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Sermon November 19, 2023

Pentecost 25 A 2023 Let Your Light Shine Sermon

Matthew 25:14-30

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

Money.  Who needs it?  I do.  You do.  We all do.  And even though money is necessary, we don’t like to talk about how much money we have in the bank.  Our bank account balance is a private matter.  Money is a topic that we do not like to discuss in public.  It’s personal.  It’s a subject that we feel is not appropriate to discuss freely in our society.

Well, let me ask you this.  What would you do if you inherited a large amount of money?  What if it were a very large amount of money, say 1 million dollars?  Or 5 million dollars.  What would you do with it.

Take a vacation.  Pay off all your bills.  Buy a brand-new pickup truck.  It is exciting to think of all the ways that one could use “the money.” 

But what if you did not inherit the money, but were given the money as a trust?  How would you feel handling someone else’s money? 

What would you do if you had someone else’s money in your care, and you were responsible for handling it on their behalf?  And how would you treat that money if you knew the rightful owner would one day return and ask for the money back?

Well, that is exactly what happened in our Gospel text this morning.  In our Gospel text, Jesus told a parable that we now know as the “Parable of the Talents.”  Now, I am not an expert on the value of ancient money, but I am told that one talent was a very large amount of money.

One commentary I read suggested that one talent was worth about 6,000 denarii. One denarii was the usual payment for one day of labor. At one denarii per day, one talent was therefore worth about 20 years of labor (assuming a 6-day work week, because nobody worked on the Sabbath).

So, as you can well imagine, one talent was a lot of money, a sum that an ordinary person would never hold in their hand.  It was out of reach for most people in biblical times.  It is still out of reach for most people today.

Our parable today begins “It is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two talents, to another one.”  Matthew 25:14

Each slave was given an enormous amount of money.  It would have been like winning the Powerball and standing in front of the cameras with a huge cardboard check made out to you.  It must have been exciting.  And scary.  And frightening.

Exciting because this had never happened to you before.  Scary because one would wonder how they would handle all that money.  And frightening because the slaves were not given the money as a gift, but to hold in trust until their master returned.  That sounds to me like a lot of responsibility to suddenly thrust upon a person.   

So, it is not surprising that the parable takes a dark turn when the master does return.  We are told that the first two slaves used the money they were given to make even more money.  In fact, we are told that they doubled the amount of money that had been entrusted to them.

But the slave who had been given one talent buried the talent in the ground, so it would retain its original value.  When the master returned and heard how he handled his money, he was not pleased.  And he threw the one talent guy into outer darkness, where we were told he would experience weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And then the master exclaimed: “To all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away from them.”

Wow.  I don’t think any of us saw that coming.  What is going on here.  What is Jesus teaching us?  Is Jesus saying that God will take away from those who have nothing?  And that God will punish us if we do not get a good return on our investments?

This does not sound like the same teacher who said: “Blessed are the poor” and “Blessed are the meek.”  This doesn’t sound like Jesus who turned the tables on the temple money changers or who told us not to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear, because God will provide for us.

This parable seems to go against everything Jesus taught and did while He was with us during His earthly ministry.  What is going on here?

First off, if this is a parable about money, it’s a terrible lesson.  I find it very hard to believe that Jesus would tell us to go ahead and take financial risks and not play it safe with the financial resources that have been entrusted to us.  And I find it even more difficult to believe that Jesus would tell us that the Kingdom of Heaven is for those who generate wealth.

Therefore, I do not think the parable is about money at all.

Some people have stated that the parable is about handling the skills that God has given to us.  Our creativity, our abilities, and our expertise. 

This, by the way, is how we got the word “talent” in the English language.  Therefore, some would say that the meaning of the parable centers upon our talents, skills, and abilities, and how we are using these God given gifts.   

And that is a good response to the reading this morning, but it doesn’t go far enough.  For you see, the text is much more than just how we manage our money, and much more than how we use our time and resources. 

The talents in the text today represent the Gospel itself.  The talent God has given to us is the “Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The Gospel of Matthew ends with the Great Commission which states “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19

Jesus will soon go away, and Jesus is entrusting His disciples with a “Great Treasure.”  And Jesus expects His disciples to share this treasure and go out into the world and spread the treasure around, preaching the Good News, and baptizing all people in the name of the triune God, and to teach everyone what He has taught them.

His disciples are not to bury this “Good News,” or keep it to themselves.  His disciples are to spread this treasure around so they themselves may hear these wonderful words at Christ’s return: “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”  Verse 21 

And so, in anticipation of our participation in the Great Commission, I would like to close this morning with all of us singing the Hymn “This little light of mine.”  Hymn number 677.  Please stand. 

Let us pray:  Heavenly Father, it is your will that all people might come to you through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Inspire our witness to Him, that all may know the power of His forgiveness and the hope of His resurrection.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.