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Don't Forfeit Your Joy

Posted by James Carroll on

“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter the joy of your master.” Matthew 25:23

 Matthew 25:14-30 records Jesus teaching a familiar and convicting parable, generally called the “parable of the talents.” In this story, a man entrusts his property to three servants while he goes on a journey. According to their ability, he gives 5 talents to one servant, 2 talents to another, and 1 talent to the last. To avoid confusion, it’s helpful to know that the word “talent” in this passage is not a skill or ability in the way we often use the word. Instead, it refers to a unit of measurement that was used as a monetary value in the 1st century. A talent was an enormous sum of money. In fact, one talent would pay the wages for approximately 20 day laborers for an entire year. So while the parable can be applied to different areas, it is most specifically about money.

In the master’s absence, the first and second servants work with what they’ve been given and double their master’s money. Despite the obvious risk involved, they leverage the resources for a greater gain. The third servant, however, buries the talent entrusted to him in the name of prudence. Fearing the master, he locks it away for safe keeping.

The master returns and calls on each servant to settle the account. Once again, the first two servants can be grouped together. They both enthusiastically report their gains and are met with the master’s approval and reward. He commends them, calls them faithful, increases their responsibility, and invites them to enter into his joy. The third servant tries to defend his inactivity, but is rebuked by the master as bad and lazy. The talent is taken from him and given to the first servant, and in a surprising twist, this unfaithful servant is cast into outer darkness.

The primary point of the parable is easily summarized for Jesus’ disciples: His followers are stewards of what he gives and each one will answer for how it is invested. All we have – our money, time, energy, resources, etc. – are gracious gifts from God and He calls us to leverage it for His greater gain. 

We have the extraordinary and in many ways unprecedented privilege of extending the gospel locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. I am honored and overjoyed as I reflect on the many ways we have “multiplied” God’s resources and our opportunities to reach out in our community and around the world sharing the gospel, meeting practical needs, sending missionaries, and planting churches.

But the task is not finished and I sense the risk is increasing. As we move through the end of 2017 and look toward 2018, your elders and other leaders want to continue stewarding what God has entrusted to us faithfully by reinvesting in gospel work near and far. Yet, in order to maintain and expand our ministry and missions footprint, each of us must give faithfully and diligently to support the work. While I have no access to giving records, it’s clear that many families continue to give faithfully. However, simple math reveals these families are carrying a disproportionate load.

 Church, please hear my heart. The challenge of this parable is a blessing to Jesus’ disciples. It’s a reminder to all of us that stewardship is expected and rewarded by our Master. For those who are giving faithfully, rest and rejoice in this promise. For those who are not, please prayerfully consider the joy you’re forfeiting.