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Using the parable of the rich landowner in Matthew 25:14-30, Todd ends the "Consumed" series with a look at God's will for us as stewards of His blessings.
What Stewards Should be Consumed With
How to Tell Whether You are Among the 'Consumed' and Some Practical Tips for Regaining Your Freedom
The Antidote That is Community
Consumed with Debt and What to Do About It
Why God's Love for You Compels Him to Loathe Materialism
Materialism: The Lie That 'This is All I Need'
Father, thank you for whatever you did that would draw all of us here today, whether you've just brought us with a friend or whether it was because there's just something going on in our life where you've upped our amplitude and our appetite for a relationship with you if you're there. You've gotten us here this morning. Maybe for many years, Lord, your grace has been covering our lives and we've been growing with you and it's been so sweet you've brought us back.
Maybe we haven't had a relationship with you and it's been so bitter you've made us consider. However you got us here, we're just thankful. We just pray that you would draw us near to you, knowing that if you are there and you are God, relationship with you must be good. Help us to gain a clear understanding of who you are so we can respond more fully or maybe for the first time in a way that will bring peace, joy, and hope to our lives even as you intended for people you love. We ask that you do that this morning. For your glory and our good, amen.
Well, if you've been hanging around with us this fall, you know that we did a little series called Consumed where we were trying to regain our freedom by realigning our focus. I want to wrap up that series this morning by helping you get a real picture of the reality of the world in which we live. There's a little movie out right now that is putting to the screen a story by one C.S. Lewis.
We've talked about that story last week. Specifically, we talked about how C.S. Lewis' desire to tell that story was not just a "slap people in the face with the gospel." He did not try to write a direct parallel account, although you have to be somebody who is completely unfamiliar with the story of God's Word to not see the symbolism and some of the parallelism that is there, specifically with the Christ figure in Aslan.
We talked about how great it was to see Jesus, our Savior, our Lord represented not as this weak little lamb but as the Lion of Judah, which is who he is. Lewis said he wrote that story because he realized that sometimes the best way to communicate truth is to tell it in a story because sometimes stories allow us to sneak truth past watchful dragons.
Those watchful dragons might be the cultural elite who don't want those stories told at all or it might just be the hardness of our hearts that is resistant to this idea of accountability and one day being culpable before God who will return to his land to set it free from the bondage that it has chosen to move itself into.
Lewis told this story hoping that it would remind us of the greater story that is there. It shouldn't surprise you that when God himself walked on this earth, in his effort to reveal himself to us with a greater clarity than he ever has, to give us a visible image of his invisible nature, to show us what the fullness of God looks like, that when he was here as he tried to communicate with us, he didn't just do it in a didactic polemic intellectual way, but he did it often by telling stories because he wanted to capture our hearts.
He wanted us to live within the context of the reality of the story that we're in. There's a reason we're here. That reason is God's glory. God is revealing his greatness to all of creation. Why? Because the more that his greatness and his glory is revealed, the more folks who see him for who he is will love him and live in relationship with him. Because he is a loving God, he wants others to experience the benefit of who he is.
When you hear that God is about his glory, don't be offended by that. As we've said before, it doesn't mean that he is a shameless self-promoter. God is not looking for your vote or affirmation. He is okay with himself, but he is looking for you to know who he is so that you might be drawn to him that you might experience the benefit of living in relationship with him because he is good.
That's why he gave us the first revelation of who he was through the law. He said, "Listen, this is not to oppress you. This is to bring you to a better place. It's better for you if you don't create for a god in your own image and your own likeness that you will manipulate and that you will contort that you will create rules underneath them that will allow you to do what you want and what you want to do is not good for you."
That's why God said, "Listen, honor your mother and father. They have your best interests at heart when they walk with me." That's why he said, "Don't steal because you're going to live constantly with a crick in your neck looking back over your shoulder always wondering if they finally caught up with you, they finally got you. When people who you steal from find out who you are, they're going to hate you. You're going to lose your freedom. Don't steal."
That's why I told you, "Don't commit adultery." The pain that brings. I know there's momentary joy there. I know there's fleeting adrenaline rush and great titillation that comes through adulterous relationship, but he's saying, "Look man, in the end, that sweet little sugar pill has a bitter aftertaste that you don't want that pain, so don't go there."
It's not because he's trying to prevent you from having life. It's because he knows that when you live the way that he has revealed that you should live, it's better for you. That's why he said, "Don't murder, man. Don't murder. It'll feel good in that moment to let that rage pour forth, but it's going to cost you everything. It's going to isolate you from others. It's going to cost you your freedom. People are going to be looking for you. It has to stop."
That's why he said, "Don't covet. Don't be consumed with other things." You're a pilgrim. This world is passing away. It's fleeting. When you make your life all about that which is fleeting, it disappoints him because he wants you to love more than what is fleeting. He wants you to love that which is enduring. If you covet, you're going to find out that greener grass fades itself. You're going to strive and strive and work and work and exasperate yourself and leave things that are more important.
He says, "Don't covet," not because he doesn't want you to have nicer and better things, but because there's no nicer and better thing that will ever satisfy your longing. The law was there to show us that he was holy. It was also there because he loves us and he wants us to know that living his way is a better way.
From the very beginning, we've always thought that if we could just do things our way, it would be better for us. If we could live as if this world was all about us and get all we had in this world, then it would be better. If you go back to the very first time that God was trying to relate to us to reveal his glory, he said after he was done with all of creation, "Man, this is very good."
