by Jacob Tews
In this past Sunday’s message, at Riverwood church in Waverly Iowa; we scratched the surface of what the Bible has to say about giving.
- First, we learned our God is sovereign, in control of everything and owning it all, too. If we are followers of Jesus, we don’t even have a claim to ourselves, for “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
- Then we learned about our role as “sojourning stewards,” servants of God who have the glorious responsibility of caring for and investing wisely the resources he provides, living briefly on this earth as visitors, in reality citizens of Heaven.
- Finally we discussed a practical application of these two ideas, discovering a bit about what the Bible says about tithing (giving 10%), and how just achieving that “giving training wheels” level—by God’s grace—can provide for amazing work for God’s kingdom.
There are so many facets to this discussion that we could (and should!) explore; the Scriptures are full of God’s wisdom concerning money and possessions. As I mentioned on Sunday, the book Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn is an outstanding source of Bible exposition on the subject, and well worth reading. I’m recommending it to you with the full knowledge that it will probably offend you at some points, like it did me, but with the hope that it will help you draw closer to Jesus by shoving you into the deep end of God’s Word!
In my message, we didn’t get into great detail regarding the parables of the master and stewards in Jesus’s teachings, so I wanted to take this opportunity to look at one of them: Matthew 25:14-30. The passage is long, but even if it is familiar to you, please take a moment to read it.
The Parable of the Talents
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.”
What We Learn
I want you to notice a few things here:
First, we find a couple of important pieces of information about God. He entrusted to his servants his property, and then he left. God takes a portion of his property (remember, it’s all his?) and entrusts it to each of us. He knows his servants well enough to be able to astutely give them different amounts to work with, “to each according to his ability.” The expectation, which we read later in the story, is that those servants will wisely use and invest the money to gain for their master. This investing happens while the master is absent; the servants are trusted to honor the master’s wishes even though he is not currently holding them accountable.
When the master returns to settle accounts, he commends the two who have made investments that were beneficial to him, then chastises the one who did not, going so far as to call him worthless before throwing him out into the street. Now, we must not misunderstand the last servant’s situation out of the context of the rest of God’s Word. This parable cannot teach us that we earn God’s favor by working for his kingdom, because elsewhere in Scripture we learn that our redemption is entirely God’s work, not ours. But it should be an encouragement to us: those who are saved have a responsibility of wisely stewarding God’s resources. Thankfully, God will give us the ability to do so as we submit to him.
One last thing you might find interesting about this story, and a detail that is often missed, is that it is possible that each of these three servants did not know the situation of the others. Jesus doesn’t say that the master “called his servants together,” only that he “called his servants.” Throughout the parable, the master’s dealings are with each of the servants individually; at the end, accounts may have been settled one-on-one. This demonstrates an important element of our giving: it is part of our worship of our God, and our responsibility is distinct from every other follower of Jesus. When we give as part of our Kingdom work, we are to do it “in secret,” as Jesus teaches in Matthew 6, that our “Father who sees in secret will reward [us].” When we step out in faith and obedience in our giving, it is Coram Deo, before the face of God, and in his presence alone. What an intimate joy we can share with him!
I know I am convicted, challenged, and inspired by our study of God’s Word this week, and I hope you are, too. It is my prayer that the Lord will guide you, and me, and all of our Riverwood family, into greater and greater opportunities for generous, joyful, grace-filled, obedient giving as we seek to honor our sovereign God as his humble, grateful, sojourning stewards.