is a judgment before us according to our works–certain, strict and unavoidable.  High or low, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, we will all have to stand at the bar of God and receive our eternal sentence.  There will be no escape:  concealment will be impossible.  We and God must at last meet face to face.  We shall have to render an account of every privilege that was granted to us, and of every ray of light that we enjoyed; we will find that we are dealt with as accountable and responsible creatures, and whoever is given much, of them much will be demanded.  Let us remember this every day we live:  let us judge ourselves so that we do not come under judgment (1 Cor 11:31).  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 243)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Diligence

 

What is Jesus telling us to do while He is gone?:

I-  God entrusted “talents” to His servants to be productive.  This is a Creation Mandate(Mt 25:14; see also: Gn 1:26-28; 12:2; Ps 8; 1 Chr 29:11-14; Mt 21:33; Lk 19:12-13; Acts 20:35; Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 6:19-20; 12:4-11; Eph 2:8-10; Heb 2:5-8; Jam 1:17; 1 Pt 4:10)

 

The point of the parable is crystal clear.  The servants of Christ, as they await his Parousia, have been entrusted with the responsibility of utilizing the gifts they have been given by the Master.  To fail in this critical obligation is to be excluded from the kingdom when Christ returns.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 235)

 

Spiritual gifts are for using in service.  If God didn’t intend for your gift to be used, there would no longer be any purpose for your life.  Why would God allow us to live beyond any usefulness to Him?  In His wisdom and providence He has gifted each believer to serve and kept each of you alive to serve.  (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 119)

 

It is not difficult to see that Jesus is telling his disciples that before long he will be leaving them.  He will suffer and die and rise again and ascend into heaven.  But that will not mean the work of his kingdom will stop in this world.  No, he will rather provide his disciples with everything they need in order to continue that work.  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 361-2)

 

What matters is that, however precisely the “talents” are interpreted, each disciple should live and work in such a boldly enterprising way that the returning master will say, “Well done, you good, trustworthy slave.”  That is what it means to “be ready” for the parousia, just as in the earlier parable it was the slave who was found hard at work who was rewarded (24:46-47).  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 952)

 

To enter into the kingdom through faith in Christ is to enter into his workforce, and it is to return in some sense to Eden, to pre-fall holiness, where work was given to man as a divine gift, not a curse.  I’ll put it this way:  do your kingdom work well now, and you’ll be rewarded with more work now and especially then.  As one commentator put it, “Heavenly rewards are not beds of rest; they are posts of duty.”  Or as another one put it, “Christ knows no idle life, not even in the kingdom of heaven.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 743)

 

No one received more or less than he could handle.  Obviously the master knew his servants well, for the one entrusted with the least was the one who let him down.  The different sums of money point out how God recognizes each person as a unique individual with varied circumstances and personality.  What he “gives” to each person is exactly what that person can handle.  For these servants, if any of them failed in the assignment, his excuse could not be that he was overwhelmed.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 490)

 

We can work and not be good stewards.  However, we cannot be good stewards without work.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 728)

 

Diligence:  Seeing each task as a special assignment from the Lord and using all my energies to accomplish it.

 

The wise does at once what the fool does at last

 

The great king has summoned each of us into his throne room.  This time, however, he is not entrusting jewels to us; rather, he is distributing property.  “Take this portion of my kingdom,” he says.  “I am making you my steward over your office, your workbench, your kitchen stove.  Put your heart into mastering this part of my world.  Get it in order; unearth its treasures; do all you can with it.  Then everyone will see what a glorious King I am.”

That’s why we get up every morning and go to work.  We don’t labor simply to survive–insects do that.  Our work is an honor, a privileged commission from our great King.  (Richard L. Pratt, Jr., Designed for Dignity, 32-3)

 

Ron Blue defines stewardship as “the use of God-given resources for the accomplishment of God-given goals.”  (Ron Blue, Master Your Money, 23)

 

Imagine that you are a 15th century sculptor and one day receive an email from Michelangelo asking if you would be willing to come to his studio to complete a piece of work he has begun.  He mentions that you are expected to continue his work in such a way that Michelangelo’s own reputation will be enhanced by the finished product!  God’s call to us to “have dominion” over his creation entails this sort of compliment to what we are capable of achieving as his stewards.  It also brings a correspondingly heavy responsibility for what comes out of our stewardship.  If this is what being “in the image of God” involves, then clearly our service for God is to be as wide as the creation itself and will include taking good care of the environment.  (Craig G. Bartholomew & Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture, 37-8)

