THE PARABLES OF JESUS: The Parable of the Talents  Matthew 25:14-30

We’ve been in a series the last couple of weeks where we are studying the Parables of Jesus. I have to admit,  parables can be difficult. They aren’t explicit in the way a simple story is.  Jesus at one time said, “I spoke in parables so that you would get this and others wouldn’t get it.”  They can be a little bit tricky to interpret. Parables are stories with a meaning, often to jar a listener into learning something new about the economy of the kingdom of God.  They were a bit jarring to the original listeners —remember, they heard them first—because they challenged conventional wisdom at the time.  Most of them have a twist or an ‘aha’ moment of some kind that turned that thinking on its head. So to understand parables, we have to understand the culture and dominant thinking they were birthed into, and try to find the principle within it and bring it forward into our day and age. Because they can be a bit difficult, I’ve pored over the parables and tried to find the easiest one, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today. No, I’m kidding.  Today, I’m going to walk through a parable that’s considered a complex parable.  There are four characters that we see, but they’re treated as three.  And there is a surprise twist at the end.

We are going to walk through the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25, so go ahead and turn there in your bibles or navigate in your bible app. The parable of the talents is part of a series of three parables that have themes of waiting for the arrival of someone special—a master or whoever it might be—and also a picture of what the appropriate behavior of the characters while they wait looks like, and all three finish with a strong depiction of judgment. And I’ll be honest and say these parables are fascinating and amazing to read until we get to the very last part.  I remember when I knew I was going to do this parable and I reread it and……oh, I really like it….oh, this is interesting….uh oh!  The very end is this harsh judgment part. It would be a lot easier to teach without that, but I think there is an important lesson in the judgment that we don’t want to gloss over. So what I want to today is to walk verse-by-verse through this parable, point out some things we can learn from it along the way, and then end with some practical things we can do to apply this to our own lives as we seek to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus. Sound good?

Let’s pray. Lord, today, our hearts are tender for you to speak to us.  Thank you for the Scriptures.  God, I would pray that, Holy Spirit, you would speak through your Scriptures to us that we might continue to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  In Jesus’s name.  Amen.

Okay, let’s dive in.  Matthew 25:14-15 —  Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth 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.  It was pretty common in the ancient Near East for a wealthy person to travel abroad, and when they did, they would designate someone to be a caretaker over their wealth. So we see this man pull together three servants, and entrust his wealth to them. In v15, we see that he gave five bags of gold to one, two bags to another, and one to the last.  Some translations use the word talents.  Many scholars believe a talent was equivalent to 20 years of a day laborer’s wages.    So let’s do some math.  Sir, how much do you make per year? Just kidding!  The point really isn’t exactly how much money it was, it was just saying it was a lot of money, a huge amount of money and resources.

Look at verse 15 again.   …each according to his own ability.

The Greek word used for ability is the word “dunamis.”  What word does that sound like?  Dynamite! One of the definitions for dunamis is explosive power. Think about it this way, dynamite has latent explosive potential, doesn’t it?  If you hold a stick of dynamite in your hand and you light the wick, what happens?  BOOM!  The word dunamis is translated a number of different ways:  talents, abilities, explosive potential. It’s like the Master here was looking at the servants for their potential, their latent explosive ability to do something with what he entrusted them with. Here’s the truth: God looks at every person not just at who they are today, but for the potential He created in them to have. The bottom line is that God’s kingdom is expanding and at work, and He invites all of us to partner with Him in this, and expects us to leverage who we are for his good work.

Because we’re human, it’s pretty easy to look at someone else and the things they’ve been entrusted with, and to compare.  He has better hair than me.  She sings better than me.  He makes more money, he has more stuff than I do.  Or this sentence:  I wish I were more like….fill in the blank.  Who’s with me? We can get so caught up in the comparison game that we focus more on what we don’t have than being faithful with what God has given to us.

