“What’s Your Talent?” Matthew 25:14-30
Delivered to Church for the Highlands
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Even with all of the excitement of college football, it can’t compete with the Pee Wee league, seeing the youngsters fully suited in all their football equipment run out on the field. Only a few of them, though, actually know what’s going on. I remember watching a game where the quarterback managed to pass the ball to a teammate who actually caught it. Apparently, it was the first time he ever caught anything, given the roar of the crowd of parents who were cheering. The boy was obviously more surprised by his catch than anyone. So there he stood with the ball, frozen either by the joy of his success or by the pack of defensive players running right at him at full speed. He had no idea what to do with the ball once he got it. You can probably imagine what happened next as he just stood there with the ball. Have you ever been that kid, not knowing what to do with what you’ve been given?
Our story from Jesus this morning is for those of us who have been that kid, that person who doesn’t know what to do with what we’ve been given. As a teacher, leader, Son of God, Jesus was tasked with helping his people—Israel—to remember what they were given by God, what they were to do with it, and what account they were to give for it. Jesus rises to the challenge frequently with a powerful tool of communication —a story. We encounter his stories throughout the gospels, learning how skilled he was in creating them to fit whatever crowd and issue were before him.
The story we’ve heard this morning is about three servants, each given talents to manage by and for their boss. One was given five talents, one was given two, and one was given one. The one with five invested them and doubled his money. The one with two also doubled his amount after investing them. The servant with one talent chose not to invest it and, instead, buried it, reasoning that it was the wise thing to do since his boss was risky and harsh. He would at least have the money to give back to him when he asked him to give account for it.
Jesus concludes the story with the servant who didn’t use his talent having it removed and given to one of the other servants. He was then thrown out of the office and punished. The other servants were rewarded by the boss for their return on investment and trustworthiness. Jesus wanted the religious leaders and others to know that God had entrusted them with much and that they would be held accountable for what they had done with it.
This is an appropriate story for us today. I believe Jesus would tell it to us in much the same way, wanting us to find ourselves somewhere in it. He would want us to see what God has entrusted to us as individuals and as a church. Seeing what we’ve been given is what this week of Thanksgiving is about—recognizing what we have as an expression of gratitude but also as an understanding of our responsibility. Are we thankful in that way? Do you and I recognize what God has placed in our hands? And do we know what we are to do with it? Our tendency at times is to forget, take for granted, underestimate, or even disbelieve in the talents that God puts in our hands. One of the duties of the church is to help followers of a Jesus discover what talent they have been given and then equip them to use it for God’s purposes in the world.
It’s great to recognize what God has given us, but we must also know what God expects us to do with it. God’s entrustment of talent to us always comes with great expectation. Just standing there with a talent is like the kid just standing there with a football. It’s a waste. Teresa of Avila wrote, “Many people neglect the task that lies at hand and are content with having wished to do the impossible.”¹ God expects us to take our talent and run with it. We are to do that by moving forward with it a way that is wise, productive, even impossible. If God has given you a teaching talent, you’ll find students to teach. If God has entrusted you with the talent of fixing things, you will find what’s broken and busy yourself there. If God has given you a music talent, you will find an instrument to play and songs to sing. If God has given you a talent for managing money, you’ll find budgets to balance and investments to make. If God has given you talent in showing mercy and compassion, you’ll find hurting and needy people. Our talent, then, corresponds to our tasks.
What Jesus would also want us to hear in this story is what God measures. Each servant had to give an account of what they did with what they were given. Just as the boss held them accountable, so God holds us accountable for what God has entrusted to us. Andrew Murray, South African minister, understood this and lived accordingly. He said, “The world asks, “What does a man own?”; Christ asks, ‘How does he use it?”² Knowing that there will be a day when God asks for our Return of Investment Report ought to make a real difference in how we live our lives, use our time, spend our money, treat our neighbors, live in relationships, and serve in church.
Knowing we will meet with a God who gives talents, expects us to put them into use here in our world, and then measures what we’ve done with them should be cause for great celebration and for hearing those words, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Unless, of course, we are the one who buries our talent.
- Teresa of Avila, Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 1.
(Andrew Murray (1828-1917), S. African minister, church leader, writer. “Money II,” Christian History, Issue 19.)
Audio of the sermon is here