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The Parable of the Three Servants

Did you had $100 in 1986? The reason I ask is because I was doing some figuring this week, and I found out that if you had taken $100 in 1986 and deposited it in the bank – the interest rates were about a 5¼% back then -so today, with the compound interest, that $100 would be worth $390.41. That’s an increase of nearly 300%. That’s not too bad, eh?

But then I thought, well, then instead of putting that money in the bank in 1986 – what if we had instead invested it in a reputable company – What if we had invested it in Ford? Well, if we had invested that same $100 in Ford in 1986, today it would be worth $716.38. That’s a little bit better isn’t it? As you see on our little bar graph chart, that’s nearly twice as much as you would have made from the bank. That would have been a much better investment.

Now I know that some of you don’t really appreciate Ford vehicles, so you’re not likely to invest with them. So let’s say instead that you invested in another big name company – General Electric. That same $100 invested in 1986 in General Electric would now be worth some $1552.13. That’s a 1400 percent increase! That’s twice as much as Ford, and four times as much as the bank. If only you had know this back in 1986.

But you know, both Ford and General Electric are pretty ‘safe’ companies. They’ve both been around for a long, long time – over a hundred years now. What if we had been a little more risky and invested in a company that had just formed only ten years prior to 1986? What if we had invested in Apple Computers Inc.? Are you ready for this? Well, believe it or not, that $100 invested in 1986 in Apple Computers Inc, would now be worth… over $45,000. $45,818.81 to be specific. That’s just from a little $100 dollar investment. Isn’t that incredible? If you had $100 in 1986 – you could have done that!

But let me give you just one more scenario. Back in 1986, no one had any idea that apple would do so well, so they might have invested in a different tech company, maybe the Microsoft Corporation. If you had invested just $100 in the Microsoft Corporation in 1986, today that $100 would be worth $180,672.18. Imagine if you had only had the foresight in 1986 to invest $100 in Microsoft! We would not be needing to do this “Demolish the Debt” building fund drive! You could have just paid the whole thing off yourself with that little $100 investment!

Isn’t it incredible how a simple little investment can grow into something amazing! Well, that’s just exactly what Jesus is talking about this parable that we’re going to look this morning.

If you have your Bibles, you can follow along in Matthew chapter 25. We’re going to start at verse 14.

Now before we get into this parable, does anyone remember what a parable is? Two weeks ago we talked about how a parable is a parallel. It’s a short story about something very common and very familiar that illustrates a unfamiliar spiritual truth. The story and the spiritual truth would run parallel to each other – you can compare the two to help you understand the spiritual truth.

So this is what Jesus is doing here. He begins in verse 14…

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip.

That’s our hint to watch for the parallel. What’s the hidden spiritual truth we need to learn from this story? Well, let’s find out…

He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.” Matthew 25:14-15

Now we’ll stop there for a minute. Depending on what translation you have, where the New Living Translation says “bags of silver”, yours might say “talents” or even “bags of gold” or “a thousand coins”. So if you’re wondering, “Why the difference?” Let me try to explain why that is.

Today, the word “talent” means something much different than it used to. Today when we think of a talent – we think of some special ability like playing piano or juggling or something like that. Someone who is skilled is said to have a “talent.” But the talent that the Bible is talking about here is actually a unit of measurement that they used when talking about precious metals like gold or silver. For example, we measure our gold and silver today in “ounces”. Today an ounce of gold is worth around $1600.

A talent is a similar kind of measurement – but it’s much larger than an ounce. Scholars have had a hard time figuring out exactly what a “talent” was worth because its value seems to have changed in different times and in different places – but they figure it was roughly worth about 20 years of common labour. So if you were paid minimum wage for 20 years, much much would you make? In today’s economy in Canada, it would be about $400,000 over 20 years.

So to put that figure in our story, the first guy (with five talents or five bags of silver) – He would have about 2 million dollars. The second guy, with two talents would have about $800,000 – and the last guy would get about $400,000.

That’s a pretty good pile of cash. This master must have had a lot of faith in these three servants to entrust them with that much money. But let’s read what happens:

“The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.” Matthew 25:16-18

Now isn’t that interesting. The first guy goes out and, and using that 2 million dollars, he earns 2 million more. He doubles his masters money. We’re not told exactly how – maybe he invested in land or did some trading in the spice market or bought a business – or whatever it was – but he invested wisely and ended up doubling his money.

The second guy did the same thing. Using his $800,000 – he invests wisely and he too, ends up doubling his masters money.

But now this last guy, just digs a hole in the ground and plunks nearly half a million dollars in the dirt and covers it up! He does nothing with it. No investments. No business deals. It just sits there in the ground.