The other thing I think is really interesting is that the master gave them portions of wealth, entrusting it to them according to their own ability, and then he told them exactly what to do with it, didn’t he?  No, he didn’t.  I’ve never really thought about that before. He didn’t give them money and then give them a checklist and a lengthy, “Do this, do that” with it, did he? No, he simply gave them the money, and then he got out of town. Why? I believe it’s because he trusted that the servants knew him.  They knew his heart.  They knew how he operated in the world and that they would use the money accordingly to continue his good work. I don’t know about you, but God doesn’t always give me an explicit list of what He wants me to do with the resources He’s entrusted me with. Sometimes God does say do this, but a lot of times, God entrusts us with everything that we have.  That’s why when we give back we say, “Every good gift comes from the Father.”  God gifts us everything and that’s why we return a portion of that back as a symbol that everything we have is God’s.  But God doesn’t always say exactly, explicitly what to do with it.  But, I will say, the Scriptures are pretty clear about the basics, aren’t they?  Feed the hungry—We should do that.  We should clothe the poor.  We should take care of the widow and the orphan.  We should meet the needs of one another.

But what if we aren’t exactly clear how to manage all that God has entrusted us? I was struck by this provocative statement by Dallas Willard: “In many cases, our need to wonder about or be told what God wants in a certain situation is nothing short of a clear indication of how little we are engaged in His work.”  Wow, that’s a painful indictment. But beyond that, think about it this way: We should know the way and heart of Jesus so deeply that managing His resources well is second nature. If you’re not sure what to do with what God has given you for God’s work, press in to Jesus, His way, and His heart. Get to know the master and you’ll discover exactly what to do with what God entrusts you with.

Now let’s see what each person did with their money (v16):  The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.  But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.   I have to admit that, as a kid when I read this, I thought, “That third guy has the right idea.” Why? Because it was safe.  I know people who lived through the Great Depression, and hiding money was a surefire way to keep it safe…unless the house burned down, of course. How many of you have heard those stories of people who buy a house and do some renovation and find a bunch of money in the walls? I just want to say if that’s you, don’t forget to tithe. Just kidding. The reason they did that is because it was safer than banks.

Seriously, though, it seems kind of risky for the first two guys to take the money and do something with it. You might even say it seemed a little bit frivolous. The Greek here implies that they may have invested in the marketplace. I don’t know if they started a business of some sort, or maybe they were on the ground floor at Facebook, or what, I don’t know exactly what they did.  Somehow, they put the money to work. First century listeners would probably have responded exactly like I did, thinking the guy that buried the money was the prudent one, the one that did the wise thing. The banking system in the first century was relatively new and there was great distrust of it. Some people believed you shouldn’t be putting stuff into the bank, so most hearers probably heard this story and rolled their eyes at the first two guys, and affirmed the guy who played it safe,

But remember, parables were designed to challenge conventional wisdom, to flip the thinking of world on its head, and for Jesus to introduce the economy of the Kingdom, so in a bit, we’ll start seeing how conventional wisdom was flipped on its head. Verse 19:  After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.  We don’t know how long this was, but I will say this, after an exhausting study of the Greek here, I’ve discerned that long time means……a long time.  A fair chunk of time. So the master returned and basically asked for an account of what they had done with his money. At first, we see the one with five bags and the one with two bags of gold report out.

This is interesting that those two characters really serve as one character in the story.  They did the same thing and the response from the master was the same. Look at verse 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.” 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 bags of gold also came.  “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two 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 master entrusted his things to these people to manage well, and they doubled the resources given to them. They leveraged their ability, that dunamis power, their potential, their understanding of the heart and way of the master, to double the impact of his resources. And so the master rewarded them in a couple of ways. First of all, he probably had a huge party, and they were his guests of honor. Who doesn’t like a great party? But catch this, he also noticed that they had been faithful to manage his resources well with what they had been given, so the master put them in charge of more.

