A parable is a story that Jesus taught. The parable of the talents is what we’ve been using as the basis for this mini-series Reengage. I’m going to read from the older version. I want to just scroll through it and then we’ll get to the part that’s in the handout in a moment. It says, “For the kingdom of heaven…” Jesus is talking here. He says it’s like a myth. Jesus is telling a story to illustrate a spiritual principle, we talked about this two weeks. It is the story of a man traveling to a far country who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. It’s a picture of a businessman who’s entrusting his estates, affairs, and specifically his investments. It says he gave to one, five talents. In Jesus’ day, a talent was a sum of money. It had differing values depending on the kind of weight it had and the quality of the metal.
Some accounts of talent could be as much as a common laborer’s daily wages for almost 10 years. It was a significant amount of money. The term talent represented an entrustment. Over time, interestingly enough, it has come to mean gifted. When we say someone is talented, we’re saying they have this gift. But it goes all the way back to the entrustment. The gift in the parable of the story Jesus told was called a talent, that’s how we use the word.
It says that this businessman gave each one a certain amount depending on their abilities. The story says to the one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one. The talents were given to each according to his own ability, as he perceived it. Immediately, he went on his journey. The one who had received five talents, traded with them, and made another five. So he doubled it. Likewise, the who had received two, gained two more, also doubled his. The one had only been given one, went out and dug it in the ground and hid his Lord’s money. This is a slightly different version. It’s going to take a little bit more license with the story. It’ll give the talent a value of a thousand dollars. It gives us a different way of understanding this story.
It says, “after a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and he settled up with them. The one that was given 5000 to five talents, showed up and showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him, “good work. You did an amazing job. Good job. From now on, you’ll be my partner.” The older version says, “Well done, good and faithful servant enter into my joy. My favor is yours.” The servant with 2000 showed him how he had doubled his master’s investment. His master said, “great work, good work. You did your job. Well again, well done good and faithful servant.” It was the same exact blessing. “Join me in my business.” The servant that was given 1000 said, “Master, I know you have high standards, hate careless ways, and demand the best.”
“I understand the kind of man that you are. I understand how you run your business and you demand the best. You make no allowances for error.” Here’s a key. “I was afraid. I was afraid of disappointing you. What I did is because I was afraid. I might disappoint you. I found a good hiding place. I secured your money. I hid it. I made sure none of it was lost. Here it is, it’s safe and sound, down to the last cent. I’ve got all of it back. It’s all yours, it’s all here. Everything you gave me, I lost nothing.” The master was furious. There’s a [inaudible] Jesus telling a story. It’s just a story to illustrate something. That’s a terrible way to live. It’s criminal to live cautiously like that. “If you knew I was after the best, then why did you do less than least. The least you could have done would’ve been to invest the sum with the bankers where at least I would’ve gotten a little interest. Take the thousand, give it to the one who risked the most.” Look at the phrase the way it’s captured. “Get rid of this, play it safe, who won’t go out on a limb, throw them out in utter darkness.” That’s the way of saying, put him into prison. The story is pretty intense. It is clear when you read it, that the real focus of the story is on the one who received one talent.
Jesus is using him to illustrate principles for His disciples. Firstly, for all of us who would be his disciple, what is a disciple? It is a man or woman who’s made a commitment to follow Jesus. Literally, it means a disciplined one. One who comes under a discipline. It involves more than a kind of tacit acknowledgment of someone being our savior and Lord. It may be what salvation involves indeed it does. A disciple is someone who makes a commitment to follow. Follow in the path of their master. Jesus is using a story to illustrate principles. Here are a few of them that we can be thinking about. I’ve got one that I think is really important for us and takes center stage. I want us to see a couple of things here and hopefully implement them in our own life with God for our whole life period.
One thing that’s pretty clear here is we look at the teaching through the lens of what Jesus was doing through the one talented servant. The one’s talent and trusted servant is first, it comes to how we define faithfulness. Faithfulness can be never be defined as staying where we are. This is really important because sometimes we might think being faithful in our commitment to God is like, I’m just holding true to certain things that I believe. Or keeping a status quo in my life with God. But He makes it clear that real faithfulness is never simply defined as staying where we are. There’s a part of this that reminds us consistently that God calls us to contend and to increase. At the very least we are to pursue increase.
