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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:The Kingdom is Entrusted to You
Text:Matthew 25:14-30 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Calling

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 118:1,5

Ps 38:8,10

Reading – Matthew 24:36 - 25:13

Ps 62:1,4,7

Sermon – Matthew 25:14-30

Hy 70:1,2,3,4

Hy 67:1,6,7

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved, imagine that someone gives you a treasure of immense worth. Maybe a chest of gold coins, a rare painting, or a briefcase full of $100 bills—whatever it is, it’s something of great value. Worth enough to change your life in a dramatic way, where you wouldn’t need to work anymore, or you could help out a whole number of people. It’s that valuable!

So what would you do with this treasure? Do you think you’d “put it to work” right away? Whether investing it, spending, or donating it? Or would you first hide this treasure away somewhere, lock it up out of fear it might be stolen? Would you sit on it for a while?

Keep those questions in mind as we look at a parable of the kingdom, “The Parable of the Talents.” For here Jesus compares the kingdom of God to something of great value. And in this case the kingdom isn’t something that we find—like that other parable of a man who unearths treasure in a field, or who comes across a pearl of great price. But this is something that we’re given: we’re handed the riches of life with God, the message of his grace, and the confidence of living under his sovereign rule. So what to do with this wealth?

They always say about money, “You can’t take it with you.” But the riches of God’s kingdom are different. They’re eternal. You can take them with you—even when you die. Which means that God also calls you to account for what you’ve done. Were you faithful with what you’d been given? Do you deserve to keep it, or should it be taken away? Hear the Word of God from Matthew 25,

The Kingdom of heaven is entrusted to you:

  1. the master’s giving
  2. the servants’ handling 
  3. the accounts’ settling


1. the master’s giving: Like so many of Jesus’ parables, this one’s easy enough to picture in our mind’s eye. We see a wealthy man, one who probably had business interests of various kinds: he had some vineyards over here, owned some herds of livestock over there, some fields and barns. In getting things done, he probably employed a few dozen of the locals. And over these servants he placed still other servants—stewards who ran his operations.

This wealthy man was about to go abroad. Perhaps to earn more money in new ventures, or to visit his family living in distant lands. Whatever the case, this man is setting out for quite some time, maybe a few years. Now, whenever we go on holidays, we’ll ask a trusted neighbor to take care of things while we’re gone. They should water the flowers, get the mail, and feed the dog (if we had one). And this man too, needs to place things in the care of other people while he goes away. So he calls his stewards and “delivers his goods to them” (v 14).

Notice that the man doesn’t just ask for some insignificant things to be taken care of, like the flowers and the mail. He gives everything to his servants. He’d be gone too long to let things sit idle; his business had to move ahead and grow. And so to one servant he gives five talents of money, to another two talents, and to a third he gives one talent.

We’ve heard the term “talent” before. It was first used as a unit of weight; a talent described something that was about 75 pounds. Later it came to be known as a large unit of money. In the time of Jesus, a talent was worth about 6000 denarii. And one denarius was about a day’s wages for a labourer. So for this man to give five talents, two, or one talent means he’s entrusting to his servants a huge amount of money—the sum total of his property.

What matters here aren’t the exact amounts. What matters is that he’s giving to his servants those things that belonged to him, those things that were valuable to him. And he gives them his possessions “in trust,” for he won’t be able to keep tabs on what’s going on. He gives in expectation that his servants will take care of what they received, that they’d be faithful with their talents.

As we begin to study these verses, our minds might race ahead to the end. We might already be anticipating what we think this parable is all about. We might feel we know the main lesson Jesus is teaching here. Why is that? Because when someone says “talents” like in this parable, we think of how we use the word “talent” today. We think of those “talents” we have, abilities or skills God has given us. Like playing the piano, or knowing how to teach, or being an encouraging person, or being good at studying, or having a skill in reaching out to unbelievers.

So in the parable, we say, the master gave those talents. And in a similar way, God gives us talents—skills and abilities and gifts—and these are the things that we need to employ faithfully in his service. We have to be good caretakers of all that God has given us. Sometimes parents or teachers or elders will even say this, “Don’t just dig a hole and bury your talent in the ground. Don’t waste what God has given to you. You have use your talent and opportunity for something productive.”

And that’s all very true. Think of 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul speaks of the spiritual gifts that the Spirit distributes in the church. He says that to one Christian, God gives wisdom. To another, faith. To another, knowledge. Elsewhere the Spirit speaks of the gifts of teaching or showing mercy or prophesying. “All these,” says the apostle, “are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Cor 12:11). God does equip us all with differing gifts to serve him. It’s a great privilege we have, and responsibility.

And yet Jesus’ lesson in this parable is something different. It’s even more fundamental to our life, more basic, than any teaching about our God-given abilities and talents. Let me explain how we can know this.

First is context. Someone once said that good real estate agents and good Bible students both emphasize the same thing: Location, location, location! And it’s the context—where this text is located—that points us to the real meaning of this “Parable of the Talents.” What’s the location? We’re nearly at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. If you sneak a peek at the next page or two in your Bibles, then you’ll see that Jesus is only one chapter away from the Last Supper, from being betrayed, from his anguish in Gethsemane, his arrest and trial. Which means that over this parable, the shadow of his death is looming very dark! We know it’s coming—He knows it’s coming—and things are getting tense. You can feel it.