 

God can never entrust His kingdom to anyone who has not been broken of pride, for pride is the armor of darkness itself.  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 17)

 

My grandmother had a saying:  “If a task is once begun, never leave it till it’s done.  Be my labor great or small, do it well or not at all.”  That was the motto I grew up with.  (L.L. Cool J, Readers Digest: Feb. 2003, 63)

 

The task of a steward is simply to properly manage something for the owner until the owner comes to take it back. (Gordon MacDonald; Ordering Your Private World, 53)

 

Stewards “Know”…                                            Non-Stewards “Think”…

I am a manager                                                      I am the owner

To be responsible is to be faithful                      To be responsible I need control

I will be happy with what I get                                               I will be happy if I get what I want

Life is a process                                                   All that counts is how it ends

I will be happy in the present                                                 I need to worry about the future

My motive is gratitude                                        My motive is duty

God produces fruit through me                                             I must produce fruit to please God

(Patrick Morely; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 98)

 

God gives us capital not to waste, to horde, or to bury in the ground, but to be productive.  If we put our capital to work, it can earn while we sleep.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 725)

 

Anything whereby we may glorify God is a “talent.”  Our gifts, our influence, our money, our knowledge, our health, our strength, our time, our senses, our reason, our intellect, our memory, our affections, our privileges as members of Christ’s church, our advantages as possessors of the Bible–all, all are talents.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 242)

 

On the surface, the interpretation of this parable is about as simple as it gets.  It focuses on the productivity of the Lord’s people on fruitfulness.  That is, Jesus was telling the disciples to engage in productive activity until His return.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 725)

 

Everything we think we own is really God’s, for He owns everything, and all that we have we hold as stewards for Him.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 725)

 

This “talent,” or course, has an elastic quality to it.  Let’s remember that this is a parable, not a mathematical equation.  So a talent can mean the gifts of knowledge, health, strength, time, intellect, advantages, opportunities, “various responsibilities” (i.e., our jobs or vocations), perhaps people (a spouse, children, friend), and even further natural abilities (talents as we think of the word).  A talent can also mean or include “spiritual gifts” as Peter and Paul called them, such as the gifts of teaching, administration, mercy, healing, and so on.

The “talents” symbolize more than money, but not less than money.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 740)

 

What you do with your talents will matter on judgment day, so let them matter to you now.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 744)

 

II-  The diligent, hard-working, good servant is unimaginably commended for His productivity which results from his deep love for his Master.  (Mt 25:21, 23; see also: Mt 3:17; 17:5; 24:45-47; 25:34-40; 1 Cor 15:58; Eph 2:8-10; Col 3:17; Ti 2:14; 2 Pt 1:16-18)

 

One commentator imagined the scene this way, “The man’s eyes are sparkling.  He is bubbling over with enthusiasm, is thoroughly thrilled, and, as it were, invites his master to start counting” (Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, 881).  And then his master says to him, “Well done, good and faithful slave! . . . Share your master’s joy!” (v. 23).  There is intimacy between the master and the servant, and this is God’s design for us as well.  The question becomes, Will you be commended for your love?  Do you keep watch for Christ in such a way that love is the overflow of your waiting for Him?  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 333)

 

The first and second servants both present their talents to the master, both present double what they were given, and both are rewarded equally.  (That equality is important.  As Meier notes, “that both servants receive the same reward shows that what is valued is not one’s accomplishments in a quantitative sense but fidelity of one’s commitment”).  (Meier, Matthew, 299)  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 741-2)

 

Paul describes his service to God with these words in Col 1:29: “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”  The word labor means to work to the point of exhaustion, while from the Greek word translated “struggling” comes our word agonize.  So for Paul to serve God was “to agonize to the point of exhaustion.”  That doesn’t mean it was miserable toil; in fact, the reason Paul worked so hard was because the only thing he loved more than serving God was God Himself.  God supplies us with the power to serve Him.  We struggle in service “with all his energy, which so powerfully works” in us.  True ministry is never forced out by the flesh.  But the result of His power working mightily in us is “labor.”  (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 119-20)