One of the mistakes the fearful servant made was he made a virtue out of caution. He was almost like he saw that as a good thing, being extra cautious. Remember his phrase, “I was afraid. I was afraid. So I was extra careful.” Caution is good. It’s true, some of us can be quite reckless. There’s no question about that. Recklessness is something that can get us into trouble. Some of us can have a pattern. We’re all different, but some of us might be more inclined to be reactive, impetuous. We see a good deal. We can’t turn it down. We’ve got to act. Some of us have a pattern in our lives that we’ve established. We get worked up about something and just go for it.
Sometimes the consequences can have a real downside because we didn’t think it through. Clearly, recklessness and not being cautious can be a problem for us. Some of us may have a pattern and that’s been the way we do things. We would do well to slow things down when we’re in these situations. Many times we just want to go and act. Not only will we hurt ourselves but we hurt people who are loving, we love, love us, depend on us, are connected to us, or are affected by our decision. Sometimes, if our tendency is to shoot first and aim second, then I think we would do well to bring others into our conversation before we make moves.
Some of us have the exact opposite issue. Our issue is not being reckless. It’s being excessively cautious. Sometimes it’s because we’re afraid. Sometimes those fears are real fears that are connected to experiences we’ve had where we have either failed miserably or been hurt deeply. When certain situations arise, our first tendency is to be extra cautious, passive, fearful, reluctant, hesitant, or however, we want to describe it. In this parable, we see that his excuse is that he’s afraid. Literally, it’s almost like he’s frozen in fear. He won’t pursue an increase because of his fear. He was stuck in his fear. I was thinking about that whole idea of being stuck in our fear. It reminded me of something that happened when I was with my kids, well, three of our four children.
It was 15 years ago, so that was 2001 before 9-11. I always wanted to go up half dome. We would spend a lot of our summers visiting national parks as a family. I remember pretty vividly, my mom going to Yosemite and climbing half dome, the backside, not the front side. Here’s a little picture of our family. This picture is of three of our kids. My wife sacrificed and stayed back with our youngest and just let us go. We got up very early and got to the bottom of the backside of half dome. I know some of you might already be aware of it, but there are these cables that people go up half dome on and there are a lot of lines. You have to have a permit now, back then you didn’t. But they’re pretty intense. At the time, my kids were pretty young. Still, Caleb was 12, Chloe was 11, and Jake was eight. It was a real adventure. I must tell you that when I got to the bottom, there was this huge pile of gloves. Again, this was before they started requiring permits. I remember getting there, looking around, and thinking, there are not a lot of little kids here right now. The ones who were there had harnesses on. Their parents put harnesses on because that is one of the more precarious places to go up the cables. When rain hits, sometimes it gets very slippery.
That particular facing is where some people have fallen to their death. They literally slid right off. So there was an element of concern there. We were walking up and I remember I said, the problem was that when you go up there’s not a lot of room for those going down. It was always this really interesting situation where you can get traffic jams. Or if someone starts to panic, the whole thing gets clogged. I had my three and I said, “well we came this far, We’re going.” We started going up. About halfway up my daughter who was super brave and 11 at the time, all of a sudden just froze. I remember telling her it’s okay, this is going to be okay. She heard me tell this story at the earlier service, she was listening online to the live service in Ghana Africa, with her husband. They’re service teachers on a two-year mission project. She texted me and said, “Dad, you threw me under the bus you know.” She asked, “did you tell them why? I was afraid?” She said, “do you remember that guy?” I said, “no, I don’t. Oh, I do, I remember.” Because what I did was when she stopped was say, “Chloe, I want you to come back by me.