The MESSAGE paraphrase (by Eugene Peterson) says, “From now on, be my partner.”  The Lukan account of this essentially says, “You’ve been faithful with ten cities, now rule over an entire region.”  Are you getting the picture?  I gave you just a little bit and you did well with it, and now I’m going to give you more responsibility, more ability to do that, because he trusted that their heart was rooted as his heart and they doubled their resources for the good of his kingdom.  There are areas of my life that I think sometimes, “God, why won’t you give me xyz to manage? I want more.”  I want more of this thing—like this car.  I’ll manage this car really well.  Or this kind of house or whatever it might be.  It especially happens when I see others around me having more than I do, and I find myself sometimes feeling jealous of what they get to do or manage.  If we’re honest, I think all of us have been there at some point in our life.   If I’m honest, I can point to areas of my life where God hasn’t entrusted me with as much as someone else, and when I reflect upon that, I realize I haven’t managed the small amount I do have well, why on earth would I expect God to give me more? It’s important that we learn here and do an inventory of our own lives. If you want more, if you want to manage more, then manage what you have well and stop comparing what you have with what God has entrusted to someone else.

Several years ago I was in Bangkok, working with a church there, and I had the privilege of touring the slums. They were on a small strip of land the King had allotted to very poor people. It was filled with tiny little lean-to shacks. I felt so sad that people had to live this way. Kids were playing with sticks in the dirt, that’s all they had. But the jarring thing was, as I navigated through, I saw people that had essentially nothing who were happier than most people I know, myself included! I saw how they cared for one another; how their life wasn’t all about how much stuff they had, it was about the community they lived in. They weren’t all about stuff that they had, they were about who they had, the resources among them, and they were leveraging that for the good of this tiny, little, beautiful community. It wasn’t a situation of, “Lord, why couldn’t you give me more like that rich white person there?”  It was them being faithful with what they had, including hospitality and kindness, and it left an indelible mark on my soul.  I think we should all ask the question,  “How am I doing with managing what God has given to me?”  I’m going to encourage you to write that down and to spend some honest time with Jesus, asking, “Lord, how am I doing with managing what God has given to me?”

Hopefully by now its clear that we have a responsibility to leverage the potential, the power, the resources that God has given us for the good of God’s kingdom.  But now let’s pivot a little bit and look at the third guy, starting in verse 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.  So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”    Wow.  It’s really interesting, if you pull back a little bit, to see the perspective of this third person and how different his perspective of the master is from the first two. Did you catch that?  He believed the master to be a hard man who harvested where he didn’t sow and gathered where he didn’t scatter seed. His perspective of the master was completely different than the others. You’d sure think the other two, if they saw the master the same way, would have been far more careful with the money they were entrusted with. Does that make sense?  It’s like they viewed the master in a way that gave them the freedom to invest his resources.  Maybe they felt safe with him.  Or maybe they felt like he really trusted them.  Or maybe they felt like he really wanted the best for them.  Maybe they felt like they knew his heart so well that they knew exactly what to do with the resources given to them. It’s clear from the Scriptures that this third man viewed the master to be harsh, unethical, and mean, so his experience of the master was birthed out of the way he saw the master.

I have a lot of friends who grew up thinking God was angry with them.   And that meant that their experience of God was that of an angry God, always out to get them. The hammer’s about to drop.  Maybe you can relate. Last week Ryan shared, “The way you see yourself shapes everything else.”  I agree with that 100%.  And I want to expound upon that, because, make no mistake here, friends, our theology of God will greatly impact how we experience God. Our theology of God—what we believe to be true about God—will greatly impact how we experience God.  If the Gospel is simply, “God is angry and wrathful towards us because we are sinners, unless we pray a sinner’s prayer and accept Jesus, it’s easy to form an opinion that “God is an angry God.” That presupposition can greatly influence how we read all of the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament. When you see people saying the Old Testament God was really, really angry, but Jesus came and now God can be nice, because of Jesus, that came from their perspective of who God is.  Does that make sense?

