“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘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.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘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.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
Many people make this mistake. We are guilty of it as well. What is this mistake? There is this faulty impression that the Bible speaks only about two groups of people. The good ones, and the bad ones.
Jesus, on the other hand, clearly distinguishes between three groups of people. That’s right. What are they? We can read about these groups in the Bible under different names. One of them is often called the world.
That’s the most obvious one. That is those who have nothing to do with the true God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. They may not know of Him at all, or they may have decided to ignore Him.
This is the group that the youngest son represents in the parable of the Prodigal God. This is the group that tax collectors and prostitutes and all the other sinners represent. The bad ones.
However, these are the people who are most likely to listen to the Gospel message. For they know, they have often experienced that they are sinners and they have suffered from the brokenness of this world. They are most likely to be willing to hear about the gracious and loving God.
And this is where this mistake creeps in. It is often assumed that there are only these two groups, those bad people, prodigal sons, tax collectors and prostitutes, on the one side, and then, the good people, those people who lead good and pious lives, on the other side.
Jesus is very clear that there is not simply one group of good people, but that there are, in fact, two groups that may appear rather similar for human eye. For the difference between these two is found in hearts, not so much in actions.
One of these groups is represented by the oldest son in the parable of the Prodigal God, it is also represented by the most zealous of Jesus opponents, by Pharisees, by the teachers or the Law and other religious people.
In the eyes of the society they all would be good people. Very good people. Often even very religious people. But at the same time exactly this group was the fiercest enemies of Jesus. They hated Jesus so much that they crucified Him.
We could call them – the false church. False, because from the outside they may look like believers, they may be pious, religious, spiritual, they may be church’s people, they are usually good and respected people, they do a lot of good things, and they usually know that they are good people.
This one is the hardest to reach. Their external goodness has hardened their hearts and they have no interest in this Jesus. They don’t want to be saved. They are simply too good.
Then there is the last group. Minority. Little flock. True believers. True followers of Jesus. They know that they are not good. Even if their lives often appear beautiful and attractive from outside.
They know that they live by God’s grace alone. They know that there is nothing they can boast about before the Holy God. They know that those were their sins that nailed the Son of God to the cross.
They know that it is only thanks to Jesus, thanks to His sacrificial death that they have any hope for God’s grace on the Last Day. They know that it is only by God’s undeserved mercy that they have been called out of this world.
They cherish this wonderful gift of God, their salvation, more than anything. They strive to hold to this God, who has done so much for them. Most of all they fear to disappoint their God and Savior, to go against His will, they do their best to obey Him and please Him in everything that they do.
They search for His presence, and delight to listen when true God speaks to them in His Word, they consider it unbelievable privilege to come in the Lord’s presence, where He Himself gathers us to bless us.
And they daily rejoice in this incredible miracle, that God has made them, unworthy and rebellious creatures, His children. For them to keep and nourish this new identity, this new life, is the most important and precious thing. We can call them – the true Church.
As we can see there are three groups. The world, the false church and the true Church. And the parable of the Talents, that we heard today, similarly as the parable of the Ten Virgins, that we heard the last Sunday, speaks about these last two groups.
About the false church and about the true Church. The false church in this parable is represented by the third servant. It is interesting how Jesus illustrates this difference between the one and the other.
And I am sure that you have experienced and witnessed this difference in your lives as well. Have you met, or do you know of good people, who believe that there is a god, and try to lead moral lives, but somehow are not interested in this Jesus and God’s grace at all? There are many of them in Barossa.
If asked about their relationships with God, they may respond with something like: “I haven’t done anything wrong.” I haven’t done … anything wrong. We could call their religion a religion of ‘not-doing’.
They have, consciously or unconsciously, this image of God as the Judge. Therefore, their response is not-to-do-anything-wrong. They try to be moral people, good neighbors, helpful members in community.
But all of this is driven by this deep, inner need to appear as good. These are the good people in our community, the Pharisees of our time. They are so good, in their own eyes, that for them this Jesus is offensive in more than one way.
First, Jesus is offensive when He calls them to repentance. Why would they repent? What would they repent of? Ha! Remember, they haven’t done anything wrong. Ever. Probably you all have met people who think along these lines.
