June 25, 2013

Blessed* How Dependable Are You?


If you could have any super power which one would want?

Maybe you would like to fly like Superman?
Have the the cool gadgets like Batman?
Wolverine with the really cool spikes
Wonder Woman with the Lasso of Truth

No body wants anything Aquaman has to offer.

I alway thought being able to shoot webs from your wrists would come in really handy...especially as you got more accurate with aiming at the mouths of people you want to have keep a bit more quiet.

“Kids! Shut up!”

It would be awesome!

It is probably a good thing people, like me, don’t have super-powers because I’m sure that I’m not mature enough or responsible enough to use them wisely. I would get myself in trouble way too often.

In fact, one of the main tensions in almost every superhero movie is the internal struggle of the superhero...struggling with how to use the power he/she has without using it for their own gain or allowing it to corrupt them.

No movie demonstrates this better than Spiderman!


“With great power comes great responsibility!” What a great line, and what a great truth for all of us. Jesus says the same thing in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

This is our last message in the series called Blessed*. And I hope we are to the place where we recognize that we are extremely blessed people. God loves us and has lavished on us some amazing blessings; even if we are not financially well off. We have financial blessing, we have relational blessings, we have character blessing, and ultimately we have salvation as a blessing...but these blessings come with great responsibility.

This morning we are going to walk through a passage known as the Parable of the Talents to explore this idea that Our Blessing is a Responsibility a little deeper

Let’s break it down as we go through it...

Matthew 25:14-16,
“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 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.”

This is the 2nd of 3 stories Jesus tells his disciples as He is preparing for his crucifixion. All 3 stories have a similar theme...those who are left waiting for the return have a responsibility while they wait. They are also written in the context of eschatology. That is a fancy word not just for the end times, but for where, ultimately, everything is headed and what will happen when Jesus returns.

Jesus talks a lot about eschatology, where this whole thing is headed, but talks very little about what it will actually look like. Of course you would think it the other way around if you read too many pop Christian books. Jesus wants his disciples to understand several things. 1. He is going away for awhile. 2. He will return. 3. While He is gone His disciples, and us, are to carry on the work He started. 4. When He returns He will complete the work He has started and we have been doing in His absence.

And it is in pursuit of doing what we have been left to do that we come to this passage.

In some of the older translations this is known as the Parable of the Talents because they use the word talent, a form of money, instead of “bags of gold” like this newer NIV translation. Through the years this has caused some misunderstanding. People saw the word talent and automatically jump to the idea of talents and abilities, but this parable is looking not just at our talents and abilities but at something deeper as well.

The master is going away and entrusts these three servants with something very valuable. A talent was worth about 20 years of the average laborer’s wages. So we are looking at 160 years worth of money. In 2009 the average income for a family in Huber Heights was around $50,000. In Riverside it was about $40,000. In Vandalia it was $47,000. Dayton was about $30,000. So this master has entrusted these three with somewhere between $7-8 million of his money!

So this is not just on our talents and abilities. The Master has entrusted something VERY valuable to his servants.

When we combine the value of what the Master entrusts to his servants in the story Jesus’ placement of this story in its eschatological context we see that Our Blessings...Everything God has given us...it of the ultimate value!

And...

We are caretakers of God’s property.
God has given us something of great value. Our blessings, our privileges as Americans, our talents, abilities, money, our very lives are all blessings from God that He has entrusted to us...

Our passage says the Master called his servants and  entrusted his wealth to them.

I felt drawn to that word...entrusted...we entrust or give over something to somebody expecting them to take care of what we have given them because it is valuable to us. We use that word to give emphasis to our expectation that they will treat what we have given them with extra care and attention...

I am entrusting my car to you...

I am entrusting my family to you...

I am entrusting my life to you...

This passage reminds us that all God has given us is His, it is valuable and it has been entrusted into our care. We are the caretakers God has left in charge of some pretty valuable things, and that carries with it some great responsibility.

Do you remember how you felt when someone really trusted you for the first time? I remember the weight of responsibility I felt when a guy in my church asked me to house sit while he and his family was on vacation. I wanted to make sure that everything went well. I took extra precautions to clean up after myself and make sure everything stayed in order.

God has given us all these blessings, entrusted them to our care, but ultimately they are His. Our finances, our talents, our abilities, our spiritual gifts, all of our resources...

But let’s be honest,

We all start from different places.
Matthew 25:15-18
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. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

It is a reality that life isn’t fair. Each one of us are born with different stations in life. Some have a really good head start. Others...not so much. None of us are have the same spiritual gifting. Some of us have talent out the wazoo, and others of us are just lucky if we can put a complete sentence together.