 

Disciplined service is also the most enduring kind of work.  Unlike some things we may do, service to God is never done in vain.  The same Paul who agonized to the point of exhaustion while serving God reminds us, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).  (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 120-21)

 

They had been faithful with their respective talents, and that was all their master asked of them.  It is for their faithfulness that they are commended rather than for their accomplishments.  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 363)

 

Jesus never belittles his servants’ kingdom work, for he knows that he has saved us not only from our sins but unto his service.  Jesus Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Ti 2:14).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 745)

 

Are you trusting in and serving Him because you love Him?  Or is your service mere routine and loveless duty?  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 334)

 

God does not guarantee us success, but he does promise his blessing in every circumstance.  God does not require us to succeed, but he does tell us to be faithful.  Faithfulness is determining what God wants and going for it.  If we are faithful but miss, we have done what we should.  To not be faithful is to join the ranks of the fired servant in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.  (Leith Anderson, A Church for the 21st Century, 99)

 

The Christian, when all is said and done, wants God to say “Nice going!”  For that reason, we may have to give up some of the other affirmations offered to us, and we may have to wait a bit longer than some of our friends.  But that is no cause to fret.  When God affirms your life and work, you will feel and know that only his affirmation matters.  Deep in your soul, in the race to make your life mean something, you won.  And there’s a mighty big party waiting to celebrate.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 492)

 

“To do no harm,” says Baxter, “is the praise of a stone, not of man.”  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 245)

 

Listen, in our parable don’t the two good servants have the balance we all should have between God’s grace and human work–“Master, you gave me five talents [God’s grace]. . . and here I have made five more [human work]”?  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 744-5)

 

The first slave’s eagerness–he “went straight off and . . .”–is a model for enthusiastic discipleship.  He and his first colleague achieve spectacular results (100% profit), but clearly there was a risk involved, which their other colleague was unwilling to face.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 954)

 

You don’t “retire” from being a disciple.  If so large a sum as five talents is “a few things,” the “many things” which follow will be a huge responsibility indeed.  But along with the added responsibility goes a significant change of status, the new relationship of sharing the master’s happiness.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 954-5)

 

III-  The wicked, lazy servant is unimaginably condemned for his lack of diligence and productivity which results from his despising his Master.  (Mt 25:26-30; see also: Prv 18:9; 19:15, 24; 20:4, 13; 21:25; 23:21; 24:30-31; 26:16; Eccl 10:18; Mt 25:41-45; Lk 8:18; 12:47-48; 19:26; Col 3:23; 2 Thes 3:10-13; Jam 4:17)

 

His words to the master reveal a self-centered character.  He accused his master of being harsh and exploiting the labors of others (reaping and gathering where he did not sow or scatter).  His accusation was an attempt to cover up his own irresponsibility.  He knew that if he were to lose the one talent, he would be punished.  He may also have been so afraid that he decided to do nothing with it at all.

The servant made excuses instead of realizing that, from the start, his responsibility was to serve his master to the best of his ability.  To refuse to serve reveals a lack of love and little desire to accomplish anything for the master.  We must not make excuses to avoid doing what God calls us to do.  God truly is our Master, so we must obey him.  Our time, abilities, and money aren’t really ours; we are caretakers, not owners.  When we ignore, squander, or abuse what we have been given, we are rebellious and deserve to be punished.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 492-3)

 

Wickedness and laziness are allies, not as if the wicked person is always lazy or slothful, but the lazy one is certainly wicked.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 883)

 

Even if the slave’s accusation against his owner had been valid, it would not have excused his indolence.  If anything, it would have made it more foolhardy.  “If you thought I demand a return even on that which does not belong to me,” the master countered, in effect, “did you think I would not require a return on that which does belong to me?”  The slave was verbally hanged with his own rope.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 106)

 

To have done nothing is proof that we do not love Jesus Christ, do not belong to him, and have no share in his kingdom.  It is to perish forever.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 533)

 

Sloth, or laziness, used to be thought a deadly sin.  People don’t ordinarily find it so deadly any longer.  But it is.  It’s a premature death.  To spend vast amounts of our lives waiting, drifting, drumming our fingers, and watching television is wasteful sin. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.; Assurances of the Heart, 333)

