Matthew 25:14-30 (Pentecost 25A)
St. John, Galveston 11/19/2023
Rev. Alan Taylor

+ In Nomine Jesu +

Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

God lavishly bestows His gifts on His creation. As the psalmist has written, “He opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing.” It’s humbling to realize that all things hold together by the Almighty power of God, and that, of all His creation, He has chosen to bless the children of men with extraordinary gifts. Therefore, we agree with the psalmist, who wrote, ‘When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?’

Indeed, what is man that God cares for him? The parable before us this morning, bears witness to God’s benevolence, as the master gave various gifts, talents, if you will, to His servants. While we’re inclined to think of a talent as an ability, or perhaps as a certain aptitude, a talent, in this case, was actually a monetary amount, and a large amount at that. In the 1st century, if the Talent was made of silver, it was equal to about 7,300 denarii, or 7,300 days worth of wages. If it were gold, it would have been 30 times more. Folks, that’s about 20 years wages, or 600 years depending on what the talent was made of. Either way, the parable deals with huge sums of money because the master gave one servant 5 talents, another 2, and another 1. And so, the parable is depicting the grace and the generosity of God as He gives gifts to people.

As we delve deeper into the parable, it appears that there are four figures that we should concern ourselves with. The master, of course, is God. And then there are three servants, one who received 5 talents, another who received 2, and another who received one. I’m going to suggest to you though, that for purposes of interpreting this parable, there are really only three figures. I say that, because the first two recipients of the master’s gifts are really only one. Oh, I don’t mean to suggest that they are one person. Rather, they are one in terms of their relationship to the master and their attitude toward him. One received 5 talents and the other received 2, but they both reacted to their gifts and related to the master in exactly the same way.

The parable is really about the contrast between the first two servants and the third one. That being the case, we really needn’t concern ourselves with things like rates of return, ROI in the financial world, and other such matters of finance. As if God is only satisfied with a 100% rate of return on what He gives. The parable isn’t about percentages of return, rather, it’s about each of the servants identity, who he belongs to, and the relationship he has with the One who gave him such good and gracious gifts.

The first two servants, having been given such exorbitant gifts by their master, went at once and traded with the talents they had been given. When the master returned to settle accounts, the two servants said, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ Again, the words of the first two servants are identical, except for the amount they returned to the master. The master praised the two servants, saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ The two servants recognized who they belonged to, and their admiration of the master and their appreciation of His care and benevolence moved them to gladly return to him an amount greater than they had received.  

The third slave, on the other hand, stands out in an obvious way. When the master entrusted to him one talent; he didn’t simply go; rather, we are told that he, “departed” or “went away.” He didn’t work with what was entrusted to him; instead, he dug in the ground and hid what the master gave him. Under any reading or hearing of the parable, the question arises pretty quickly: What made the difference between this man and the other two servants of the master? Why were the first two slaves so similar to each other, and what made the third slave act so differently from the first two?

Well, in the case of the third servant, he speaks for himself. His words indicate that he really didn’t know the master at all. ‘Master (he said), I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.’

The third servant acted toward his master purely out of fear, because he had in his heart and mind a completely corrupted image of his master and of his own relationship to the him. The master wasn’t good and gracious, rather, he was hard and exacting.

When the master returned, he treated the third slave as if he were no longer his slave. He could no longer have a share in the master’s possessions, and so he was deprived of the only talent he had. Further, he was cast out from the master’s presence. He was spurned because he effectively spurned his own master. He didn’t know the master’s character, and he wronged the master by his actions and by his words. Wrongly fearing the master, he did not live in any way as though he had been entrusted with his master’s possessions. Mind you, he wasn’t guilty of doing too little with what the master entrusted to him. Again, this parable is not about a return on investment. Rather, he was guilty of being unfaithful to his identity and to his master. The first two slaves, by contrast, accepted both their identity and their calling and they acted accordingly.

The parable’s exhortation is this: Do not forget who your Master is. And do not forget who you are. Ultimately, this takes the parable out of the realm of an ordinary financial transaction between the master and his servants, to being one about the overwhelming grace of God in Christ Jesus. You, my friends, are children of God. You have been adopted as His own in the water of your baptism. You are sons and daughters of the King, the One who created things and who holds all things in order by His shear power and might. Reflecting on that simple, yet profound reality, the Apostle John wrote, “behold, what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

You are who you are, my friends, because Jesus has made you His own. I have bought you with a price, He says. Behold, you are mine. Of course, the price your master paid for you is not silver and gold, but His holy, precious and innocent blood. He sacrificed Himself to give you freedom, freedom from sin and death, freedom from guilt and undue fear of Him.

“My Savior paid the debt I owe
And for my sin was smitten;
Within the Book of Life I know
My name has now been written.
I will not doubt, for I am free,
And Satan cannot threaten me;
There is no condemnation!

As you wait for your master’s return then, serve him. He has entrusted to you a life of relationships and opportunities and resources. Use your life for him and his will. When he returns, he will treat you the same way that he treats all of his children who serve him. He will say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +