In this sermon Tim talks about ‘having a crack’, not wasting our lives and using the gifts that God has given us for His Kingdom! This is of course all based on the Parable of the Talents (or gold bags), Tim unpacks how this parable gives us all reasons to not squander the great things God has given us, but to use it for God’s glory so that we can be His good and faithful servants in the world!
Sermon preached by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday September 19, 2021.
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Well let’s have a look Matthew 25:14-30. In this chapter, Jesus is describing what the kingdom of heaven is like.
– In old translations it used to talk about talents, where the NIV helpfully now translates it as bags of gold.
– The point being… it’s a lot of wealth that is entrusted to the servants.
– Very Aussie title: Have a crack!
– So let’s read the passage together!
14 ‘Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 ‘After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.”
21 ‘His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” 22 ‘The man with two bags of gold also came. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two bags of gold: see, I have gained two more.”
23 ‘His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” 24 ‘Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”
26 ‘His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 ‘“So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
There are always cautionary tales or wasted lives, and of course inspiring tales of lives well lived.
I remember a few years ago reading the sad story of the wife of the Tetra Pak heir… – The couple were the heirs to the 5 billion pound Tetra Pak drink packaging empire. – The couple were some of the wealthiest and most privileged members of British society – At one stage she was arrested for trying to smuggle cocaine into the United States embassy in the UK. Not a great idea.
– And then tragically, in 2012 she was found dead in her Chelsea home of a drug overdose. – The wealth to which so many people aspire, had only brought misery, infamy and addiction.
– Reminds me of the old adage, it takes one generation to create a fortune, one generation to maintain it, and then one generation to waste it away.
As Spiderman once said…. To whom much is given, much is required.
– Actually that quote doesn’t just come from Spiderman, it is originally from Jesus in Luke 12:48…
– I wonder if for you, during this lockdown, whether you have had a chance to think about how you are spending, or maybe I should say, investing your life?
– With what you have been given, what is required of your life?
A bunch of us have just finished the Reframe Course from Regent College on allowing the biblical story to reshape our story.
– A lot of the course focussed in on this idea that our lives matter as part of God’s story of renewing all things.
– And we follow a God who cares not just about engineers, but about engineering, not just about lawyers, but about the law!
– So our work matters. Our lives matter with what we do with them.
– Yes they should matter in regard to spiritual things, but God also cares about what we create and what we invest in and how we steward this good creation and life.
Just this last week, we were all inspired by a car salesman named Don Flow. It’s not every day you say that!
– But he is a Christian businessman and graduate of Regent College, Don owns 40 car dealerships on the East Coast of America.
– And he asked himself early on, “what does it mean to run my business in a distinctly Christian way?”
– He asked, how do we operate in a way that demonstrates the love of Christ and that shapes how we treat people in the workplace.
– He started in his Fathers one car dealership as a technician. He is now one of the wealthiest businessman in North Carolina.
– So he has certainly taken what has been given to him and multiplied it to great affect. But not just financially.
He did a bunch of things in terms of ethical business practice like putting transparency in pricing and limits on profitability in place.
– He stated, that as opposed to profit maximization being their focus…
– “everything we have to do has to be for the wellbeing of our customers, the well being of our staff and the well being of the community we live in.”
– He said, profit was not the purpose for us. Profit in a company (he said) is like blood in a human being… you don’t wake up saying I live for my blood…. But you cant live without blood either.
– So for him, purpose is not defined by profit but we must be profitable. – His goal is to run the kind of company the community wished existed if it weren’t there.
So a life well lived. Starting out with one dealership, and now at 40, and a model of what it looks like to live with a kingdom focus.
– And that is really what todays passage is about.
– It is about using the gifts and blessings and opportunities that we are given, well, for our Master, who is our Heavenly Father.
– It gets us to think about what we are doing with our lives. Not just our wealth, as we will talk about, but the totality of what we have been given.