 

In God’s economy, breaking even is a total loss.  Isn’t that the lesson in the parable of the talents?  The servant with one talent broke even, and in my estimation that’s not half bad.  But Jesus called him a “wicked, lazy servant.”  Can I make a confession?  That seems a little harsh to me.  Part of me feels like Jesus should tone it down.  But I’ve learned that when I think Jesus is wrong, it actually reveals what’s wrong with me.  In this instance it reveals my incomplete and inadequate view of righteousness.  The greatest risk is taking no risks.  And it’s not just risky, it’s wrong.  Righteousness is using all of our God-given gifts to their full God-given potential.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 143)

 

The third slave’s inaction is perhaps to be attributed to simple self-interest:  he could not expect to get any significant personal benefit from whatever his trading might achieve, so why bother?  He may also have been afraid of how such a master might react if his commercial venture failed, but, if so, he has chosen his words badly:  his description of his master’s “hardness” explicitly recognizes the desire for profit which makes his own safety-first policy so unacceptable to his master.  So his own words are rightly turned against him; even the minimal profit available from “the bankers” would have been better than nothing.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 955)

 

Unfaithfulness is slothfulness, and slothfulness is a punishable offense.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 745)

 

It tells us that those who are punished are the people who will not try.  The man with the one talent did not lose his talent; he simply did nothing with it.  Even if he had adventured with it and lost it, it would have been better than to do nothing at all.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 378)

 

Here we have a seemingly pious man.  He acknowledges Jesus as “master” or “lord.”  (Oh, yes, he’ll join that church camp who says, “Lord, Lord” on judgment day, 7:21, 22.)  But he takes the Lord’s name in vain.  He sees Jesus as a hard or harsh or even mean, merciless, or cruel character who acts unjustly, demanding a harvest from a field where no seeds have been planted.  His view of God, if you’ll allow me, is so high it’s too low:  “Oh, Lord, you’re such a sovereign master, an unmoved mover, that whatever I did with this talent wouldn’t matter to you anyway, so I did nothing.”  He has cloaked his laziness behind his solemn God-talk excuses.  He has a high view of God but a wrong view of God.  He has a fear of God but an improper fear of God.  And thus he has the audacity to blame generous Jesus for his own apathy and inactivity.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 744)

 

To hide our talent is to neglect opportunities of glorifying God, when we have them.  The baptized Bible-despiser, the prayer-neglecter and the Sabbath-breaker; the unbelieving, the sensual and the earthly-minded; the trifler, the thoughtless and the pleasure-seeker; the money-lover, the covetous and the self-indulgent–all, all are alike burying their Lord’s money in the ground.  They all have light that they do not use:  they might all be better than they are.  But they are all daily robbing God: he has lent them much, and they bring him no return.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 243)

 

In verse 24 he refers to the master as a “difficult man” who unjustly expects to gather where he hasn’t sown.  Do you see the lack of joy and intimacy?  He blamed the master for his own lack of responsibility.  In the end, he was condemned, and his relationship with the master was severed.  As a steward, a failure to serve and honor the master with the mercy he has entrusted to you indicates a lack of love and desire for the master.  This truth is at the heart of what it means to be Jesus’ disciple.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 334)

 

This accusation was not true.  The master was not a hard man.  He had been generous in giving his servants much wealth to work with.  But this man hated him.  We can hear his contempt as he resentfully throws his talent on the table.  “Here is what belongs to you,” he says.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 533)

 

You can get away with giving excuses to other people–to your boss, your parents, your pastor.  But do not think you can get away with giving excuses to God.  The apostle Paul wrote that in the day of God’s judgment “every mouth [will] be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God’ (Rom 3:19).  There will not be even a single protest when Judge Jesus takes the bench.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 536-7)

 

The whole parable flatly contradicts this slave’s alleged knowledge of his lord.  This fellow imagines his great and generous lord to be as envious and as self-seeking as he himself is.  He calls his lord “a hard man,” one who is like a dried stick that will no longer bend, he is hard in a moral sense, is set absolutely on obtaining his own advantage.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 980-1)

 

He is not afraid to call his good master hard names and to bring back the talent without having put forth the least effort to make it produce at least something.  No; he did not fear to insult his kind and generous master.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 982)

