14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 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. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
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.’” (Matthew 25:14-30)
“Why do we have to talk about money at church?” How many of us have thought that? Money should be off limits, shouldn’t it? Instead, we should talk about forgiveness or marriage. Not money! “Why do we have to talk about money at church?” Here’s why: Jesus did. Actually, Jesus talked about money way more than we do. Did you know that Jesus talked about money more than anything other than the kingdom of God? Jesus talked about money more than about marriage. More than about forgiving others. More than the 10 Commandments. Jesus talked about money all the time! Why? The way you use money shows what you think about God.
So today Jesus tells us a story about money. “It will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property 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 parable isn’t too hard to figure out. Who is the wealthy master who owns everything and has gone off for a while? Jesus. Jesus finished saving us. Now, he’s gone back to heaven for a while. Who are the servants who have been entrusted with blessings from God? Us. You and me.
I want you to pay attention to three details. First, does Jesus our Master give each servant the same amount? No! Some people have five bags of gold. Some have one bag of gold. God treats us as individuals. He blesses each of us with exactly what is best for us. Second, as God gives his blessings, is he generous or stingy? To answer that, you have to know how much was in a bag of gold. That phrase “bag of gold” is a translation for a set amount of money called a “talent.” Do you know how much a talent was worth? 6,000 days’ wages. So how much would that be? At least a million dollars! That puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? Even for the one who received just one bag of gold … was God generous or stingy with him? Generous! Here’s the third thing: Even after God entrusts things to people, whom do they still belong to? God! Those bags of gold were still the master’s. Your house is God’s. Your phone is God’s. Your kids are God’s. Can you keep these three things in mind? God graciously gives each person a different amount because he knows what’s best for us. God is generous to everyone. Everything still belongs to God. Got it?
“The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” Two of the servants got it. Their master was generous to them. Everything belonged to their master. So they happily put their master’s money to work for him and gained even more for their master. But the third servant? He went and buried it in the ground. Jesus wants us to think, “Which am I like?’
Because “after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.” Jesus is coming back. One day, we will answer to God for how we’ve used his money. Do you have that on your mind? “The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 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!’” The man with two talents? Same thing. They faithfully used what God had entrusted to them. God was pleased!
But “then the man who had received the one talent 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. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’” This third servant had a completely different view of his master than the other two did. He thought his master was hard and cruel and always taking. So he didn’t want to serve him. He didn’t want to help him. He did nothing. Absolutely nothing. He hid the money in the ground, then threw it back in his master’s face: “Here is what belongs to you.” You can hear the spite!
“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!’” Wow! Those are harsh words, especially coming from Jesus’ mouth. To not use God’s money faithfully is downright “wicked.” Do we think of it that way? Here was the result for that wicked servant: “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” If we misuse the money God has given us, where will we end up? In hell! Jesus talks a lot about money, because he knows money leads a lot of people to hell. Jesus doesn’t want that for you!
Here’s the key: The way you use your money shows how well you know Jesus. That servant’s real problem was that he didn’t really know his master. He thought he was a hard, cruel man. If your heart is afraid of Jesus or angry at Jesus or unconcerned about Jesus, you won’t be generous to him. If you are trying to hide or hoard your money from God, you don’t know who God really is. If you’re convinced your money is yours and God’s trying to take it from you, you don’t have a clue about Jesus. That’s the problem! For hearts that refuse to trust in Jesus, he says, “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The way you use your money shows how well you know Jesus. Can you see that?
Because God is not at all who that servant said he is. God is not a hard God who is always taking. God is a gracious God who is always giving. Think about it… God made you and gave you your body and soul, eyes, ears and all your members, your mind and all your abilities. What did we do to earn all this? Nothing. God is so gracious! And God still preserves us by richly and daily providing clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, family, cars, jobs, and so much more. Not because we’ve earned or deserved it. Because God is so good and so merciful. What really matters is knowing your Master! That makes all the difference in the world.
Do you really know your Master? He’s Jesus our Savior. He has redeemed you, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won you from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death. Jesus gave up everything for you. He gave up heaven for you. He made himself nothing for you. He lived on earth for you. He gave up his life for you to forgive all of your sins. He rose so you can go to heaven. That’s your Master! Do you know how much Jesus loves you?