– Our educations, our families, our strengths, our community life, our giftings, our service, our careers, our generosity, our homes and so on…
It’s been said that the lowest form of life is the pleasurable life – where our focus is on getting a nice house, a nice car, maintaining our privilege. But never looking beyond ourselves. – But the highest form of life is to have taken our strengths and opportunities to build something, and be used them for the benefit of others.
– Our goal should be to want to get to place where life has meaning because you are using your gifts for others and in doing so have invested the totality of your life well… – Let me say that again, you have invested the totality of your life well. Or you’ve had a crack!
So let’s have a look at this passage and get some insights into what Jesus is saying about the Kingdom of heaven!
– A quick recap of the story.
– 3 servants are given 5, 2 and 1 bags of gold while their master goes away. – On his return the first two servants have doubled what they were entrusted with and are rewarded for being good stewards of their wealth.
– The final servant though buries his bag of gold and has nothing to show with what he was entrusted with. He is punished and called a wicked and lazy servant.
– So some insights into this parable…
I think it is fair to say, that the wealth entrusted to the servants, is about what we do with our money, but more broadly, it is about what we do with our life.
– The NT scholar David Wenham points out, the Greek word is talanta which was the equivalent to the wages of a working man for 10 years!
– So for the first servant, the Master is giving one hundred years worth of income in one go! – So this is about a life’s worth or value, about what you do with all that God has entrusted you with. Wenham says “this is about how we spend our lives”
– And our Master who is our Heavenly Father, has given all of us incredible gifts and wealth and opportunities.
– And while not everyone is given by God the same life choices and opportunities, we all are given things to do according to our abilities.
So the first two servants have the same attitude to what they were given. – It is sometimes easy to fall into the trap of playing the comparison game. You know… “but so and so was given so much more in life than me.”
– I think of my own life. It has in one sense been ridiculous the opportunities that have been given to me.
– I compare that to my friend Fred in Kenya who is doing great, but there are so many hurdles to achieving what he could in his life.
– But what is important in this parable, is not the fairness of life’s opportunities or giftings or blessings… but what we do with what we have been given by God.
And so the first two invest their wealth wisely. They invest their lives wisely and bring a great return from what they have been given.
– To whom much is given… much is required… and they pass the test of faithfulness. – And it is emphasised, that for those who were good investors, they will be entrusted with even more responsibility.
And you often see this don’t you.
– Just as those who squander what they have aren’t usually given more to squander… – Those who invest their lives wisely often have an array of opportunities opened up to them.
– Don Flow has ended up on boards of universities, he has developed properties, he has initiated programs for disadvantaged youths and programs to keep entrepreneurial from his town staying in their local areas.
– He has become a man of influence, overtly Christian, for good, for the kingdom of God. – To whom much is given, much is required, and to those found faithful, more will be given!
The final servant on the other hand is lazy and wicked. He treads water… He neither loses the wealth, nor gains more wealth.
– He buries what is entrusted to him, never allowing the opportunity for growth or multiplication with his life.
– This servant is reprimanded for not doing what was expected of him – called wicked, lazy and useless… clearly the Master is not into falsely building this guys self esteem – And this shows the need for work and productivity with what you are entrusted with as opposed to laziness and timidity
– This is like Matthew 5:15 and hiding your lamp under a bowl. Use what God has given you. Let your light shine! Have a crack!
Now just as an aside, it is interesting to me how many of Jesus parables are about the growth and spread of the kingdom.
– Yeast that spreads through dough
– A small seed that is planted and grows to become one of the largest trees where all the birds of the air can come and find a home.
– Seed that is scattered and meant to produce a crop of a hundred fold.
– A banquet where more and more people are to be invited.
And so if we are to think of our lives in kingdom terms, we should not shy away from wanting to see the kingdom of God coming though how we invest our lives.
– One of the blessings of the Reframe Course has been the way it talks about the other 6 days of our lives… not just Sundays.
– It isn’t that church isn’t important, it isn’t that evangelism isn’t important, it isn’t that growing in your spiritual gift isn’t important…
– But God actually makes us stewards of all creation. We are to participate in every aspect of our lives in creating resources, opportunities… being a blessing where we are.
