Give Him Profit (Matthew 25:14-30)
Passage: Matthew 25:14–25:30
To: God, From: You
This morning we conclude our three-part series called “To: God, From: You”. As that title indicates, in this season of gift-giving, we have been talking about the fact that God should be at the top of our Christmas list.
But wait a minute, what kinds of things can we give to God? Well, as we've seen from God's word, the most important thing we should give to God is glory. We should declare in our all...that God deserves it all...because He is all in all. Amen?
But as we saw last week, we give great glory to God when we give ourselves to Him. To give yourself to God is to entrust your past, present, and future to God: your past in light of His forgiveness, your present in light of His priorities, and your future in light of His sovereign care.
This morning, God wants to show us yet another way we can give to Him, not only this Christmas, but every single day of the year. Turn with me to Matthew 25:14-30.
II. The Passage: “Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant” (25:14-30)
Listen as a I read this parable given by Jesus and consider what it tells us about giving to God. Matthew 25:14-30...
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 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.’ 21 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.’ 22 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.’ 23 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.’ 24 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, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’
26 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? 27 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. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 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. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
I would guess that most of you are familiar with this parable. It's traditionally known as the “Parable of the Talents”. In order to get a better handle on this parable, let me point out three things about this “Parable of the Talents”:
1. This parable tells us something important about our present and our future in light of the kingdom of heaven.
Notice the second word in verse 14: “it”. What does “it” refer to? To find the answer to that we have to go back to verse 1 of this chapter:
Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.
So the “it” in verse 14 refers to the “kingdom of heaven”. Jesus is telling us something about the kingdom of heaven by means of this parable. And part of what He's telling us is simply the continuation of a theme that began in the last chapter. Look back to the end of chapter 24; verse 45:
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
This parable, the parable of the ten virgins at the beginning of chapter 25, and our main parable, the parable of the talents, all of them are connected by the same theme: are you ready for His coming? Is the household ready for the master's return, are the virgins ready for the groom's coming, are the servants prepared for the day in which they must give an account to their master?
The phrase “the kingdom of heaven” is synonymous with “the kingdom of God”. What is this “kingdom of heaven”? It's the reign of God through Jesus Christ. And what we have confirmed here is that the reign of God is a reality that affects both our present and our future.
The present reality of these servants was affected by the future reality of their master's return. Like the man described here, our Master, Jesus Christ, will one day return to this world, bringing the fulness of His kingdom into this domain of darkness. And like these servants, that future reality must affect our present life under His reign.
2. We learn here that since our future includes a “settling of accounts”, our present should be marked by faithfulness with what has been entrusted to us.
Did you know that the English word “talent” comes from this parable? We use the word “talent” to refer to a natural giftedness or aptitude. But originally, as is clear in this parable, a talent was simply a unit of currency.
As we see here, these “talents”, this money was entrusted to three servants (lit. three “slaves”) by their master who was about to embark on a journey, a journey that would take “a long time” as verse 19 indicates. But when he comes back, his first order of business is to, verse 19, “settle accounts”.
Now if the theme connecting this string of parables is readiness, then what does this readiness look like? I like how one commentator expressed this:
What is readiness? It is not a matter of passively waiting, but of responsible activity, producing results which the coming 'master' can see and approve. For the period of waiting was not intended to be an empty, meaningless 'delay', but a period of opportunity to put to good use the 'talents' entrusted to his 'slaves'. (R.T. France)
Notice what the Master is expecting here. He is not simply looking to see if his slaves have protected his assets. No, he's not concerned about protection...he's concerned about profit. The foolish slave who simply protected his one talent was labeled “worthless” and punished for his failure. But the slaves who are commended are the ones who produce profit for their master.
Now that is a stunning conclusion: faithfulness is not simply about perseverance, but about profit for the master.
3. There are future consequences connected to our present faithfulness or lack thereof.
It's very clear from these verses that when the Master returns there are two outcomes in regard to the faithfulness or the failure we read about here.
On one side we see the outcome for those slaves who were faithful in returning profits to their master. That outcome is described in both verses 21 and 23: 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.’
For these faithful slaves, the future will be marked by greater responsibility and joy.
But on the other side, we also see the outcome for the slave who failed to multiply what he had been given. Verses 28 and 30: So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents...And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
For this last slave, this slave who was condemned by his own words about the master, for this slave, the future will be one of loss and misery.
III. Defining Profit
Now wait a minute. We forgot to talk about what we learn from this parable about giving to God. What's unique about this passage is that the giving described here is not giving that takes place in present, but in the future. But...but...as we've seen, our future giving to God has a decisive impact on what we're doing right now.
One day, I will, you will, give back to God what He has entrusted to us. The question is, “Will we give it back with a profit? Will we have profit to give to our Master?”
But the million dollar question, the “ten talent” question, is “What is this profit?” In many cases, commentators on this passage simply summarize the message here with phrases like, “We need to make the most of what we’ve been given”, or “We need to take everything God’s given to us and make it count.” And of course, all that is true. But can we be more specific?
To answer that question we first need to use the context of Matthew's Gospel. Consider what these verses tell us about spiritual profit:
This is simply the next section in chapter 25...verse 31:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (25:31-40)
Like the faithful slaves being sent into the joy of their master, these sheep are sent into the Father's kingdom. Why? Because the food, drink, and homes entrusted to them were used to bless others. And specifically, in this passage, those being blessed are disciples of Jesus, those he refers to as His brothers.
Here's another passage that comes a few chapters later:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (28:19, 20a)
In these verses the commission of Jesus is not explicity concerned with making profits, but making “disciples”.
