JUST LIKE US!
by Melvin Newland
If you were to ask me, “What is the most famous parable that Jesus ever told?” I would answer that it is the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
When parables are mentioned we often think first of that parable where the Prodigal son went into the far country, squandered all of his money in riotous living, came to himself, went home, & found his father waiting for him.
The literary world has called this “The world’s most perfect short story.” It has been told & retold around the world because of its universal application. Almost every family knows of some such experience. So this is the best known of all the parables that Jesus told.
If you were to ask, “What is the most touching parable that Jesus ever told?” I would answer, “the Parable of the Good Shepherd & the Lost Sheep.”
The good shepherd went out looking for the sheep that had gone astray, looking through thickets, climbing jagged rocks, searching, until finally he found the one that had gone astray. Then he brings it home, rejoicing. It is a tender story.
Or if you were to ask, “What is the most comforting story for the helpless?” I would choose Lazarus & the Rich Man. Lazarus sat outside the gate, his clothing tattered & torn, his body wracked with disease & pain. Dogs came & licked his sores. The only food he had came out of the garbage pails from the rich man’s table.
Then he died, & found himself in Abraham’s bosom. There all of his misery was over, & he saw an eternity free of pain & suffering. And we learn that the miseries of this world are as nothing compared to the joy that will be ours for all eternity.
But if you were to ask, “What is the most practical parable Jesus ever told? What parable applies more to how we live our lives today, & how God acts & reacts to us, & how we act & react to Him?” I think it would have to be the parable that we find in Matthew 25:14-30.
For most of you it is a very familiar parable, & a rather long one, too. So let me condense it into just a few sentences. Jesus said that a master was getting ready to take a long journey. So he called in his servants & entrusted his wealth to them. Then he left. And then, after a long period of time, he returned.
And when he came back from his journey he called for an accounting, & the servants who had invested wisely, he rewarded. And the one who did not invest is condemned. That’s the parable.
As I said, it is practical. It applies to our lives because it shows how God treats us, how He reacts to us, & how we oftentimes treat His blessings.
I. THE MASTER ENTRUSTS HIS WEALTH TO HIS SERVANTS
Scene one opens with the master calling in his servants. He says to them, “I am going to entrust you with my wealth.” So he gives 5 talents to one, 2 talents to another, & 1 talent to another.
Now if you are trying to figure out how much wealth he entrusted to them you need to realize that a “talent” represented 75 lbs. of whatever type of precious metal was being distributed.
If it was silver, then that meant that one man received 375 lbs. of silver (probably silver coins), another received 150 lbs., & the last one received 75 lbs. of silver.
He is the master. They are his servants. He owns everything. They own nothing. They depend upon him. Now he has called them in & said, “I have been watching you. I have studied you. I have concluded that you are faithful stewards.”
Now I don’t know how many servants he had. Maybe he had dozens. But out of all of them he selected these three. He said, “I am going away, & I entrust you with my wealth. You take care of it.” That’s the end of Scene 1.
We instantly draw some parallels, don’t we? We realize that this master represents God, who has everything. God, who is the giver of life. God, who gives us air to breathe. God, who gives us the ability to see & think & plan & make decisions.
We are the servants. Every day we depend upon His blessings. We are the servants, & God distributes His wealth among us.
Now one of the disturbing parts of the story to us is that He didn’t give the servants the same amount. He gave 5 to one & 2 to another & 1 to another. We may think that is not fair. But then we realize that this master knows His servants. So He gives to each of them, vs. 15 tells us, “according to his ability.”
If He had given only 1-talent to the 5-talent man, it would not have been good use of his abilities. If He had given 5 talents to the 1-talent man, the 1-talent man would never have been able to handle them. But because the master knew His servants, He gave each one what He knew that one could handle, & then He left.
That’s the way God works, isn’t it? God gives, & then He leaves us alone. He doesn’t coerce us. He gives, & then He leaves it in our hands.
He does open doors of opportunity. He gives us visions & dreams. He allows us to see just a little bit of what might be. But then He waits for us to use what He has given, & to see if we will be faithful with it.
II. THE MASTER RETURNS, & DEMANDS AN ACCOUNTING
Scene 2. The master returns. When He came back, the 5-talent man came in & said, “Master, you entrusted me with 5 talents. See, I have gained 5 more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good & faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things.” (Matthew 25:19-20)
Then the 2-talent man came in & said, “Master, you entrusted me with 2 talents; see, I have gained 2 more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good & faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” (Matthew 25:22-23)
Then the 1-talent man came in. He said, “Master, I knew that you are a hard man… So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.” (Matthew 25:24-25)
The master called him a “wicked, lazy servant,” & in vs. 30 says, “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
It’s a tough parable, isn’t it? It bothers us, because I think that more of us would identify with this 1-talent man than with the 5-talent or 2-talent men. The 1-talent man was just an ordinary person, a lot like us.
