Do Not Bury Your Gifts
Prayer for illumination:
God of the generations, the Scriptures are a legacy to us from Your faithful people over many centuries. Just as Your Spirit inspired and guided prophets, evangelists, and epistle writers, send Your same Spirit to inspire our understanding of the Word and our response to live by its wisdom, for the sake of Christ, Your Living Word. Amen.
My husband and I are away regularly for both work and leisure. Since we have a cat, whenever we have to be away, we ask our friends or neighbors to come and check on our cat and our house. Sometimes, a person we entrust is good and watches over our cat and house well, but other times, it is not very satisfactory honestly.
Last week, Thomas was away for his personal time and I was away for a conference in Edmonton. Thankfully a friend of mine gladly agreed to stay at my house. She was the best housesitter and cat-sitter. When I came home early Friday morning, the house was so clean - She vacuumed the house, washed beddings, and raked leaves.
And my cat seemed content and stress-free. Most of all, she prepared a good meal for me. In today’s text, we find a man who entrusted his property to his servants and left for a long journey.
Last week, we studied the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids - one of four parables of the Olivet discourse, which is a teaching given by Jesus on the Mount of Olives, just days before He gave His life on the cross. We learned that we need to be prepared for the return of Jesus in our everyday lives by loving and serving people around us and in our community.
Today’s story is also one of the Olivet discourse - the parable of the Talents or the parable of the Bags of Gold.
As a rich master who was getting ready for a trip, he called his servants. He then entrusted them with his money. The first servant received five talents or five bags of gold, the second servant two talents or two bags of gold, and the third servant one talent - one bag of gold, but pay attention to the next phrase. “each according to the unique ability of the servant.”
Whether it was a talent, a bag of gold, or a bag of coins, how much exactly was given to each of them is not the main point here. Just remember that each of them was given a huge responsibility according to his ability. So, after putting them in charge of his property, the master went on his journey.
Now the master was gone, and his servants had no idea when he would be back. He didn’t even tell them how to use the money. It was totally up to them what to do with it.
The important thing to note here is that the master evaluated the servants before giving each a certain amount of money and had faith in their abilities. Thus, all three servants should have been able to manage the money.
The Bible says that the first servant put his money to work and gained five more. We don’t know how he invested his 5 bags of gold, but eventually, he gained another 5 bags of gold besides his own 5 bags of gold.
I don’t think that he put all his money in one stock and the next day, he got lucky and became a billionaire. He must have patiently and wisely used his talents for a good result. Sometimes, he might have failed, and sometimes, he had to wait a long time to get a good outcome. But he knew how to take a risk for a better upshot.
The second servant also did what the first servant did. He went out and invested the money he was responsible for.
What about the third servant? The servant with one bag of gold did something entirely different than what the other two servants did. He went off, dug a hole in the ground, and buried his master’s money.
In his mind, burying money in the ground was the better alternative for keeping the money safe. This course of action may have seemed less risky than what the other two servants tried to do. To many, this servant may seem to be practical, careful, and cautious.
After a long time, Matthew says, the master returned from his journey and settled accounts with his three servants.
The first two servants who invested and wisely used the bags of gold reported to the master how they doubled the money given. The master’s response to both was the same, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
When the master looked at the third servant, the servant also reported what he had done. Showing the exact same amount of bag of gold, he said, “Master, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.”
In other words, “I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best. I feared disappointing you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.”
The master was furious and said, “You wicked, lazy servant! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.”
Some may argue that the third servant did nothing wrong. He wanted to be extra careful with the master’s money and he didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. You might have wondered whether he deserved such a harsh punishment.
Some of you may also think, “What would have happened if the other two servants had lost all of their money or if they were left with little to nothing? Would the master have still said to them, “Well done faithful servant, come and share your master’s happiness?”
The first two servants saw the master’s action as an opportunity. They recognized the trust given to them and took advantage of their opportunity.
How about the third servant who only saw risks and let uncertainty drive his decision? He expected the worst, protecting what he was given. Even though he knew the master had expectations, he did not see the master’s faith in him. By burying the bag of gold, he denied both the potential of the gift that he was entrusted with and his responsibility.
No matter how many talents were given, the master was looking for faithfulness with little and rewarded it with much more. It did not matter how much the servants were given or how much they made; the master instead recognized their hard work and their faithfulness.
Similarly, God is not looking for how we have succeeded. Rather, He is looking for
our trust in Him and the effort to do the work of God using our gifts.
Like the three servants, we do not have gifts of the same degree. The servant who received one bag of gold was not condemned for failing to reach the five bags of gold goal. He was condemned because he buried what he was given.
The meaning of the parable extends far beyond financial investments. God has given each person or each church a wide variety of gifts, and he expects us to employ those gifts in his service.
Through this parable, Jesus is telling us that it is not acceptable merely to put those gifts on a closet shelf and ignore them. It is a privilege to be entrusted with talents and opportunities to work toward God's purposes in the world.
The gifts we receive from God include skills, abilities, family connections, social positions, education, experiences, properties, passion, and more. Whatever we have been given from God, we are to use them for God’s purposes.
God does not endow people with identical or necessarily equal gifts. And God does not expect identical or necessarily equal results from everyone's work.
We find ourselves in similar situations—where we are given opportunities to use our skills, our resources, our time, our energy, and our spiritual gifts. Sometimes it requires just a little extra work - extra driving to pick up someone who needs rides; extra baking for your neighbor who is grieving; extra offering for a special occasion; and extra chores to clean and maintain our church buildings. However, sometimes, it requires a courageous step out in faith.
Today is our Langley Presbyterian Church’s 45th Anniversary. When you go down for coffee and cake after service, you will see the albums of our old pictures. It is the story of our church. We are here because so many people made efforts, served in faith, and took risks.
I appreciate each and every one of you who are reading the Scriptures, helping out with offering plates, counting offerings, offering envelopes; children’s time, children’s school downstairs - Erin, the PowerPoint; and all those who provide us with the best coffee and refreshments; our administrator, our worship team; and the elders.
I am proud of you who have been providing your skills, time, resources, and offerings to the church for the ministry of God. And I pray that we continue doing the good work for the ministry of God.
Tomorrow, at the session meeting, we will discuss the budget for the next year. As I was checking the budget draft, many thoughts came to my mind. I was grateful because we have been doing a fairly good job with our resources - donating our mission funds to several organizations. And I’m excited to imagine more possibilities in our community.
As some of you may already know, we are planning to rent our facility to a daycare during weekdays and to a faith group on Sundays. For this, Graeme, Marlene, and Trevor have been working so hard.
There are chances of conflict of using our facility or overusing our facility or whatever. However, if we do not want to take risks, we’re burying our resources. If we do nothing because of fear of going wrong, we are just like the third servant.
45 years later, on Langley’s 90th Anniversary, we hope that the next generation thanks us for our faithful work and for the good use of our resources. Let us pray that because of our investment in our mission works in our community and overseas, many people are touched and transformed.
And moreover, let us pray that our Father is pleased with us and with Langley Presbyterian Church, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servants! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”
And finally, when we see the Lord in our eternal home, we pray that He welcomes us with His open arms and praises us, “Well done, good and faithful servants! Come and share My happiness!”
Friends, let us not be afraid of taking a risk and stepping out of our comfort zone. Let us be faithful servants of God, who use what we have wisely for the Kingdom of God. Then He will expand our ministry more and more.
Let us pray.
Almighty and Everlasting God, Thank You for believing in us and providing us with good skills, resources, money, and spiritual gifts. Help us use them faithfully and wisely for Your Kingdom and Your mission work. Help us not to fear but to take risks in faith in You. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.