Sermon: “Our Generous Master”             

LSB Series A; Proper 28

24th Sunday after Pentecost; November 15, 2020

Gospel Reading: Matthew 25:14-30

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

One of the lines that Dave Ramsey uses for his Financial Peace University classes that we have offered several times here at Zion is this: “Live like no one else, so that you can live like no one else.” In essence, it boils down to the fact that if you are wise with your money, you will be blessed to be able to be generous toward others. If you don’t allow yourself to get into severe debt or you pay off all of your debt, you will get to experience the joy of living like no one else does by giving to others. These are certainly words of wisdom considering we live in a world where most everyone carries debt, and often far too much debt.

But did you ever notice that those that are generous truly do live like no one else? And they aren’t necessarily rich by worldly standards either. They just seem to have all the fun giving their money away to others, especially when it helps someone out in a time of need. And they aren’t consumed with getting acknowledged or getting the credit, they just love being generous.

That is the way it is for the master in our text for today. He just loves being generous. He lives like no one else. His gifts to his three servants are beyond exorbitant. To one he gives five talents, to the next he gives two talents, and to the last one he gives one talent, each according to their ability.

It should be noted that one talent was equivalent to six thousand days wages or approximately twenty years of salary. So, no matter what amount was given, these were all ridiculous gifts. Gifts intended to be put to use.

As the parable goes on to say, the first servant put his talents to use and earned five more. The second servant did the same with his two talents and earned two more. Each of them heard from their master the wonderful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Unfortunately, the third and final servant did not put his talent to use. Instead, he buried it in the ground out of fear for his master. So, when the master came back, all he had to show for his use of that one talent was the dirt covering the talent from the hole that he dug to put it in.

The master’s response was to give the one talent to the servant who now had ten talents, and also to throw the worthless servant into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This is a hard lesson for us to unpack, and it begs the good Lutheran question: “What does this mean?”

Well, we could easily get caught up in a lot of tempting things here. After all, why does the master give different amounts of talents? What does that mean for me? Are my talents worth less than others? What about the servant who hid his talent? Will that happen to me if I don’t use my talents just right?

As you can see, if our focus is not where it is supposed to be, we could easily lose sight of what God is communicating to us as we approach Christ’s return on the Last Day.

The focus is not on who has more or less talents, nor is the focus on the one who is cast out. The focus is on the Master Himself and His generous nature toward His servants.

We are His servants. And to each of us, He has entrusted talents. Note the play on words. He has given us talents and treasures to use to further His kingdom so that the good news of the Gospel may be shared.

Servants one and two are really one and the same. It doesn’t matter how many talents they have, the point is that they use them to further the wealth of the kingdom. 

All too often, we get into the trap of comparing ourselves with others. This is sinful, and it communicates to God that what we have been given is not enough. But the truth is, whether we compare talents or treasures, God has given to each of us according to our ability…and whatever amount that is…is enough.

That goes to show us that whether we are president, teacher, factory worker, farmer, pastor, corporate executive, office assistant, parent, spouse, single, child, or otherwise, we have all been gifted.

Each of us has received gifts of the Spirit in the water and the Word of our baptism. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. [Galatians 5]

In our Bible class lately here in the book of Romans, Paul warned us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. But rather, as a body has many members, so also we each have gifts that differ from one another, to which Paul aptly says, let us use them.

He says, if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; to one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity, the one who leads, with zeal, the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. [Romans 12]

God has gifted each of us generously, and He calls upon each of us to put them to use for the furthering of His kingdom. The alternative is to bury those gifts in the ground and not to put them to use…to hoard them for ourselves. To which, Jesus says there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth awaiting those that choose this route.

That’s because the person who buries their talents in the ground is one who views the Master only in fear. They only see God as one who condemns. Their lens they look at life through sees that God is only a hard man who drives His people and uses them for his own personal gain.

Perhaps you have been used and abused by someone like this before. No matter how hard you worked, it didn’t matter. Your master or your boss or whoever it was in authority over you didn’t care about you. You were just a piece of meat to them. You were just the means for them to get more for themselves.

Anyone who has been in that situation, whether it was a parent or boss or a spouse or a friend or whoever, knows the hurt and the anger that burns within when you just know you are being used.

That servant with his one talent thought that way of his own master. He thought his master only dealt in harshness and severity. Oh, how mistaken he was to think of his master only in his own terms.

So, it is with us whenever we look at our master and Lord only through the lens of the way the world works or the way that those in the world have wrongly treated us. When we abandon taking the Master at His Word above our own, we miss out on who “He” truly is, and who “we” are as His servants. And when that happens, we truly do miss out on the absolute joy there is in serving the master and putting the talents he has given us to use.

So, how do we change? Or better yet, where do we start? 

We start where it all started. In the Word, the Word that was joined with the water back at your Baptism…where the generosity of the Master was literally poured out upon you... where it had nothing to do with you, and everything to do with Him and His  ridiculous and reckless love for you.

In that very moment, no matter whether you were an infant, child, or adult the greatest payment ever made was delivered on your behalf by the only One who could ever truly lay claim to being a good and faithful servant.

Because let’s be honest: We aren’t good. We aren’t faithful. We do compare ourselves with others…all the time. We do think God hasn’t given us enough…all the time. We are ungrateful, and we are most certainly not always faithful. Far too often, we have looked at our Master on our terms rather than His. That way, if He is condemning toward me, then it justifies the way that I treat others. It justifies my burying my talent in the ground so that I don’t have to share it with those I don’t want to. (Pause)

But, you see, your Master and mine does not condemn. And He goes beyond just saying it. He proves it. He sent His Son not to condemn the world but to save it. To save you and I from our sins. Our selfish, unfaithful, condemning sins. To save you and I from sure and certain condemnation.

That’s why He came to be used and abused, by the people that should have treated Him the best. They were His own people. In some cases, they were His own family. Yet all they wanted to do was condemn Him. And that’s what they did. They condemned Him to death.

In the greatest gift of generosity, He shed His own precious blood for you…to pay the exorbitant priced demanded to save you. He did that for you. Not because you were good and faithful, but because that is what He is for you. 

“Though He was in the form of God, [He] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).

His generous gift is yours. Life, salvation, talents, treasures…it is all yours. It’s yours to rejoice in for yourself, and it’s yours to share and put to use. Each of us has been called upon by our Master to use our talents in the confidence of the One who is the good and faithful servant who named and claimed us as His own. 

So, who is it that needs to benefit from your God-given gifts that you have received? Is it a friend or family member that you have cut out for far too long? Is it a co-worker or neighbor you see could really use a friend and some encouragement? Is a parent, sibling, spouse, or child that could really use someone to come alongside of them and love them? 

Perhaps that person you think could really use such love is you. That’s the joy of being the Church. We are all a family here that has been gifted richly by God. We each have been entrusted with gifts to share. How might we use those gifts to build each other up and encourage one another? (Pause)

What a joy it is to know that our Master generously sent His Son to live like no one else, so that in turn, we may each live like no one else in love toward others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

          The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.