He did something that wasn’t all that smart. But he didn’t steal it or embezzle it. He just didn’t invest it. Then when the master returned, he presented it back to Him just the way that he had received it.
III. WHY DID THE 1-TALENT MAN DO WHAT HE DID?
Now let’s concentrate on this 1-talent man for a few moments. Why did he do what he did?
#1, I think he did what he did because he felt inferior. When you’re rubbing shoulders with 5-talent & 2-talent people, & you watch them rubbing shoulders with other 5-talent & 2-talent people, & then you look at yourself, it is easy to begin to feel inferior.
When you see people doing things with grace & ease, & you have to struggle just to do those things, it’s easy to identify yourself as a 1-talent person. There was nothing really special about him. He didn’t stand out in the crowd. He was an average person, just like us. So he felt inferior.
Secondly, Jesus tells us the man was afraid. He was afraid because he had analyzed the master as being a hard master. You see, he didn’t understand the master. God has expectations, no question about that. But God is not hard.
He is gentle & understanding & forgiving & merciful. The man didn’t understand the master. Therefore he was afraid, & buried his talent in the ground.
Let me ask you some hypothetical questions. “What if the 5-talent man had buried his 5 talents in the ground?” You know the answer. They would have all been taken away from him, & he would have been considered “wicked, lazy, worthless,” just like the 1-talent man.
Or what if the 1-talent man had invested his 1 talent? You know the answer. When the master returned, he would have been given more talents. He would have been considered a faithful servant, too.
Let me ask another hypothetical question. “What if the 1-talent man had invested his talent & lost it?” But that idea isn’t even suggested. Why? Because God’s Word, as best I can ascertain, never commands us to be successful.
I have never found a place where God says, “If you try & fail, I will condemn you.” God’s Word commands only faithfulness. “Be faithful” & God will provide the increase.
Many years ago I became the minister of a church that was just 3 months old with 40 members, meeting in a school classroom. As I look back on that little group of believers, we were at best a 1-talent church. We were like almost every other new little congregation, struggling to grow.
There was one sparkling difference. The people weren’t afraid. So they took their 1 talent & invested it for God. In other words, even though we were a new little mission church ourselves, they felt that we ought to be reaching out & supporting other missions, too.
Yes, there were some who wanted to bury our talent in our own back yard – to spend it all on our own needs. But I am convinced that if we had buried it, that church would have remained a 1-talent church, like thousands of other 1-talent churches across the land.
But we took our talent & invested it, & God gave us 2. We built our first building, & we moved out of our rented quarters. Soon we were twice as big as we had been before.
Then it was decision time again. What do you do with 2 talents? Do you bury them? No, you invest them. Some wanted to bury our talents, & had we buried them, it would have remained a 2-talent church, or worse. But we invested them for God.
That was about the time we started our second building, 3 times as big as our first one. We also started another new congregation & gave away some of our people to help them grow, & suddenly we were a 4 talent church.
What do you do with 4 talents? Again it was decision time, & we gave away more than a third of our congregation to establish two more congregations. By then there were others thinking that it was time to bury our talents in our own back yard.
But God blessed, & the congregation grew even more, and soon it was an 5 talent congregation.
What do you do when God has entrusted you with 5 talents? You invest it in His Kingdom, & soon nearly half of all the church offerings were going for missions, & another new church was started, & the church still had to build a third building, larger than our first two buildings put together.
You see, I am convinced that that is the way God works. You be faithful in investing the talents that He has given you, & He will entrust you with more. You bury them, & you will lose even that which you once had.
You don’t lose talents by investing them. You lose talents by burying them. When you invest them for Him, God will always honor the investment.
There are thousands of churches across our land that at one time were 5 talent churches. But they buried their talents & now they are empty shells.
There are thousands of Christians who reached a level of maturity in their Christian faith & then became self satisfied & complacent. They decided they didn’t need to grow anymore, or pray anymore, or study anymore. And they started dying spiritually because they buried their talents.
The principle never changes. The message of the parable has not changed. God is still the master. Where do our talents come from? They came from God. They are His. So He says, “Invest what I have given you & see what will happen.”
Each of us present here this morning have decisions to make.
If you are already a Christian, maybe you have leveled off in your Christian life. Your prayer life has dwindled. You aren’t giving sacrificially anymore. You aren’t sharing your faith with others. You are burying your talent.
For those who are not yet Christians, please realize that you have been given talents, too. God doesn’t leave anybody out. Everybody gets something, & He waits to see what you will do.
If you are here this morning & Jesus Christ is not your Savior, then He waits to see what you will do with the little seeds of faith that have been planted in your life.
Will you invest them so that more faith might come? Or will you bury them? The principles have never changed. They are always the same. God waits to see what we will do with what He has given us. He invites. I pray you will respond.
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