My grandma gave me a bible when I was 10 or 11, and I sat in my room and I read it, because I’m a nerd, from cover to cover.  I wasn’t going to church regularly, I just read the Scriptures.  From reading it, I formed the idea that God was loving and loved me unconditionally, and that He was inviting me into relationship with Him, into the family of God, so to speak. I didn’t know until much later, when I started attending church regularly, that I started hearing how mad God was, and hearing how much God hated sin, and hated sinners.  That was some of the language I heard, and it was perplexing to me.  It wasn’t until years later, as I’ve been a pastor for almost 23 years, listening to story after story from people whose image of God is of one who’s against them.  I want you to look at this popular meme that’s been posted:   Knock, knock.  Who’s there?  It’s Jesus, let me in.  Why?   I have to save you.  From what?  From what I’m going to do to you if you don’t let me in.   This is how so many people see God.  It’s funny, but it’s sad.

If the Gospel for people is simply a “get out of hell” card versus an invitation to the beauty of God’s kingdom, no wonder they have a short-sided view of their responsibility within the kingdom of God. I’m going to say it one more time:  Our theology of God will greatly impact how we experience God.  Some of my charismatic friends seem to have this insanely intimate experience of God.  How many of you know someone who is a charismatic person, or maybe you are?  I have so many other friends that judge those people for them being all about the experience of God.  But I’ve often wondered if the reason we don’t experience God fully is because our theology of God is so limited.   For those who experience God more fully as a loving, generous God, it’s because that is their view of God.

The first two people clearly viewed the master differently than the third, and their view of the master defined their actions.  They took risks and were rewarded. The last one played it safe, and let’s turn and see what happened.  This is where the twist happens.  Now remember how I said parables often had a twist that rattled people and shifted their perspective from the economy of the world to the economy of the kingdom? Now we’re at the point in the story where we see the twist. I mean, listeners would probably have been surprised that the risk takers were rewarded so heavily.  And then it really gets crazy!   Let’s look at the master’s response, starting in verse 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?  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.” 

Holy cow! What a response.  This is the verse that when I got to it, I went, “I don’t want to preach this!”  I love how Eugene Peterson, in The Message, words this.  He has this poetic way of unpacking this and I think it’s a great way to see it.  I’m going to reread this from The Message paraphrase:  The master was furious. “That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.”    Do you see it? The master never says, “You’re right, I’m a terrible person.” In Luke’s version of this, he doesn’t say that either. The master doesn’t say, “I’m the horrible villain you say I am.”   He simply piggybacks off of what the third person believed about him.  The master is essentially saying, “If you really believed I was that way, why didn’t you try to get some kind of safe results with what I gave you?  You knew I would want some sort of return, why wouldn’t you operate that way?” The third person’s view of the master was so limited, so skewed, that he chose to play it safe—to not live out the economy of the kingdom, but to live with scarcity thinking—and that caused him to be punished for it.

People with a ton of baggage, and we all have baggage, we all have pain, we all have child/family-origin stuff, we have all these things that influence how we see our master.  When we have that and we don’t deal with that, we view the world through the lenses of our stuff.  Someone once said, “If you don’t transform your pain, you’ll transmit it.”  Often we project onto others and we vilify other people.   I’ve seen people play the constant victim because they aren’t being honest about how the condition of their heart influences the way they see others, and they unfairly vilify other people, because of the lens they’re seeing people through.   We do this to God too, don’t we? Often, we make God in our own image of God instead of seeing God for who God really is.  Seeing God incorrectly can lead to a really miserable, empty, scarcity-oriented life.

Look at what the master said about this in verse 28: So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.  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. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.   This is some of the hardest, harshest language we see from Jesus. He’s essentially saying, “My will will be accomplished one way or another. The kingdom economy will be established.  The good news of the shalom of the kingdom IS going to happen.  Those who manage the resources that I entrust to them, I’ll give more to them.  But the one who lives with a scarcity mentality won’t receive the best of the kingdom and will be judged accordingly.”   Again, Eugene Peterson’s translation of this is brilliant:  Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.