Now before you get all upset at this guy for being an idiot, put yourself in his shoes. Say your boss calls you up one day and tells you that he’s going to Bermuda for the next three years and while he’s gone, he wants you to manage his money for him. He plunks half a million dollars cash in your lap and he heads for the airport. What would you do? You’ve got half a million dollars of your boss’s money. What are you going to do with it?

You could invest it – but every investment comes with risk. Are you willing to risk losing your bosses money?

Well, this guy sure wasn’t. It seems he was a little fearful of what his boss might do if he lost his money, so He buries it in the ground to insure none of it goes missing. So now let’s see how this all pans out when the master comes home.

19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’
21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’
23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’
26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’
28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Matthew 25:19-30

That is one interesting story, isn’t it? If we hadn’t heard this story so many times before, I think we would have been pretty shocked to hear how it ends. The guy who plays it safe – the guy who doesn’t risk losing his master’s money – ends up getting tossed out. He’s called wicked. Lazy. Useless. Those are some pretty harsh words.

So if that’s the parable… what’s the parallel? What’s the hidden spiritual truth in this story? What’s the lesson that Jesus wants us to learn?

Well, unlike our parable two weeks ago where Jesus goes through and explains what it all means, He doesn’t do that for this one. We’re going to have to be a little discerning and work through it on our own.

So here’s what I want to do. I want to do something a little unusual this morning – so bear with me. If you’re new here today, don’t worry – we don’t do this all the time, but for today this is what I want you to do. I want you to take just the next three minutes and talk with the people sitting around you about this parable. Talk with your family or the folks sitting behind you. What are your thoughts? What hidden spiritual truths can you see in this story and how do they apply to you? I’ll give you just three minutes to do that, and then I’ll come back up and share some of my observations.

[discussion time]

The general overall theme of this parable seems to be, that God has entrusted us with certain resources. And He expects us to use those resources in a way that is profitable to Him. Now what does that all mean specifically for us? Well, let’s work our way back through the parable.

The parable starts off with the master entrusting his money to his servants. And isn’t that what God has done for us? Remember, nothing that we have is our own. Everything belongs to God.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” Psalm 24:1

Everything we have – our wealth, our homes, our vehicles, our families, our jobs, our abilities, our time, our health – everything is a gift to us – on loan from God.

And God has been extremely generous with us. Even in the parable, the guy with the least amount still had a pretty massive pile of cash – $400,000. God has been equally generous with us. The poorest among us here in Canada is still very well off compared to the rest of the world. I think all of us have a place to live. All of us have food to eat. All of us have more than enough clothes to wear. And that’s just the material things. What about the family God has given you? What about your friends? What about the talents and abilities that God has given you? What about your health?

God has lavished us with all kinds of blessings.

And you’ve probably noticed that He doesn’t give us all the same stuff. The master in the parable didn’t either.

15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities.” Matthew 25:15a

God doesn’t give us all the same resources – He give it to us according to our abilities and according to his purpose for us. To some of us, He gives great material wealth. To others, not so much. To some, He gives great musical ability. To others, not so much. To some, He gives certain spiritual gifts. To some He gives good health. To some He gives long life. To some He gives great people skills. But He gives us exactly what we need and exactly what we can handle – according to our abilities and according to his purpose for us.

And why does He do this? So that we can bring Him profit. And I’m not talking about financial profit – because as we already determined, God already owns it all anyway. But He wants us to be profitable for Him. We see this all throughout the Bible.

Two week ago in our parable about the four different types of soil, what did the seed on the good soil do? It produced a harvest of 30, 60, or 100 times over.

In John 15:1-2, Jesus tells us that God wants us to bear fruit.

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:1-2

In the great commission in Matthew 28, Jesus tells his disciples to go and make disciples.

There is this repeated theme of being productive. Make disciples. Bear fruit. Produce a harvest. God wants us to be profitable for Him. He wants us to be part of growing the Kingdom of God. He wants us to bring Him glory.

In my research for this sermon, I ran across an interesting couple of paragraphs in a commentary on this parable that I want to share with you.

What if the church were to be scrutinized as a business? The first question one would ask is, “How much profit did it make?” We are so used to thinking in “non-profit” terms that we are almost shocked to hear such a question raised. Yet is this not what our Lord is teaching us in this parable? God expects a profit, and He holds us accountable for what we have done with what He has entrusted to us.

Pressing this matter just a little further, if the church were to be considered a business and every member were to be viewed as an employee, how many of us should reasonably expect to “keep our jobs”? Each one of us needs to ask the question, “Just what is it that I am doing that is kingdom work?” “Just what is it that I am doing for Christ and His kingdom that is “profitable”?