“Jake, I want you to go around Chloe. Chloe, I’ll be right behind you. We’re just going to take a step up, right.” She said there was this guy she remembers. She said, “what triggered me was this man on the very bottom and we were all looking up there thinking about getting in there. H said, ‘it’s no problem. Your family can handle it. You guys can handle this.’ What got me was he stopped up halfway in a panic, turned around, and started scooting back down.” She said it scared her. She totally froze. So we were stuck too There’s not a lot of room to maneuver. I saw, but eventually, Chloe collected herself. I said, “I’m right behind you.” The boys were right in front of her. We just started and eventually, she got up and did fine. The point was, there was that moment when she was literally paralyzed in fear. She couldn’t move. Here’s the thing in life, we get to these places when we feel like we can’t move forward. We’re totally afraid to go backward. Either way has certain precarious things to it. We feel like we’re just stuck in that place. Our fear can get the best of us. It’s not the whole point, but it helps in those moments to clearly not to be alone. To have someone say, “Hey, I’m behind you.” To have someone in front say, “I’m right in front of you.”
There are these moments when God’s going to want to teach us how to be courageous. All of us have things that make us afraid. I understand Chloe because I understood she was starting to feel panicky. That’s why she felt unsafe for a bit there. Then that guy who had been talking and telling her how easy it was, melting down, triggered her. She got scared. In that moment, it was hard to keep moving up. But she had to keep moving up. Indeed, there are moments in our lives when God’s going to call. What was the parable in the parable? Why is he afraid? I was afraid. Why didn’t I put it into play? Because I was afraid. Fear will do that. Fear will keep us from using the things that God has given us to pursue increase. Many times we get stuck. Do you know how much it occurs? Sometimes somebody else might say, “oh, that’s nothing.” But for us, it is a big deal. We need God. We need the Lord to help us again. You can say, “oh, they’re weak.” We all have weak spots. All of us. If the right buttons are pushed, certain things will happen. It doesn’t show up the same way. One of the things God wants to teach us is how to move into our fear with courage and to trust Him. We should trust the Lord all the time. But in fearful places, we really need to trust Him.
We need to trust Him to help us move a little at a time because sometimes we say, I just can’t do it. I can’t take the shot. I don’t even want to try. I’m going to fail. I don’t want to commit. If I commit, I’ll just disappoint again. What was interesting was he said, “I didn’t want to try because I was afraid I would disappoint you.” Sometimes we’re afraid we’ll disappoint ourselves, disappoint God, or disappoint other people. So I’m not even going to commit. I know I’m not going to do that. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to fall. I wouldn’t do it. So I didn’t even try. I remember what Wayne Gretzky, the hockey player, said when he was talking about the great hall of fame. He was talking about, “aren’t you afraid sometimes because you take shots all over the place?” He asked, “aren’t you afraid you miss too much?” He says, “no, you are guaranteed to miss a hundred percent of the shots you never take. You’ll miss a hundred percent of the ones you never take.” There is something about that mentality that is helpful for us. The idea is that sometimes it’s God saying, “you got to take the shot, you got to take the shot.” I don’t want to take the shot. You got to do it sometimes. I’m with you.
That leads right into, “Why was he reluctant to do it?” Maybe he thought, ‘The five guy. He can risk. If he doesn’t work out, he got a whole lot to work with. My friend with two he’s Okay because he can lose half of what he has and still have one. But if I lose what I’ve been given, then I’ve got nothing. I’ll be a total disappointment. I’m not even going to try.” That’s the mentality. The way he reacts in the story is telling us something. A second piece to think about is telling us that putting our little part into play matters to God. There are a ton of examples. One example that Jesus was constantly giving us we can find in Matthew 10. Matthew 10:41-42 says, “if you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you’ll be given the same reward as a prophet.” These two verses are pregnant with meaning. They’re far more deep and profound than they might be on an initial reading. There’s an intensity about this statement that goes well below the surface of what it seems to be saying. I’m going to emphasize one aspect of it, but it’s got a deeper component to it. “If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you’ll be given the same reward as a prophet. If you receive the righteous people because of their righteousness, you’ll be given a reward like theirs. If you give a cup of cold water, to the least of these, my followers, you will be rewarded.” Jesus said Just a cup. That’s not a lot.