And that’s why in all his recent teachings, Jesus is focusing on this coming, critical time. For example, think about the parable of the wedding banquet a few chapters ago, in chapter 22. What was the urgency there? Jesus says how important it is to RSVP to the king’s invitation, sooner rather than later; He says that if we don’t answer with faith, we’re going to be cast into outer darkness. Then a chapter after that, Jesus pronounces seven woes on the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. And what He especially condemns them for is their rejection of the Christ. They were going to kill him, just like they killed the prophets. And a chapter later, Jesus goes on at length about what? The events of his return to earth from heaven: “Watch therefore,” He urges, “for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (25:13).

All of this shows how critical the next events in Matthew’s Gospel are going to be. The cross will be a “do or die” moment—not just for Christ, but for everyone. Will sinners notice what He’s done? Will they respond to his saving word? Will people be prepared to receive the bridegroom with bright and burning lamps of joy and faith? Or will our lamps be out of oil?

So here’s also what is going on in the parable: The Lord God—the master—has entrusted the message of his kingdom to Israel, his covenant people. In Christ, God has given everything they needed to know about salvation and holiness. He’d even sent his son Jesus to walk among them, and to teach them, and to die for them. So now, when it matters the most, what will they do? How will they handle what they received? Will the Lord’s servants be faithful with this treasure? Or will they waste it? Caving in to fear or carelessness or something else?

And now let’s see how we’re in the same position as the three servants in that parable—in the same position as the people of Israel in Christ’s time. How so? Because the Master has entrusted his most valuable property to us, his church. He’s given us the gospel of redemption. He’s handed over the Word of truth. Christ has even presented his own body for us, poured out his precious blood!

God has given you something that’s powerful enough to change your whole life, and to change the lives of those around you. In fact, whether we believe it or not, this message is going to change us. Whether we embrace it or not, this message will change us forever. Only will it save us, or condemn us?


2. the servants’ handling: When you give a job to some people, they say very little. They simply fire up the lawnmower, and start mowing. Or they get to the keyboard, and start typing. That’s what the response of the first two servants is like. It’s short, but certain: they get to work at once, and put the money to good use. As good stewards they make their master’s business their own, and work with diligence. Whether they received two talents or five matters little. They just labour as the master wanted: investing, buying, selling, and starting new ventures. And both of them see their labours rewarded with a healthy increase. They double the amount they received!

But the servant who got one talent isn’t so productive. Remember, one talent didn’t mean that he’d been shortchanged. This amount was nothing to sniff at—for anyone, this was a small fortune. Yet he is decidedly less motivated to do anything with what he had: “[He] went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money” (v 18).

We should know that this was actually a common thing for people to do back then, hiding their possessions into the ground. There were banks then, but banks sometimes failed, and they gave no guarantees for those with their money on deposit. So lots of people would just keep their money with the roots and the worms.

Yet what the servant does is wrong. This money wasn’t his own. The master had given it to him to use and multiply, not squirrel away. This servant didn’t work with it like the other two had. No, the servant chooses what’s always the easiest thing: he chooses to do nothing. No new investments. No tried-and-true business operations. Not even the smaller risk of putting the money in a bank. No, he went out, and hid the master’s resources out of sight.

And it’s on this third servant that Jesus puts the attention. While the accomplishments of the first two are notable, the third servant stands in the centre. Again, the location of our passage helps us see who this third servant is meant to represent. He stands for the scribes and Pharisees. He stands for the religious leaders and their attitude toward Christ.

Remember that for an entire chapter recently, Jesus had heaped condemnation on these leaders. Why? Because they loaded people with great burdens, like burdens of keeping the law in ridiculously exaggerated ways, tithing their spices and praying at great length. In their concern for the finer points and outward show, the scribes and Pharisees neglected the more important matters of God’s Word: things like justice, mercy and faithfulness.

And much more than that, these leaders failed in one critical and inexcusable way. They failed to point the people to the promised Messiah. They didn’t acknowledge him, though his identity was as clear as day. Jesus said that the leaders of Israel were even “shutting the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces” (23:13). They were getting in the way of what Christ was supposed to do: save sinners, and redeem captives, and give relief to those who were weary and heavy-laden!

Like that useless servant, the leaders were burying what they received. They were so concerned to preserve the Law. In their own words, they sought “to build a fence around it.” Their good concern for obedience had mutated into a belief that all God wanted was for them to keep the law—to keep every letter; keep it exactly as it was. With the result that even when Jesus came to fulfill it, they weren’t ready to see God’s Word transformed.

Instead, God’s Word was buried under all the weight of extra rules. God’s living truth was being paralyzed by tradition. Israel’s religious leaders, and many other covenant people besides them, did nothing at all productive with the message of the Kingdom.

So when the master comes to settle accounts, the third servant tells of his motivation in all this: “Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid…” (vv 24-25). The servant didn’t want to risk the wrath of his master. So he lived in fear.