It’s clear to me that God’s economy of grace, of the kingdom, is quite different than the world’s economy.  Hopefully you’re seeing that by now.  Read Ephesians 5.  Ephesians 5 is a beautiful passage of Scripture and Paul sort of gives instructions on how to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus, in a dark and hurting world.   He uses this language of “make the most of every opportunity, because the days are dark.”  He’s calling us as followers of Jesus to leverage everything we have to push back darkness and to bring the kingdom down here as it is up there.

So, I want to end today by unpacking FOUR things to chew on in order to be who God created us to be, and to live out the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  I want to encourage you to write these down and put them in your heart and process these in the week to come.  The first thing I want to challenge us to do is:  Make sure our view of God is healthy.   If to you God is the angry, mean taskmaster, I’d love to invite you to consider another way of looking at God, and the best picture we have of God is what? JESUS!  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)    What happened?  Jesus moved into the neighborhood.  Jesus is the best image we have.  I love how Pastor Brian Zahnd says this:  “God is like Jesus.
God has always been like Jesus.
  There has never been a time when God was not like Jesus.
  We have not always known what God is like, but now we do.”   What if we were the kind of Church that was so immersed in the life and teaching of Jesus, so familiar with his way and his heart, that we read all of Scripture through that lens?  What if we allowed the words and teaching of Jesus and his character to define our image of who God is and what God is like? For some of us, reorienting our heart in the way of the kingdom starts by changing our view of who God is.

The second thing might feel a little bit uncomfortable: Get to know who God made you to be.  I took a personality profile ten years ago that changed my life.  I always felt I was wired a little bit different than other people, and that people sort of put me in a box, and that drove me bananas.  I always wished I could just go to some kind of psychologist and they’d print out this report:  This is you.  I wanted to know how am I wired, and how do I see the world and why, and how can I best contribute to God’s kingdom?  Taking that test opened the door for me for some massive self discovery of what I was good at, what I wasn’t good at, how I could bring the best value, and what gave me the most joy. As I was reading it, I went, “Wow, this is crazy!”  So I started learning a lot about myself.  Fast forward a couple years.  I was in a season in my life where I was really into screenwriting. I was in screenwriting and film making and entering competitions and writing sit-com pilots and doing all sort of crazy things.  I had a friend of mine who was making this film, and he called me and asked, “Would you like to come to the set of this film, for three weeks, and be sort of our social media/documentarian?  Post on Twitter and Facebook about this and keep people in the loop.”  Behind the scenes, on the set, taking pictures and posting and getting people excited.  It sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?  Two, three years before that I would have been…hook, line, and sinker into this. But the thing is, I had spent so much time discovering who I was, and how I was wired, that I knew that if I accepted this, we’d both be disappointed. I hadn’t even updated my own blog in months. So I didn’t have to think about the right thing to do, I knew instantly it wasn’t a fit.

I’m still discovering who I am, but I consider it a part of learning to live in the way of Jesus with His heart, to do the hard work of self discovery, to do as Jesus would do if Jesus were YOU! I love the words in Ephesians 2:10 — For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago. This means you are beautifully made to do God’s good work in the Kingdom of Heaven, and I so want you to get to know who God made you to be so you can accomplish the good works God arranged for you long ago.  It’s clear to me that God’s desire is that we know the heart of Jesus and the way of Jesus so intimately, and how God has wired us so intimately, that making decisions about what to do with our time, and our money, and our finances, and our energy, and all that sort of stuff would be absolutely obvious.

Some of us have a lot of work to do to get to know the heart and way of Jesus and to get to know ourselves enough to make those decisions pretty easily.  I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years who have no clue who they are.  “I don’t know who I am.”  “I don’t know what I’m good at.”   “I don’t know why I’m here.”  Maybe you can relate.    Maybe, for you, you should take something like the Enneagram, or Myers-Briggs, or maybe getting a spiritual director or a coach.   I will tell you that our team, here at South, is really committed to doing our part to help everyone in this room and everyone that’s a part of our tribe become aware of who God created them to be.  We’ve been working really hard behind the scenes on some things that we’ll roll out this fall that I am losing-my-mind excited about that I think is going to help people discover who God made them to be, so they can partner in the very best way with God’s mission here at South.  Who’s excited about that?