Christians through history have always applied their Christian imaginations to this task of creating more just, more kind, more gospelised communities and cultures. – They have opened schools and hospitals, orphanages and youth clubs.
– They have created businesses that cared for employees and social benefit. – I remember being in Birmingham in the UK many years ago and visiting the Cadbury factory. It was a fascinating history.
– The Cadbury family were Protestant Christians, Quakers to be exact. And beside gifting to the world chocolate bars… which is pretty cool in itself.
– They were at the forefront of treating their staff with unheard of dignity and opportunities. – In fact they built an entire village of homes and schools and churches for their employees to save them from, in George Cadbury’s words “the evils of modern more cramped living conditions’.”
So what is the dream that God has placed on your life? This isn’t about comparing yourself to others, but asking, with what God has given me, and what am I doing to steward it well.
Let’s just consider 3 areas of our lives… family, work, church.
– Of course there are many other areas of our lives… recreation, health, creativity, friendships, finances, beating Sterling at the swim…
– But with a vision for investing what God has given to us in these three areas, what would it look like to steward the gifts in our lives when it comes to family, work and church? – Could it be said that the Christian life is about growing in responsibility with what has been entrusted to you…
You know in family, whatever that may look like for you, we have such an opportunity to live counterculturally and kingdom oriented.
– The template obviously being Abraham who enters a covenant to be blessed by God in order to be a blessing to all families on earth.
– And so with Christian imagination, what could your family do to invest what you have for multiplication.
– Maybe that is a great cause your family will get involved in, or being the kind of home that is open and allows other kids and families to be welcomed and blessed.
– Maybe you break generational patterns and sins and start a whole new family lineage that knows and walks with God?
– Right? How can you invest whatever your family looks like, to be used wisely and faithfully for kingdom of God?
And then consider work. You know we have already talked about Don Flow and Cadbury. – But again, with some Christian imagination what would it look like to not simply tread water, but to be someone who uses the totality of their lives as a blessing. – Whether that be creating culturally change in your place of work, or as a business owner taking Christian ethics and applying it to all you do!
– Your legacy with your professional career may be a changed direction of your industry – Or it may earning great amounts of money that you generously give away – Or it may be deep and profound impacts on the lives of all who meet you through your Monday to Friday, your 9-5.
And then finally, faith…
– Spiritually worth noting that we are to be seekers first of the Kingdom of God (Matt 7) – Expectation is that every servant puts what he is given to use for God’s redemptive plans of making all things new!
– Paul in Romans 12:3-8 speaks of the different gifts given to each and urges that they be put to use.
– Ephesians 4:7-8 speaks of Christ at his ascension giving gifts – “to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it”
– So as the kingdom grows, and the church gets on with the mission of God, how are you investing the totality of your life towards the growth of the people of God. – You have things and ideas and ways to serve and bless, that are unique and totally needed if we are to fulfil our mission!
You know here is the truth with this whole thing. With taking what has been given to us in life and investing it and sowing it, and using it wisely for God!
– As we step out, as opposed to sitting on what has been give to us, you never are really sure and you are never really ready…
– But at what point am I going to make a stand… to have a crack!
– You see at the end of your life, the resources you had are not your own – they are the masters… they need to be returned, but by gosh, I hope for all of us, we will have had a go, for God’s sake!
– Key: Have a crack – don’t tread water, start sowing for life you want to live… – And let the Spirit of God breathe upon your life and your faithfulness and see what happens.
So as we come into land… what’s the challenge of this parable? How do we go from burying our gold to bringing a great return to our Master?
– My guess is it is probably implementation of what you know God is calling you to do. – How do you transform inspiration to reality?
– The power of an idea is in implementation. It is overcoming fear and beginning to invest the totality of your life for something greater than the ordinary, pleasurable, Northern Beaches life.
– Success or failure is not an event… it’s the regular rhythms… and often the result of repeated failure
– And so we set goals, be accountable and start. We may need to take some decisive, immediate action.
Matthew 25:23 ‘His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”