And it is so easy to become jealous and envious of those around us who are extremely gifted. I look at people who are able to sing, play an instrument, preach amazing sermons, plant a church that grows to 2,000 people, compete on a competitive athletic team, and still have time for a book deal, travel, and an amazing family...and it is easy to think...wow! I’m such a loser compared to that!

Everyone of us starts at a different place, but this parable reminds us our starting point is irrelevant. God’s expectations are not based on where we start. His expectations are based on what we do with what we have.

Notice how our passage talks about the servants. It says servants 1 and 2 went at once and put his money to work. “At once” or in the Greek Euthus...that is Matthew’s code word for saying they went out obediently and did what was expected. Servant 1 who had 5 bags and Servant 2 who had 2 bags didn’t quibble over who had more bags and why...they simply went out and started using what they had to add value to the Master’s estate.

But Servant 3...he was a different story. Rather than attempt anything with the Master’s money he simply buries it and waits for the Master’s return. Burying valuables was a very common practice for protecting valuables in that day. But we see in this story the Master expected the servants to us what they had been given to the best of their ability to extend his estate, and this Servant succumb to fear.

There are many possible sources of fear...His Master is a good business man and he didn’t want to lose the money...He was afraid of failure...Maybe he was afraid of the consequences if he lost it...

It is so easy for us to let fear dominate our lives and keep us from gaining all that God has for us. You see this man believed he was simply returning exactly what he had been given...but later he is judged for having done nothing. At the very least he could have put it on deposit and earned some interest, but he didn’t even do that.

So often fear will keep us from using what God has given us to extend His Kingdom. We fear failure. We fear what might happen to our lives if we give ourselves away the way the Gospel asks us to do. We think if I can just get across the finish line...Just make it into heaven....

Each servant was given the money based on ability, but when the Master returned, he didn’t judge them on how much they made he

We are judged on faithfulness...
Matthew 25:19-30
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.’

Notice what the master says when the first two servants are commended, “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!’

He does not say you have been profitable...you are receiving this because you made me money...Neither does he say, “Look what you did compared to that servant!” There were no comparisons.God says you have been faithful in putting what I gave you to work. You faced the fears and struggles, and you overcame. You have been faithful.

When it comes to the third servant, the Master calls him wicked, lazy, and worthless...even though the servant is returning exactly what was given to him. The Master hasn’t technically lost the amount.

Inaction, a refusal to use the Blessings God has given us for God’s purpose, is called wicked and lazy...that’s harsh. But it is harsh because so much is on the line. There is so much is at stake.

God is looking for faithfulness. His call is to follow and use the gift and blessings He has given us to extend His Kingdom, and no excuse offered will be accepted.

Matthew 7:21-23 says, “21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Our excuses will not stand up under God’s scrutiny...

But I had so much to do...I was busy...

I was not as talented as that guy!

I had so many bills that I couldn’t help out.

God is looking for faithfulness.

When Servant 1 and 2 were rewarded two things happened:

  1. They were given more! Faithfulness in a little brings more blessing! When we use what God has given us for God’s glory God gives us more, but when we refuse to use what He has given us we lose it.
  2. They were invited into the Master’s Happiness. This was another way of saying, this wealthy now belongs to you as well. They were invited to be co-owners. Their work, which they originally saw as only belonging to the Master...now belonged to them as well, and they were allowed to reap its rewards. When we faithful use God’s blessings to extend His Kingdom...it become our Kingdom as well.

Conclusion
I am always impressed with people who overcome their fears and use what God has given them to step beyond their comfort zones and extend God’s Kingdom.

I remember how Carrie and Vanessa felt when they first sensed a leading to help extend our worship.

My wife, Lori, has always felt like her role was more helper and support and hospitality in the home, and yet every where we have been she has worked with kids and outreach and all the other stuff that goes along with being a pastor’s wife.

We see it all the time. The person too afraid to speak with someone about their faith, finally takes the first step, and they find strength and blessing and their ability to share their faith grows.

The person who says, I can’t give my finances are shot! Begins to make the hard choices and allow God to work in their finances and takes that step of faith.

The person who has the beginning of a prayer...steps out begins praying for others.

Everyone of us has been gifted by God to take part in His Kingdom the question is will you use it?

When we step out and trust our heavenly Father and use what He has given us to bring Him glory He will bless that and extend our giftings and talents and resources beyond anything we have ever imagined. Our call is to faithful responsibility with what we have been given!

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