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The Stewardship of Our Talents November 13, 2011

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Matthew 25:14-30

 Proper 28

November 12-13, 2011

Focus: God created us and gives us everything that we have and are and ever will be.

Function: That the hearers more faithfully use the resources God has given to them.

Structure: A revolving trifecta.

The Stewardship of Our Talents

            Next weekend is Commitment Sunday, Stewardship Sunday.  But you certainly wouldn’t know it from our gospel reading this morning.  When we were preparing for this three week stretch of stewardship that started last week, Pastor said we would put just a sprinkle of stewardship in the sermon the first two weeks, and then really drive it home on the 20th.  We didn’t look at the texts we had to work with.  It’s a big challenge to find a section of Scripture that is more about stewardship than this one.  So, here comes more than just a sprinkle.

We have today a parable, and in this parable the master entrusts his servants with his money, which they are responsible for until he comes back.  And when he returns, two of them have taken the money and made more.  The third, however, did nothing with it, hiding it away out of fear.  Now we’ll be breaking this down a little more in depth, but first I wanted to mention what stewardship is not.

Stewardship is not purely talking about money.  As a young child growing up in a Lutheran church, I can remember one lady saying, “Pastor, just tell me when Stewardship Sunday is so I know when not to come to church.”  Now, I was too little to remember if she really meant that, or if she was just joking with him.  But, either way, she didn’t want to have Pastor telling her what she should be doing with her money.  She earned it, so it was hers to do with as she pleased.

But let’s take a look at that attitude.  I earned it, it’s mine.  That’s my house, my car, my dreams, my food, my pew.  It’s mine.  Look, the deed to this vehicle even has my name on it.  It’s really mine.  I’ve got proof.  So where does this attitude go wrong?

Psalm 24 says “The earth is Yahweh’s, and all it contains.”  Psalm 50, “For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills.  I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine…The world is Mine and all it contains.”  From the prophet Haggai, “‘The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares Yahweh of hosts.”  And from Deuteronomy, “Behold, to Yahweh your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth and all that is in it.”

The Bible is crystal clear, everything is God’s.  But what about our role in all of this?  We are the ones who get up each morning and trudge off to a hard day’s work.  Well, who gave you life?  Who created the world you live in? Who blessed you with the ability to walk and to live?  Who makes the sun rise every morning?  We hear from Paul to the church in Corinth “For who regards you as superior?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

Everything that we have is a gift from God.  Our life, the very breath we breathe.  The world we live in, the friendships and relationships we have.  The skills, talents, uniqueness that makes us all individuals.  Every possession.  Every second of every day.  Every dime, all the time.

That’s part of what makes God so awesome.  Despite sin, the world goes on.  God continues to create life and to bless His creation, and to love us as His children.  The ultimate gift and blessing, Jesus, God’s own Son is another amazement.  God continues to bless us.  He gave up His Son to take away our sins.  We didn’t deserve it, but we got it.  We don’t deserve to keep living, but we get to.  We don’t deserve to have relationships with others, but God continues to create life.  We don’t deserve to have a home, or a job, or a car, or anything like it, but God continues to love and bless His people.

And if Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t an awesome enough blessing from God, try this next one.  Despite our sin, God chooses to use us to spread His kingdom.  At one point in His ministry, Jesus tells the Pharisees that if His disciples didn’t proclaim the gospel, the rocks would.  Now, I don’t know about you, but when I look in the mirror, I often think: go for it God; use the rocks.  What good am I?  If You can use whatever You want to share the Word, to spread Your love, do it!  Why me?

But that’s what stewardship is.  Stewardship isn’t just that one Sunday a year when you show up at church and get the law dumped on you about giving money to church.  Is that part of it?  You bet.  But it doesn’t even begin to crack the surface.  Stewardship is how we manage all of God’s gifts, all of the resources He has given to us.  Stewardship includes money, time, talents, relationships, and the various opportunities God provides at random moments in your life.  Believe it or not, the relationship you have with your boss is a gift from God.  Stewardship asks the question: what are you going to do with it?

We take a brief look back to our gospel lesson.  The first two servants are the same.  The master gives according to their ability, giving one 5 and the other 2.  Both of them go out, use what he gave them to make more, and then report back to him.  To each he says: “Well done good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master.”  They are faithful to him, and use the resources he entrusted to them.