 

He had not expected much of this servant in the first place; that’s why the servant received so little.  So even putting the money in the bank to earn interest would have been enough.  Yet the wicked, lazy servant had not even done that.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 493)

 

We cannot stop God.  We cannot prevent him from doing his gracious work in our world.  But we can deprive ourselves of the blessed opportunity to share in that work.  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 365)

 

The servant did not actually know his master at all.  The servant was only making an excuse.  It was a foolish excuse, and it certainly did not fool his master.  But many people do the same today.  They use the theology of justification to excuse their failure to care for others.  They use knowledge of predestination to excuse their failure to evangelize.  They use perseverance as an excuse for being lazy.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 536)

 

This particular employer was not at all like Pharaoh who without giving the Israelites straw demanded that they make as many bricks as heretofore (Ex 5:7, 8); or like Rehoboam who said, “My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions” (1 Kgs 12:11).  This master, in assigning tasks, had mercifully figured with each man’s capacity.  And as to whether he at all sowed and scattered, the answer is that he certainly did, namely, when he distributed his talents among the three servants.  So now he had every right to reap and gather.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 882)

 

Don’t overlook the start of verses 16 and 17:  “He who had received the five talents went at once” and got to work, and “So also” the next guy.  We see then the opposite of industry and perhaps immediacy in the last guy.  He eventually got around to doing something with the money.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 741)

 

He reminds me a bit of Adam, who said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Gn 3:12).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 744)

 

IV-  Use it or lose it.  (Mt 25:28; see also: Mt 13:12; Mk 4:25; Lk 16:10)

 

One might ask, “What?  Does Jesus here actually justify taking from the poor in order to give to the rich?”  In the light of the entire context and of other passages–such as 10:39; 16:26; Mk 8:34-38; Lk 9:23, 24; 17:32, 33; and Jn 12:25, 26–one soon discovers the true meaning.  It is this:  the man who through diligent use of the opportunities for service given to him by God has by divine grace surrendered himself to the Lord, to love and to help others (Lk 10:29-37; Gal 6:10; 1 Thes 5:15), and who in so doing has enriched himself, shall by continuing in this course become more and more abundantly rich.  On the other hand, from the person who has become poor, because he has never given himself, even whatever little he once had shall be taken away.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 884)

 

The divine principle is that those who trust in Christ will gain everything, and those who do not trust in Him will lose everything.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 108)

 

It is the lesson of life that the only way to keep a gift is to use it in the service of God and in the service of our neighbors.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 378)

 

The law of spiritual atrophy is that when gifts are not exercised they are withdrawn.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 235)

 

An unused talent cannot be kept for long.  Like an unused muscle, it gradually wastes away.  In the kingdom of God an unused talent is confiscated and given to someone else.  God will see to it that his work will be done and that his kingdom will come.  If we are negligent or indifferent toward the opportunities that God gives us to serve him in his kingdom, he will surely give those opportunities to someone else.  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 364)

 

Those who demonstrate by their spiritual fruitfulness that they belong to God will be given even greater opportunity to bear fruit for Him.  But those who demonstrate by their unproductiveness that they do not belong to God will lose even the benefits they once had.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 24-28, 108)

 

He who neglects his gifts only enriches others and doubly defeats himself.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 985)

 

Worship Point:  The only way one can day in and day out be diligent, hard-working and productive for the Kingdom of God is out of a deep sense of love and gratitude for the King.

 

The faithful servants served well because they loved him and wanted to please him, while the wicked servant failed to serve well because he actually hated and resented his master.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 532)

 

Wasn’t it Jesus who said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:21)?  Might we not expand upon that thought, saying, “How your money/talents are used, there is your heart also”?  To our Lord the link between a heart-check and a checkbook is a short, straight line.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 740)

 

It is one thing to be humble and modest, but it is another thing to use false modesty as a cloak for laziness, selfishness, or indifference.  We can count on God to give us the necessary wisdom and courage, so we can go ahead with confidence and do the work he has given us to do.  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 363)

 

In worship we find fresh reasons and desire to serve.  Isaiah didn’t say “Here am I.  Send me!” until after his vision of God.  That’s the order–worship, then worship-empowered service.  As A. W. Tozer put it, “Fellowship with God leads straight to obedience and good works.  That is the divine order and it can never be reversed” (Harry Verploegh, Signposts: A Collection of Sayings from A. W. Tozer, 183).  The work of service is too hard without the power we receive for it through worship.