That’s quite a thought, isn’t it? If you were an employee of Jesus, working for the kingdom of God – based on what you’ve done in this past year – would you keep your job? Would Jesus have to call you into the office and say “I’m sorry, but it’s just not working out. I’m going to have to let you go.”

Of course, that’s not how it works. Perhaps thankfully. But it’s a great question to ponder.

What have you done with the resources that God has given you? Your wealth, your home, your vehicles, your job, your abilities, your time. How have you been profitable to God? How have you brought Him glory?

Because as verse 29 says…

“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.” Matthew 25:29

I sure don’t want to be the guy who does nothing with what God gives me. At the end of my life, I want to be able to stand before God and show Him how I made good use of the things that He entrusted to me. I want to hear the words…

“Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ Matthew 25:21

Wouldn’t that be awesome?

So how are you going to invest what God has given you? If you’ve ever done any financial investing, you know if can be difficult to know what you should invest in. So to close this morning, if you don’t mind, I’d like to share with you five no-fail investments that I’ve discovered.

The first thing I recommend is that you…
#1. Invest some time & effort with Jesus.
Our relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important relationship we can have. In fact, the reason we were created, is to have this relationship. So invest some time and effort with Jesus. And there are lots of ways that you can do this: For me personally, I find that by getting up early and spending some time reading God’s Word and praying (and maybe writing down my thoughts) – it really sets the tone for the day. I don’t alway enjoy the getting up early part, but spending that time with Jesus is time well invested.

#2. Invest in your wife/husband
The Bible has lots to say about how to invest in your spouse. If you need some ideas, look at Ephesians 5 or Colossians 3… and once you’ve got those figured out, you can look at Proverbs and Song of Solomon. But make sure you invest a great deal in your spouse. Proverbs 18:22 says that “The man who finds a wife finds a treasure.” Your spouse is your most valuable ally on this planet. So invest in them!

Take 30 seconds to send an email that says “I love you.” Pray for them when you’re investing time with Jesus. Husbands, wash the dishes for her. Wife, wash the truck for him. Invest in each other.

#3. Invest in your Family
Now it’s Mother’s day, so certainly we are reminded of the great investments that a mother puts into her family. The sleepless nights, the diapers, the cooking and cleaning, the driving to soccer practice and ballet, the list goes on… And on Father’s day we’ll do the same thing for Dads. But I want to remind you today to invest in the rest of your family too.

1 Timothy 5:8 says “But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.”

When we were in Mexico, the family that we stayed with had Grandma that lived just down the street from them. And even though she lived in a different house, man, she was a part of that family. She’d come over and wash the dishes or fix us breakfast or just hang out. She wasn’t a visitor – she belonged.

And I think we’ve missed out on some of that in our North American Culture. Other cultures have their entire extended family all under the same roof. But not here. One of my regrets is that I haven’t invested enough time and effort to get to know my extended family more. Remember life is all about relationships. So invest in your family.

#4. Invest in kids
Not necessarily just your kids – but just kids in general. Jesus always took the time to invest in kids. He said “Let the little children come to me.” Make sure you say the same thing. We adults have a tendency to brush them off – go away – I’m busy right now. But just 30 seconds of your undivided attention, makes a huge difference in their life.

Gord, from Camp Little Red, anytime He comes up to see us or we go down to see him, he always has a little treat for our kids. And that speaks to them. That tells them that they are important and loved and cared for. That $.75 candy is a great long-term investment.

So invest in kids. Give them your attention when they’re talking to you. Take 20 minutes to go play with your kids and their friends. Get involved in a youth program. Pay the way for a kid to go to camp. There’s lots of things that you can do.

#5. Invest in Others
This includes your church family, your friends & neighbors, and even people you’ve never met. There are lots of ways in invest in people, so your options are wide open. You can pretty much take anything that God has given you and use it to invest in people.

For example: Do you have a firepit in your back yard? Invite a family over and use that firepit to build relationships and encourage them and maybe even pray for them.
Has God given you the ability to fix engines? Why not use that ability to tune up the car of that little old lady down the street – show her God’s love through that.
Has God blessed you with great wealth? Put that money to work – sponsor a child, support a missionary family or two, pay for a month of groceries for the single mom you know.
Has God given you great skill in baking? Make up a batch of cookies and mail it to that young guy that’s away at college. Put together a casserole for that family with the kid in the hospital.

Anything God has given you – your wealth, your home, our vehicle, your abilities, your time – all of your resources can be invested in others.

That’s why God has given you all that stuff.

So I hope I’ve stirred your imagination a little bit with these ideas. I hope the wheels are turning in your head as you try to think of how you can invest the things that God has given you. How are you going to be profitable for God?

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