The other guy, not so much.  He’s given 1 talent.  The master knew his ability level was low, but still provided for him, still entrusted something to him and gave him a chance.  But he was full of excuses.  “I knew you to be a hard man…I was afraid…hid your talent in the ground.  Here’s what is yours.”  The master would have been better off giving that talent to someone else.  Even to the rocks.  The servant wasn’t faithful.

It’s similar to the idea that good trees bear good fruit.  It’s an apple tree because it grows apples.  We are Christians, and we know that by our fruit.  The way we live, act, and love.  How we use the resources God has blessed us with will be used to determine whether or not we believed.  We are saved by grace, but judged nonetheless.  Ephesians 2 says it well:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8 ESV)

Works don’t make you a Christian, but as a Christian, God uses you to do good works.  As His children, many of the routine tasks of our days are good works.  Smiling and greeting someone on the sidewalk.  Taking a minute to listen to someone else’s problems.  Saying thank you.  Helping a friend.  Praying for others.  The list of ways to use our relationships that God gives us is endless.

So what isn’t good stewardship?  Well, we’re not here to live the American dream.  Being rich isn’t quite the goal of a Christian life.  But what if that’s a blessing you happen to have?  Share it.  Give to charity, help people.  Most of us will never be “American dream” kind of rich.  But what about the new “American dream.”  Debt up to your eyeballs.  Maxed out credit cards, car payments, medical bills, payments on the TV you had to have but couldn’t pay for.  That’s what’s become of the American dream.  Aren’t there better things to do with the money God has entrusted to us than paying interest?  20% interest on your credit card?  If we didn’t have debt, think of the ways that money could be put to good use.

Just as a quick side-note.  Dave Ramsey is a good, Christian resource to look up if you have financial problems.  The man knows his stuff.  It’s a gift he’s been entrusted with.  And he loves teaching it to others.  But he gives a great example of what debt does.  It stops you from giving.  A friend of his went out for breakfast to a Waffle House on Thanksgiving.  Anyone working at a diner on Thanksgiving really needs a job.  In this case, it was single mother trying to get by.  As a Christian, he took the opportunity to ask her about her life.  He heard her story.  And being moved, he decided to leave a $500 tip.  He sat out in the parking lot and watched her do the Snoopy dance when she found the money.  Being out of debt, he had the money to give, to change her life, to help someone in need.  That’s not to say that you can’t help if you’re in debt.  Listening, talking, encouraging, comforting, praying for that woman are all examples of other ways to help.

Let’s reinforce this, money isn’t the only thing.  It doesn’t solve every problem.  If Bill Gates lost his wife, would money help?  There are ways to help someone grieve, but giving them money doesn’t do it.  I was listening to the Christian radio station KLOVE the other day and they told a story submitted by a college girl.  She had been walking back from lunch to campus when she came upon a homeless man.  Moved with compassion, she went up to him, opened her wallet, took out all the cash she had, a whopping $3, and handed it to him.  He was thankful, but struck up a conversation.  They talked for nearly an hour before she realized she really needed to head to class.  As she was leaving, he said something that rocked her world.  “I’ll be praying for you.”  Money, time, talent, relationships, prayer.  How many of God’s gifts were in this one little example?  Who helped who more?

Bonus trivia: did you know the English word “talent” actually comes from the Greek word used in this parable?  Quiz time:  What’s a better use of your money: a carton of cigarettes, or groceries so you can feed your kids?  What’s a better use of a God-given talent: screaming at your spouse in an argument, or singing praise to God in a choir?  What’s a better use of your time: sleeping ten hours every day, or spending some extra time getting to know the widow living next door?

Through the resources God has given us, we are blessed with the opportunity to build up the church, both those who have faith, and those who don’t.  We are blessed with the opportunities within this congregation to support the nourishment of faith of over a thousand Christians.  Young and old.  And we are blessed with the opportunities outside of this congregation, be it in our families, work places, play places, where we shop, eat, or live, we are blessed with opportunities to share God’s resources, the very love and gift of grace through His Son Jesus Christ with thousands more who don’t know Him.

God loves each and every one of us.  And He has exceedingly blessed each of us with time, talent, relationships, and in some cases, money.  God has entrusted all of us, all of His people, with His resources.  And He asks us to be good stewards of what He has given us.  For whatever reason, God chose to use us.  That’s how the church works, through means.  We are His means.

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