So if we consider these passages instructive in terms of understanding the “Parable of the Talents”, then what we see in both of these passages, 25:31-40 and 28:19, 20, is that spiritual profit has everything to do with blessing other people.
Out of the storehouse of everything God has entrusted to you, are you blessing other people?
Do you bless God's people through good works, like meeting physical or financial needs? Do you bless unbelievers through the Good News, the gospel, the “good news” that meets their greatest need: their need to be reconciled to God?
Blessing other people with the love of Christ and the truth of Christ is the profit-making work of the Kingdom of God. People are the profit!
Listen to how the Apostle Paul confirms this understanding in several passages:
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy. (I Thessalonians 2:19, 20)
For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and acknowledge and I hope you will fully acknowledge—14 just as you did partially acknowledge us, that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you. (II Corinthians 1:13, 14)
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. (Philippians 4:1)
Notice the specific time context mentioned in two out of the three verses: “the day of our Lord Jesus” in I Thessalonians 2, which is the same as when Paul talks about the “Lord Jesus at his coming” in II Corinthians 1. This is the Master returning from his journey.
And what does Paul bring to him here? He brings the Thessalonians, and the Corinthians, and the Philippians! These people are the profit. They are the fruit of Paul's efforts. They are his “glory” and “joy” and “crown”.
And so when we stand before Him, what must not simply ask “What will we give Him?” but more specifically, “Who will we give him?”
Are the lives of other different because you have been a faithful slave of Jesus Christ? This strikes at the very heart of consumer-driven, individualistic Christianity. One day I will, you will give an account for the stewardship you’ve been given. And on that day, it will be evident whether or not God was truly at work in your life.
IV. Faithfulness in Our Field
We all struggle with this kind of faithfulness, don’t we? All of us are tempted to become self-absorbed, to rationalize away the Lord’s calling. Let me give you three more principles from the parable that might help us think about this struggle.
1. Some struggle with faithfulness because they believe they have so little in comparison to others.
Did you notice the first part of verse 15? It says To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.
The reality is that some do have more than you and I, and others have less. Maybe God has not entrusted to you a ministry of worldwide evangelism or the responsibility of caring for an entire church, but you know what (?)…you will not be asked to give an account for those things. You will give an account for what you have been given.
You will be asked to give an account for your ministry to your spouse, your children, your neighbor, that stranger sitting next to you on the airplane, the brother or sister sitting next to you this morning. Don’t focus on how much you have and a belief that you need more. No… USE WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN!
2. Some struggle with faithfulness because they believe their profit will only bring disappointment.
I talked with a sister this past week who has told me on several occasions (and she knows who she is) that she wishes she could have done more for God, that she wished she could do more for God. All of us struggle with these feelings, don’t we? We try to be faithful and then feel like God has done very little through us.
But even though it’s good to desire more opportunities and a greater effectiveness for Christ, look again at the differences between verses 21 and 23. Do you see the key differences there? Do you? THERE ARE NO DIFFERENCES! Even though the second slaves profit was significantly less than the gains of the first slave, he is commended and blessed with exactly the same language. The same joy is his to enjoy!
Again, God simply calls you to be faithful in your field, whether that’s one acre, two acres, or twenty. And if God gives you more, or a hunger for more, praise God!
3. Some struggle with faithfulness because they ultimately lack a desire to please the Master.
The actions of the third slave are just as instructive as the faithfulness of the first two. Did you notice all the dialogue that takes place between the slave and the master? There are seven verses devoted to this one slave. Why is that the case?
I believe the conversation between the master and the slave is important because it reveals the mindset of those who are ultimately worthless slaves. At the end of the day, even though he knew what he was supposed to do, the third slave had zero concern, zero desire to please the Master. He was only concerned about himself.
That’s why the master tells him, “Why didn’t you do something, anything? You could have at least put that money in the bank and earned a little bit of interest. How hard would that be?”
The point is, it would not have been hard. The point is, this slave did not care.
There are sadly millions…millions of people in this country who believes themselves to be Christians because somewhere, at some point, they responded to the gospel. But what is so telling about that initial response is the fact that their life from that point on has been marked by a continuing concern for self. Ultimately, they do not care about the Master’s business, the Master’s pleasure.
But this is why God saves us. He saves us from sin and death, and saves us for His pleasure, for His glory. True faith is always marked by a burning desire for Jesus and His will; whether that desire is like burning embers or a blazing inferno, where there is true faith, there is heat for God’s glory. There is heat for the good of others.
As Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 3:13, each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
Let me try to sum up this lesson in light of this whole series. I think we can say this:
We give glory to God by giving ourselves for others in order that, one day, we might give others to Jesus as the fruit of our faithfulness.
When I was fifteen years old, I remember sitting in an auditorium at Point Loma college in San Diego listening to a summer camp speaker talking about faithfulness. And I don’t know if he was teaching on this passage, but at the end of his message, he shared with us the words we find in verses 21 and 23. He asked us, “Is it your deepest desire to one day hear from the lips of Jesus himself, 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.’
I can share that with you today because I distinctively remember how those words resonated inside me, how they poured gasoline on the burning embers in my heart to do the will of God, to live for Jesus.
Do those words resonate in you this morning? If they do, look for ways to give yourself for others in light of all that God has given you. Be available for the work of ministering to others in light of how God has ministered to you. One day, they will be your joy and crown and reason for boasting.
And that boasting, of course, reminds us of what Paul said in II Corinthians 10:
“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
We will one day boast about the fruit of our faithfulness because we know who gave us our talents. We know the One who makes any profit possible. We know that to boast in the fruit of faithfulness is to boast, not about ourselves, but about the power of God. One day, brothers and sisters...one day. How will that future there affect your present here?