Here’s one way you can tell: Look at how you use money. The way we use money shows if we really know our Master. If I think that God is a hard Master who is always taking, there’s no way I’m going to give to him. But if I believe that God is a generous Savior who is always giving, I’m free to give generously. That’s where generosity starts. With knowing our Master.
So what will that generosity look like in our lives? It will look different for each of us, because God’s blessed each of us differently. Some of us have been given a lot—like five bags of gold. Before you plan for that next cruise or addition to the cabin, what could you do for God’s kingdom? A pastor I know took a call a few years ago to a different church down south. When he got there, the church suddenly realized it was out of money. They closed their school, but they still owed a huge mortgage on their building. They were desperate. They starting talking about selling the building, even closing the church. What were they going to do? After church one Sunday, a couple that was visiting from the Midwest came up to the pastor. “We like visiting your church. We love seeing God’s work here. How much is this mortgage that you’re struggling to pay?” “It’s a lot,” the pastor said. “It’s $1.1 million.” The couple said, “We’ll take care of it.” Before he could respond, they said, “And we hear you need a new roof and air conditioning too. If you add that on, how much would it be?” “$1.4 million.” “We’ll take care of it.” They sent him a personal check, paid their entire debt, and allowed that church to keep telling people about Jesus. How could they give so much? They knew their Master. What’s Jesus concerned about? Saving people’s souls! If you’ve been blessed with a lot, what could you do for God’s kingdom?
Some of us haven’t been given so much. In fact, we feel like we haven’t been given much at all. Maybe you’re tempted to think you have nothing to give. You do! I think of a woman named Alicia. She is the poorest person I know. She was a member of our church in Minnesota. Her husband abandoned her with four little children. She didn’t have the right paperwork to get a real job, so she tried to survive on around $400 a month. When I would visit her in winter, there usually wasn’t running water in her trailer because the pipes always froze. But here’s one more thing: Alicia is the most generous person I’ve ever met. Always caring. Always giving. I’d sit with her at her kitchen table, and she would say, “God is so good to me.” I’d be thinking, “What are you talking about? You don’t have anything!” “God is so good to me.” Sometimes I would bring her food, but I would always leave with more than what I came with. She had been blessed with just a little, but she knew her Master, and so she knew she had so much to be thankful for. So she gave, generously. You still have something to give, because God’s given you everything.
Most of us probably fall in the middle. Like the servant with the two bags of gold. Maybe you don’t have $1.4 million to give to a building project, but I bet you do have running water in your house. Actually, for us in the middle class in America, we have been blessed by God with more than just about anybody in the history of the world. So here’s what the Bible encourages, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Your generous, weekly offerings are the way God’s Word gets shared in our congregation. Here at our church, we use $15,000 every week to support our ministry. People sometimes think that’s for keeping the lights on and paying for heat. To be honest, it doesn’t cost much to keep lights on and pay for heat. What’s costs a lot is people. To have pastors… To have teachers… Your generous weekly gifts allow us to share God’s Word.
Because if you know your Master, you know what’s on his heart. It’s not the Packers. Not cars or vacations. Do you know what’s always on Jesus’ mind? People. People whom he died to save. People whom he loves dearly. People like you. People like the 2/3 of the people in Green Bay who aren’t involved in any church. He wants everyone to believe in Jesus. What’s on God’s mind is always people. When you really know your Master, that’s going to be on your mind too. So here’s a challenge for you—10 for 10. Would you be willing to try trusting Jesus and giving at least 10% of your income to him each week for 10 weeks? Giving a percentage means you don’t have to compare with anyone else. You give in proportion to what God’s given you. Whether that’s a lot or a little, would you try giving 10% or more back to God for 10 weeks? You know Jesus’ grace to you. You trust in his salvation. Can you trust him, even with money?
There was a man who really knew his Master: King David. He was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). David knew God’s grace. God chose him as a shepherd boy to be the king of Israel! Even more, David knew God’s forgiveness for sins like murder and adultery. So when it came to money, David couldn’t wait to give. Do you know how much he gave to build God’s temple? $5 billion dollars. I bet that was more than 10%! Do you know what he said? “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (2 Chronicles 29:14). What matters is knowing your master… What can you do with what God’s given to you?