At the same time, one measure of the authenticity of worship (again, both personal and corporate) is whether it results in a desire to serve.  Isaiah is the classic example here also.  Tozer again says it best:  “No one can long worship God in spirit and in truth before the obligation to holy service becomes too strong to resist” (Verploegh, 183).

Therefore, we must maintain that to be Godly, we should discipline ourselves for both worship and service.  To engage in one without the other is, in reality, to experience neither.  (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 121)

 

But in fact for thousands of people and pastors, I fear, the event of “worship” on Sunday morning is conceived of as a means to accomplish something other than worship.  We “worship” to raise money; we “worship” to attract crowds; we “worship” to heal human hurts; we “worship” to recruit workers; we “worship” to improve church morale.  We “worship” to give talented musicians an opportunity to fulfill their calling; we “worship” to teach our children the way of righteousness; we “worship” to help marriages stay together; we “worship” to evangelize the lost among us; we “worship” to motivate people for service projects; we “worship” to give our churches a family feeling, etc.

In all of this we bear witness that we are confused about what true worship is.  Genuine affections for God are an end in themselves.  I cannot say to my wife, “I feel a strong delight in you so that you will make me a nice meal.”  That is not the way delight works.  It terminates on her.  It does not have a nice meal in view.  I cannot say to my son, “I love playing ball with you so that you will cut the grass.”  If my heart really delights in playing ball with him, that delight cannot be performed as a means to getting him to do something.  (John Piper, Brothers, We are NOT Professionals, 240-1)

 

Gospel Application:  Jesus is the only true, good and faithful servant who produces godly fruit.  It is only by being “In Christ” can you have these kinds of good works credited to your account. Understanding and submitting to the Gospel allows you to muster the necessary motivation and energy to faithfully be productive for the Kingdom of God.  (Mt 3:17; 17:5; Lk 17:10;  1 Cor 15:25; Eph 1:22; Jam 2:14-17; 2 Pt 1:16-18)

 

Does that mean we are saved by works after all?  Were the reformers wrong?  No, but these passages do reveal the necessity of works following faith–if we are truly born again.  There is an unbreakable connection between what we believe and what we do.  We believe the gospel because we have been born again, and those who have been born again will always and inevitably begin to live out the superior moral life of Christ within them.  The new nature does not manifest itself fully all at once.  But if we are justified, we will have it, and it will increasingly and inevitably express itself in faithful and loving service to our Master, Jesus Christ.

We are not justified by works.  If we are trying to be justified by works, we are not Christians.  But neither can we claim to be Christians if we do not have works.  If we are not working for Christ, we are not justified.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 535)

 

Spiritual ChallengeLove the Master.  Follow Jesus.  Be productive where God gives opportunity.  Enjoy unimaginable rewards.  (Prv 6:6-10; 13:4; 15:19; Mt 10:39; Jn 15:10-11; 1 Cor 15:58)

 

The first two servants are true disciples; the third is not.  A person’s faithfulness is evidence as to whether he or she is truly one of Jesus’ own.  As the disciples await the return of the Son of Man, they must teach that industriousness of discipleship is a testimony of one’s love and trust of Jesus as Lord.  But their perseverance should not come from a self-advancing motivation; it should be demonstrated in serving others as Jesus did (20:20-28).  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 808)

 

Some teach that once you discover and employ your spiritual gift, then serving becomes nothing but effortless joy.  But that’s not NT Christianity.  The Apostle Paul wrote in Eph 4:12 of “the equipping of the saints for the work of service” (NASB, emphasis mine).  Sometimes serving God and others is nothing less than hard work.  (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 119)

 

The least we can do with Christ’s gifts is to let others, who do business for the Lord on an extensive scale such as bankers do, use us and our small gifts in the Lord’s work.  Our gifts will then earn at least something.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 984)

 

He doesn’t say, “My good and faithful servant, enter into the joys of Heaven.”  Instead he says, “Enter into the joy of your master” (vv. 21, 23).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 743)

 