On another occasion, Jesus said this about faith, “you don’t have enough faith. I tell you the truth. If you had faith, even as small as a mustard seed.” Small as a mustard seed, principally speaking, this thing could be dislodged. Move from here to there, it would move. Nothing would be impossible. Don’t forget how much power you have in God, to see things moved at a spiritual level. Principally speaking, this is a jar that’s full of mustard seeds. The reason there’s a whole bunch of them in there is that if I only picked one, you wouldn’t believe, you’ll just say, “oh, this is an empty bottle.” They’re that tiny. Maybe somebody in the front row might say, “oh yeah, I see it.” That’s so small. Who would think about what Jesus was saying? You don’t have to have a lot for me to work with. I can work with such little if you’ll let it be activated. I’ve heard people say, “well, I don’t have enough faith.” I say, “you don’t need, that much, that’s okay. The very fact that we’re having this conversation tells me you have enough.”
There are times when I’ve said, “Lord, I can’t make it. I can’t make it. I can’t make it. I don’t have enough. I don’t have faith. I’m going to sink. I’m not going to make it.” Oh, you can because you don’t need a lot. You just need a little mustard seed, a little small seed. Let me do the rest. You don’t need to get up to the top. You just need to take one step. I’ve always said, “All a step is falling forward.” That’s all it is. I’m just falling forward and trusting grace, the rhythm of grace. Another example is this moment when Jesus is in the temple. He’s in the temple, and He sat down. This is in Mark 12. “He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people.” This is interesting. Jesus sits down, goes to church, He’s in the temple, and goes to the place where people would give their tithe and offerings when they came to church. He’s watching for the Lord’s work, for the administration of the ministry, for the community to serve God. He’s watching. He sat from a distance and was watching how people give. It says here that “there were certain gifts that were so extravagant and significant that there would be almost a celebration in the giving. Great people gave great gifts and they were acknowledged.”
Jesus didn’t say, “oh, they’re awful.” That’s hypocritical. He didn’t say it now. Other times He did. He wasn’t opposed to that at all. It says, “Jesus called His disciples over. He basically says as they’re watching these people give, “Hey, come here. I want to show you something.” It’s like he says, “I know what you’re seeing.” They’re talking about giving. “Do you want to know? Do you want to see? Do you know who the true hero is here?” He said, “Do you see that? Do you see that woman right there in the section over there where they put the lesser stuff? The smaller gifts. That one, you see her?” “Yeah. We see her.” “The woman that no one notices right now, I’m telling you she is the true hero here. They have given out of their abundance. That’s great. That’s good. But understand that the woman who came and put two small copper coins in which make a penny. He said, “truly, I’m going to tell you that woman, that poor widow has given more than them all. She has given her all. They have given theirs, but she has nothing and she’s given it.” The Lord sees how we give that’s true. But He also sees things that other people miss. The little thing means something to Him.
She’s nothing. Nobody noticed. But Jesus noticed. Do you see a pattern, a cup of cold water, a seed of faith the size of a mustard seed, a penny offered in the shadows by somebody nobody even noticed? Another example, there were people flocking around Jesus. He was popular. He was teaching by the sea of Galilee, which is really just a lake, the lake of Gennesaret. It is beautiful and shaped like a heart. It has these beautiful hues and colors of light blue, cream, and orange. It is very pretty. That’s where the disciples, many of them were called when they were fishing. They were fishermen on the sea of Galilee. Jesus was teaching on the sea of Galilee. There was a huge group of people who were being so attentive, enthusiastic, and willing to listen to Jesus through the course of the day that He had a heart for them. He wanted to bless them. Not only spiritually, but physically as well. They’ve been here all day. They’re probably tired and hungry. I would love to be able to feed them.
He asked the disciples, do we have anything left to use, to help feed these people? They said, Lord, we’ve got nothing. How can we feed a multitude of people? There are 5000 men alone. On top of the women and children. Jesus asked, “what do you have”? John renders it, “One of his disciples, Andrew.” Andrew is not known as a great disciple. He’s not Peter. Every time you see Andrew mentioned in the gospels, he’s bringing somebody to Jesus. That’s pretty cool to me. There is no Peter without Andrew. Anyway, brother, he said to him, “look, there is a lad here.” Here he goes again. “I have this little guy.” He must have gotten into a conversation with him. “He’s got five little loaves of bread and two small fish.” It’s almost like he’s catching himself. I don’t even know what I’m thinking. Why I’m even bringing this up. What are they amongst so many?It’s just a dent, I just thought I’d mention it.