Second, Jesus and His Church is offensive to them, for Jesus welcomes sinners, He welcomes people who have done a lot of wrong. That’s true, Jesus welcomes everyone who responds to His invitation. With all their sins and failures, with all their weaknesses and imperfections, with all their badness.
Jesus welcomes people who are not even a half as good as these good people. He welcomes those who have messed up their lives and lives of others. He welcomes those who have hurt others.
He welcomes drunkards and addicts, He welcomes prostitutes and adulterers. He welcomes thieves and liars. He welcomes all sorts of people who are not welcomed in good and pious circles. He welcomes everyone who comes with repentant heart. Jesus welcomes everyone because of His goodness, not ours. And that is offensive.
Probably you have heard these good people boasting that they are far better than many other Christians that they know. At least in their own eyes… Okay, that’s enough said about the false church.
Now what does Jesus try to teach us with the parable that we heard today? For one, Jesus doesn’t teach us how to save ourselves and how to become God’s children. That’s already done.
Jesus did everything that had to be done so that you could receive eternal life as a gift, and He Himself makes us God’s children, His brothers and sisters. His family. That’s His gift to you, and He bought it not with gold or silver, but with His innocent sufferings and death.
What He does teach to us is this – how to live out this new identity once God has made you His child. The true Church knows her God through Jesus as loving and gracious God.
We know Him as forgiving God, as God who delights in blessing His children. We know Him as God who has created us to be active in this world. For us this new life is about doing.
God has called us to Himself. Jesus has made us His own. Our Christian life is about taking all the talents that Jesus has entrusted to us and using them for the benefit of others.
Do you remember how Luther explains all the Commandments in the Small Catechism? It is not about not-doing, but about doing. You should fear, love and trust your God. You should pray and praise Him. You should gladly hear the Word of God and learn it.
You should honor, love and obey your parents. You should help your neighbor in every physical need. You should lead sexually pure and decent life. You should protect your neighbor’s possessions and income, etc. It is about doing.
Now, did you notice in this parable, who is the owner of all the talents that are given to us? Yes, our God is the owner. Whatever He has entrusted to us, it still belongs to Him.
Whatever He has entrusted to us, He wants us to use according to His will. He wants us to be active. He wants us to be adventurous. He wants us to be daring. He wants us to be good stewards of His gifts. Of all His gifts.
But, we also need to ask what are these talents that are given to us? Sure, it’s true that everything we have we have received from our God. It is true about all our gifts, skills, abilities, possession, etc. But what is the most precious treasure that Jesus has given to us?
What is the most precious treasure that He wants us to share around? It is His live-changing, His life-giving message. His Gospel message, the Good News. He has revealed us the truth. The truth that gives us life.
We know what our condition is, and what our end would be without Jesus. There is nothing we can change on our own. But we also know to what length our God has gone to save us from death and hell.
How much He has sacrificed. How much He loves you, that He didn’t spare even His own life to rescue you from eternal damnation and to have you with Him in His eternal kingdom of joy and blessedness.
This is His desire, that everyone would hear this message, would know the truth, and would receive His gift, the eternal life on New Earth. This is the most precious treasure entrusted to us, this is what we need to share.
We also can’t shy away from the fact, that there will be different outcomes for different people. Not everyone ends at the same place. For the false church, that only cares about their own goodness and not-doing-anything-wrong, but rejects or ignores Jesus, the warning is this:
“You wicked and lazy servants! You will be cast into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” But for the true Church, for the little flock that listens to their Master’s voice and does everything to please Him, Jesus promises that we will hear these words:
“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.” This is how blessed we are. God Himself has chosen us.
He has called us. He Himself has given His talents to us. He has sent us to use them according to His will. He has entrusted to us the Greatest Message ever. He has given us this new and active life of doing many things in service to our neighbors.
And He has promise that He will always be with us as we joyfully venture through this life as His servants. And, finally, to all His faithful, to His little flock, He has promised that you will enter His joy, and that your reward will be great in heaven.
This is, why we are here. To do the will of our Lord, and to delight in His grace, waiting for the when He comes. And the peace of the Lord that surpasses all our understanding keep your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. Amen.