So we should reframe how we see God.  We should learn to see ourselves.  The third thing is:  We should put our faith into practice  Years ago, I went through a bit of an obsessive time reading the Scriptures.  I listened to all kinds of verse-by-verse teaching.  I bought a ton of commentaries.  I did exhaustive studies of books of the Bible. I could unpack the Hebrew and the Greek and all this sort of stuff.  I knew a LOT!  One day, one of my friends took me to lunch.  He looked me right in the eye and said, “Larry, you’re getting spiritually fat.” As you can imagine, I was a bit taken aback.  He went on to tell me that he’d been observing this process and that I knew a ton, but that it was time for me to leverage what I knew into action—into allowing God to use me for His glory.  I will say that that conversation changed my life.  It helped me realize that just showing up and listening to great sermons and reading the Bible all day isn’t all that following Jesus is about.

Just like in the earlier parables, the person who’s hard at work when the master comes, who put in the effort, is the one who is rewarded. I firmly believe that the economy of the kingdom is one that seeks to leverage God’s resources for maximum impact, and to put our faith into action. So, Church, look at me. If God’s blessed you with a little, then use the little you have for God’s glory and for his kingdom. If God’s blessed you with a LOT, then use the lot that you have for God’s glory and His kingdom.  It’s not enough to just know a lot about the Bible. It’s not enough to just say all the things about God, or to just attend church. Following Jesus—living in His way with His heart—requires that we put our faith into action.   That we love one another, that we serve one another, that we put others before ourselves, that we stand up for one another, that we’re a voice for people who don’t have a voice, that we are generous and kind with one another, and that we seek to bring God’s shalom into every facet of creation for God’s glory and the benefit of every single person. That is us on mission with God.

For those in this room who say it sounds a lot like “works,” I really appreciate that, and I’m going to go to Dallas Willard again, because he’s smarter than me.  Dallas Willard says,  “We might say, ‘This is dangerous because it could lead to works.’ Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.”  Our effort doesn’t earn favor with God; it’s not about because we did all this stuff salvation is now earned.  It is simply the outworking of our faith and it shows that we are choosing to partner with God’s mission in the earth.

Our mission at South is to help people live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus. We believe that if we are living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus, we would consistently be growing in being with Jesus, spending time with Jesus.  We would consistently be growing in becoming like Jesus.  People would look and see us becoming like the Jesus that we see in the Scriptures.  We would consistently be growing and doing as Jesus did.  That’s the picture of what our mission statement looks like in your life.  We’re working hard and we’re excited to pour more gas on this to help you be very clear what it looks like to live in His way with His heart, to become like Jesus, to do as Jesus did, to live out our faith.  That’s the way of the kingdom!

Finally, the fourth thing is: Don’t be afraid to take a risk.  I’ve done all sorts of personality assessments and worked for a lot of other people, and there’s one ruling like what is your risk tolerance?  If you sit down with a financial advisor, one question they’ll ask is, “How risk adverse are you?”  This helps them determine where to put your money with investments.  One of the hard things about this set of parables is this idea that when the master returns, his subjects are asked to give an account of what they did with what they’ve been given, and they will be judged accordingly. And I think if we’re honest, some of us have squandered our opportunity to be used by God, because we were afraid, or because we weren’t willing to take a risk, or because we didn’t invest the time to get to know Jesus and His heart, and to partner with it. Or we simply don’t believe God can use us or that we can make any kind of impact.  One commentator said that the third character’s “timidity and lack of enterprise” is what caused him to be condemned.