Little did Andrew know that little is much in the hand of the master. That was the impetus for what becomes one of Jesus’ greatest recorded miracles in all the scripture. He literally begins to multiply the bread and the fish to feed the multitude. That is the catalyst for it. The phrase, “but what are they among so many?” It’s like, what difference would it make? It’s so small. Does it really make any difference at all? I would say absolutely. It does. Look what happens with Jesus when He is involved in something, it changes everything. We might say, “I don’t know why I brought it.” Well, He knows. Many times, I think he’s reminding us that certain things we think aren’t a big deal, “they’re so little, no one will notice, no one care.” Who can say that God does not want to use that little act of service on our part?
The little margin of time that we’re giving to Him, the little thing that we’ve committed ourselves to Him, that no one ever will see, but we know and we are doing it under the Lord. I was talking to somebody in a Sunday school class. We had just come to serve and help out. Some little one opens up their heart. Some child, like my kids, did when they grew up through Sunday school and faith was put into their hearts and complimented what their parents were teaching them. All of a sudden that faith grows in their own life as well. But the difference that someone can make creating an environment for someone to learn. Well, that faith sticks with them all the days of their lives. Even if they run away from God, God’s never far away. He’s on their trail. Always. They’ve had that seed of faith planted. Someone was one to serve in a way that didn’t get a lot of fanfare, whether it’s welcoming someone into a church or just little things we do that create the bigger opportunities for God to do amazing things. Sometimes it’s the conversation we weren’t looking for that happened because we were there, serving with humility. God created something out of which came an unanticipated blessing that we could have never predicted. It only occurred because we were willing to do the thing that otherwise would not really make much of a difference in some people’s eyes.
But God sees. Jesus sees the one who matters to Him. We need to put the one into play. Here’s the other principle. I think we understand. These two are fast. What we do not use, we will lose. That’s what Jesus says. If we bury it, we’re going to lose it. Take the talent from the fearful servant. Give it to the one who turned the five into 10. Do you know what is lost when we bury things, we lose them. You say, “so little means nothing.” No, we lose all the good that was meant to come from that. What was lost was not the money. It was all back. It was the increase that was lost. It was the blessing that was meant to be and was given away because it wasn’t put into play. It doesn’t really matter anyway, but who can say what that little will do?
The little conversation, a little smile, or the little unexpected development that occurred because all we were doing was being obedient. Whether it was with a little of our time, our little act of service, or our little bit of love offered in his name, I’m telling you, a little matters. God reminds us consistently that if we don’t use it, we’ll we will lose it. There are times when the price of not risking is going to be higher than the price of risking. I think the parable’s conclusion is an articulation of a principle. Towns unrisked, neglected, and underdeveloped vanish. They rot in the ground for a lack of use, but the opposite is also true. This is where we will leave be, for when we are faithful with what we’ve been entrusted with.
When we use what we have been given more will be given. It will come back to us in ways unexpected, unanticipated, and not always proportional to what we were putting out and giving away. The question that prevails is, “What is the Lord asking us to put into play?” Some of us have made a decision to serve and put it into play. For some, God’s calling and challenging us about our giving. We’re giving way below what we should be doing for the Lord’s work, put it into play. For some, it might be that we’ve been given a house or something of a place. It may be a small place. Use that as a place to house something like a small group, put it into play, put your blessing into play. Don’t let it rot in the ground because it won’t matter anyway. It doesn’t motivate. Let’s not die clutching our gold. Let’s put it into play.
Let’s pray. Lord, I thank you. What you teach us is that the little matters to you, but really it matters to us. We don’t always know it, but I thank you for the small steps. I thank you for small things that often leverage out way beyond what we could have thought. The little points of obedience of responsiveness to when you’re prompting us to be courageous or serve in a humble way, those little things that open the door for you to do other things that are far more profound and unexpected. I thank you. Your way is not the way of our world and culture. It’s a different way, but it’s the way of life. I ask for your blessing. Let this Word settle in, remind us to put our gifts and service into play. Bless our time of giving. Bless our closing. It’ll be our closing word in melody offered up in your name. I ask this together with all of us here in Jesus’ name. Amen.