Beloved, we’ve said already that the church today stands where the church stood back then. For we’ve had those rich and precious talents handed to us. We’ve received the glorious gospel of the kingdom of God, and we’ve heard the good news of Christ’s precious blood, which is more costly than all the gold or silver in the world. Now He expects us to be good caretakers of message. How exactly? By believing it—and showing that we believe it—by working for the gospel’s increase. By taking what we’ve been given, and seeing it grow!

Yes, Christ calls us to use his gospel in our life! To immerse it into every part of what you do. Put it to work, in your private devotions, and in your devotions as a family. Run your business, and do your studies, and manage your household, in the service of Christ’s Kingdom. Work for the gospel’s increase by speaking of it to your neighbor, by investing in it overseas and spreading it in new communities. Raise your children up to work in Christ’s service, and keep giving for the Kingdom’s advance. In whatever place we are, we’re called to multiply what God has given us in the gospel.

Yet like that third servant realized, there’s a temptation to be afraid. When God call us to go to work for him, the task He gives us can seem so daunting. Daunting, because really working with the gospel can mean making sacrifices. Taking it seriously can mean making a change: seeking out others for fellowship. Or confessing a sin that’s been hidden away for a long time. Or answering Christ’s call to a new task. These things are hard.

So we might become afraid, and want nothing more than to sit on what we have. Fear of criticism, fear of risk and failure, fear of the financial cost, fear of some discomfort—all this can lead us to sitting on the gospel. Just keep Christ to yourself—maybe see him on Sundays at church. For the rest, the easiest thing to do is to do nothing.

It’s safer, for if we never stand up for God’s truth at our workplace, then we’ll never be laughed at by others. It’s safer, because if we hide the gospel behind the clean brick walls of this church, we won’t have to struggle with bringing it other countries, or with sharing it with our neighbours. If we never talk about Christ with other people, then we’ll never be accused of intolerance. No, if we keep the gospel for two hours on a Sunday each week, we won’t have to really face up to what Jesus calls us to do.

It’s always easier to do like that third servant: Be afraid, and hide the gospel away. Yet that’s not what the kingdom of God is like. It’s not a place of fear and excuses. It’s a place of confidence and joy and zeal in the Spirit. And so Christ tells us to bring his message out into the light of day! Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, let it grow and let it produce.


3. the accounts’ settling: After he finally returns, the master calls his servants to give an account of their actions while he was away. The servant who received five talents had earned five more, and he received the master’s declaration: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (v 21). So also the servant who was able to double his two talents was commended by his master.

And for both, their reward is a promotion, “You were faithful over a few things; I will make you ruler over many things” (v 21). Though the money they’d received was already a lot, it was only the beginning of blessings from their master. These faithful stewards are raised to higher status. Still servants, now they’d be allowed to “share in the joy” of their lord. What does that mean? They would sit at table with him when he celebrates. Eat and drink with him. Identify in a new way with his success, and share in his blessing. Still servants, now they’d enjoy a close fellowship with the master.

As for the third servant, he too, appears before the master. And he presents exactly what he’d received long before. He gives his excuses, but the master has no patience for it. He sees this failure as it is, takes away what he has, and orders him to be thrown “into the outer darkness, [where] there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v 30).

I want you to notice how the parable suddenly changes scenes at the end. All along it was the background of a first century business, with servants, piles of money, a master and a settling of accounts—but suddenly we’re at the last day. For the servant isn’t just thrown out of the master’s office and onto the dusty street, pink slip in hand. No, the servant is thrown out, into a place of darkness, sadness and anguish. He’s condemned forever.

For remember, Jesus has been telling about momentous events, describing the critical questions that will be asked of us at the end of time. That’s how He began these parables in chapter 25: “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened…” On the day of Christ, all those who’ve received his gospel—you, me, everyone—will be called to account. So this was a warning to his own people. How long would they bury the message of Christ? How long would they refuse to listen to him, or to see him as Saviour? If they continue do so without repenting, then even what they do have will one day be taken away.

And one more time, that warns us too. To give careful thought to what you do with the wealth that you’ve received. in Christ we’ve all received a rich inheritance, the very gospel of salvation. And we’re all called to be busy with it, holding back not a penny, burying not a dime—but living in the confidence and power it gives.

If we don’t receive the gospel of the kingdom in faith, and if we don’t work with it—if we’re basically empty-handed when God asks what we’ve done—then we won’t be welcomed into the joy of the master. Those who do nothing, those who seem to believe in nothing—these will have nothing!

But those who cherish what God entrusts to them will be given more to do. And this new work won’t be a burden, but a joy. For when we work with the gospel in our lives, when we work with it in our families, in our community and in our country, then we’ll see how much it can grow.

These faithful servants will indeed come to share in the Master’s joy. We’ll always be servants, but one day we’ll be servants who are blessed beyond measure. For we’ll be servants who are allowed to have eternal fellowship with God our King himself. He’ll return to give us a wealth that we can’t even imagine, and we’ll enter his joy forever!  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2015, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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