Not everyone in this room is wired as an entrepreneur and I fully realize that.  We all have a different range of tolerance for risk.  But Jesus never preached, “Accept me into your heart.”  He DID speak an enormous amount about the kingdom of heaven being near, didn’t he?  And these parables were part of the way He illustrated what life in the Kingdom would be like, and it wasn’t a someday, maybe, kind of thing; it was a “the Kingdom is here”  kind of thing. Behold, the kingdom is near.  John the Baptist said it.  Jesus said it.  For a reason.  The kingdom is HERE, it’s happening.  It’s not someday Jesus comes back so we should just huddle and hide until Jesus comes back, that’s not what it is.  Jesus showed us His way, His heart, His kingdom, was different than the normal way of doing things. And for all of us, living in THAT way might ask us to do things that might seem like risky behavior to people who don’t get it.  Are you with me?

Some people are called to sell everything, move overseas, and minister to people around the globe.  God might ask you to do something crazy and get to know your neighbors.  God might ask some of us to befriend people that society deems unlovable.  God might ask you to go serve populations nobody else wants to serve.

I once left a church and an incredible situation to follow where I thought God was leading my family and I. It was a huge risk, and several people told me I was making the worst decision of my life.  But I will tell you, God showed up and did things in me I never imagined.  I love that there are people in this church that are uncommonly generous and kingdom-minded. I think of people in this community, like the Penningtons.  I admire you guys because you have done a lot of what is on this list actually.  They’ve moved overseas and have served selflessly, and now that they live here, they make their home available to people.  I’ve seen them mentoring other people, hosting block parties for their neighbors.   I think about people mentoring marriages and that investment into lives.  I think about Nicole and her team that give of their time every Tuesday night to journey with those with hurts, habits, and hang-ups.  Listen, friends, none of those things are convenient, but I’m convinced of this, God doesn’t always call us to convenience; He calls us to be consistent with the heartbeat of the kingdom.

So I want to say to you, South Fellowship Church, you’re going to hear from me and from others on this stage inviting you to bring your best self to this church,  and to this city, and to this world. And I’m going continue to ask you to align who you are, and what God has blessed you with, for the good of God’s beautiful kingdom—to leverage those things for the shalom, we have the joy of partnering with Jesus, to bring to a hurting, broken, world.

Imagine, if we were the kind of church that took seriously the call to get to know Jesus so intimately, to get to know who God’s made us to be so intimately, and to pay attention to a hurting, broken world around us so intimately that we leveraged every thing we had to be used by God and to let His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  What if it wasn’t just the Lord’s Prayer that we said, what if we lived it as a church?  THAT, I think, is a beautiful picture of a healthy church on mission with God, and I believe that’s the kind of church God has been forming here and will continue to form.

So I’m just going to ask, what about you? Look at the four things we can do with this passage.  I want you to  ask yourself, “What is one step I can take this week to leverage what God has entrusted me with for His Kingdom?  What’s one thing I can do this week to leverage what God has entrusted me with for His glory, for His name, for the good of others?    Maybe it’s spending some time reading the gospels, seeing the character, the nature, the teaching of Jesus and reorienting yourself to who God really is.    Maybe it’s taking a personality test, or getting a life coach or spiritual director and doing some discovery of who you are and how God’s wired you and how God wants to use you.     Maybe it’s taking steps to put your faith into practice.    Maybe, for some of us, as scary as this might sound, it might be taking a risk.  Let’s pray.

Lord, I love that the Scriptures are so challenging sometimes, even though it’s scary.  I love that you invite us into something so compelling and so beautiful.  My prayer today, God, is that you would speak to this community about who you are, who we are, what you want us to do and how you might allow us to leverage everything we have for your good name, for the kingdom, for the hope of the world.  I pray you give people in this room wisdom.  Wisdom to know what steps to take, that they might see themselves through your eyes.  That the lenses that are smudged and seeing things incorrectly would be wiped clean.  That the economy of the kingdom, the economy of grace would be the economy we all submit to under your lordship, Jesus.  Lord, it’s our honor to serve you, to follow you.  We ask all these things in the strong and powerful name of Jesus.  This beautiful church, together, said….Amen.