The wealthy miser who keeps his money locked up is really a poor man.  The mentally gifted man who neglects his gifts is like a man that does not have such gifts.  And thus a nominal Christian who knows the gospel and confesses it but never appropriates it inwardly and makes it a part of his life is like a non-Christian.  (R.C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, 985)

 

The wickedness of the third slave primarily stems from his attitude about his master, which in turn has led to laziness and bad stewardship.  The way he conceives of him (“you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed”) causes him to fear and then to hide away the talent and not seek to advance the master’s capital.  The servant’s misperception of the master has produced alienation, mistrust, fear, and then personal sloth.  Had he truly loved his master, he would not have attempted to place the blame on him but would have operated out of love.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 807)

 

A primary purpose of work is to develop character.  While the carpenter is building a house, the house is also building the carpenter.  Skill, diligence, manual dexterity and judgment are refined.  A job is not merely a task designed to earn money; it is also intended to produce godly character in the life of the worker.  (Howard Dayton, Your Money Counts, 87)

 

So What?:  If you honestly look at your life and see no or little spiritual productivity; be smart enough to look at your heart and ask yourself, “Do I truly love Jesus?”  Otherwise, you could be facing an eternity of torment(Rom 2:16; 1 Cor 3:9-15; 2 Cor 5:10; Heb 6:11; Rv 20:13; )

 

Two of the deadliest of our sins–sloth and pride–loathe serving.  They paint glazes on our eyes and put chains on our hands and feet so that we don’t serve as we know we should or even as we want to.  If we don’t discipline ourselves to serve for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom (and for the purpose of Godliness), we’ll “serve” only occasionally or when it’s convenient or self-serving.  The result will be a quantity and quality of service we’ll regret when the Day of Accountability for our service comes.  (Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 111)

 

Jesus was saying that we will be judged by the wisdom and diligence with which we manage what He leaves us.  He is going to ask us whether we invested in those things that do the most to benefit people.  Of course, that which most improves the well-being of people in this world is the work of the kingdom of God.  That is where our chief investment needs to be.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 729)

 

What is the single most important factor for the material well-being of people?  The answer to that question is simple–production.  Unless food is produced, people starve.  Unless clothing is produced, people freeze.  Unless houses are built, people are without shelter.  So, the most important factor in improving the welfare of human beings is to increase productivity.  On an individual basis, it is extremely important that we be productive.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 726)

 

Quotes to Note:

The dictionary defines retirement as “withdrawal from an occupation or business, to give up or retreat from an active life.”  The goal of retirement is deeply ingrained in our culture.  Many people retire at an arbitrary, predetermined age and cease all labor in the pursuit of a life filled with leisure.

Scripture gives no examples of people retiring.  Only one direct reference to retirement is found in the Bible.  It is in Nm 8:24-26; the instruction there applied exclusively to the Levites who worked on the tabernacle.  As long as one is physically and mentally capable, no scriptural basis exists for retiring and becoming unproductive.  The concept of putting an older but able person “out to pasture” is unbiblical.  Age is no obstacle to finishing the work the Lord has for you to accomplish.  For example, Moses was 80 years old when he began his 40-year task of leading the children of Israel.

Scripture does indicate that the type and intensity of work may change as we grow older–shifting gears to a less demanding pace and to becoming an “elder at the gate.”  During this season of life we can actively employ the experience and wisdom gained over a lifetime.  I believe this should be the most rewarding and productive time of life.  God has invested years in grooming us, and often we have more discretionary time.

Forget retirement.  Grasp the opportunity to help build God’s kingdom!  (Howard Dayton, Your Money Counts, 95)

 

The way we employ the surplus hours after provision has been made for work, meals, and sleep will determine if we develop into mediocre or powerful people.  Leisure is a glorious opportunity and a subtle danger.  Each moment of the day is a gift from God that deserves care, for by any measure, our time is short and the work is great.

Minutes and hours wisely used translate into an abundant life.  On one occasion when Michelangelo was pressing himself to finish a work on deadline, someone warned him, “This may cost your life!”  He replied, “What else is life for?”

Hours and days will surely pass, but we can direct them purposefully and productively.  Philosopher William James affirmed that the best use of one’s life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.  Life’s value is not its duration but its donation–not how long we live, but how fully and how well.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 93-4)

 

CHRIST:

MASTER

of CREATION

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