Why did he say that in Genesis? He said that in Genesis because he loves us, he created us, and he put us in a place that would be so perfect for us that we couldn't help but love him and honor him and worship him and it couldn't help but be a place that we are constantly going, "Man, this is an awesome place!" Anybody who saw would go, "I don't know who the Creator of those people is, but he must be very good because this place that he created is perfect for them, perfect for them. It is Edenic."
Because we are not people of faith, because we have a hard time believing that God is good because we want to create a different story. The story is that if we were just in control and sovereign ourselves, it would be better. We were susceptible to a lie which is, "Look, man, don't serve this master who has created a perfect place for you. You have to become your own master.
Oh yeah, he made an Edenic environment, this Paradise, but didn't he tell you there's something you couldn't have? Do you know why you can't have that? Because he's not good. If you could have that one tree, some nominal piece of fruit, that's the thing you really need. I know you like it. I know you're getting along with each other. I know he is hanging out with you, but if he was really good, he wouldn't deny you that. Because he is somebody who wants to keep the best for himself."
We bought that lie because we weren't really people then of faith. We believed that the one thing we couldn't have was one thing we must've needed. When God was trying to establish, "Look, I want you to be people who love me. I want you to be people who honor me. I want you to be people of faith. Your faith in me and my goodness will save you."
Adam and Eve, like we, have said, "I don't trust you, God. I don't have faith that you are good. I think when I know right from wrong, I will be able to choose what I want, and it'll be better for me." God knew we ate of that tree of the knowledge of good and evil that we would not always choose that which is good even for ourselves. We would become covetous, adulterous, and murderous.
We would invent a god that we thought we could own that would serve us, but anything we invent on our own is not going to serve us. It's going to get us into deeper cycles of despair, and we're going to be on a treadmill where we're never going to have what we want until we come back to him.
God in his goodness in this little environment that he created to reveal his greatness didn't just judge us immediately and give us the death that was due us when we rebelled from him and left the author and giver of life. In his goodness to reveal his greatness in all of creation, he gave provision so that those who hated him could still be reconciled to him.
Then you have the story of the world we live in. There are people who have come to their senses, who have admitted that there is a master that they are subject to, that they have rebelled against that master. That Master is good and great and glorious. He has given them a means to which they could find forgiveness. They're so overwhelmed with his provision of grace that they want to live in every way that they can in this broken world that he's going to fix one day as if he is their King.
This world is not their home; they are passing through as pilgrims. They are not consumed with things on this earth. They are consumed with one thing: honoring him until such a time as he comes back and rightly claims what is his. They are his citizens. They are part of his kingdom, though they are not in the actual kingdom themselves. That's the story of God's Word.
Now when Jesus was here to tell us, "Look, this is the deal. This is the story. This is who you are. This is where you are in the midst of the story. God is showing himself as the great and divine Creator that you've rebelled against, but in his goodness, he has made provision for you. Now you should respond to him. If you don't, there's going to be a day where judgment will be due you.
As a steward, as somebody who knows that he is Creator and King and he is returning, live with hope even in a broken world. Have hope in the midst of death, disappointment, eternal winter. There will be a day when he will come and it will thaw out. He will make it right and deal with the wicked queen, if you will, that always has winter and never Christmas." I eventually heard myself last week. When Jesus came, he told a story. The reason he had to tell this story is because there was something that happened while he was here that confused people.
He said, "Let me just tell you. The Deliverer has come. God in the flesh is revealing himself to you. The oppression that is in this world because man hates each other and is always striving for greatness and self-exaltation, hurts people who are not like them or can't serve his own interests. It oppresses one nation or one race or one gender at the expense of another, but I have come to set people free from the sin which destroys relationships."
People are going, "Man, we've been looking for you. We've been looking for a Deliverer. We've been looking for a Savior." He says, "Well, I'm here." He affirmed it, not just with his words, but with his actions. He proved that he was the one who was sovereign over all creation, sovereign over death. He called men to follow him and trust in him.
Then, when those men followed him and they had great hope that God had finally showed up to fix the mess that we have brought in, he pulled them aside and he gave them some pretty shocking news. This is what he said in Matthew, chapter 20, verse 17 through 19. "As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, 'Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem…"
"We all like it. There are some good restaurants there. Shopping is better than most places and the view is wonderful. But while we're there…" "…the Son of Man [Jesus] will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles [the leadership of the nations that are there] to mock…and crucify Him…"
About that time, the disciples just shut down and go, "Wait just a second. You are the star of our story. You are the one who is going to thaw out the winter that we're living in. What do you mean you're going to die?" He said, "Well, there's another part to the story." "…and on the third day He will be raised up."
You can imagine if you're somebody who has invested everything you've had to follow this guy and he tells you he's going to go there, get beat up, and die even though he could clean the clocks of those folks, he is going to let them clean his clock. They kind of lost sight of this, and so they struggled.
Jesus continued trying to instruct them about the fact that even though he is going to give himself up as part of God's greater story in order to deal with the judgment that was due even those twelve. So a little bit later, he was with them in Jerusalem. Somebody said, "Do you see the grandeur of these people? Do you see the world that they live in? I want to tell you something.
This temple, as great as it is, is kind of the building of buildings in this mighty city. I want to tell you, there's going to be a day when this temple is completely destroyed and these stones won't stand on top of each other. Anybody who puts hope in this world or anything in this world is foolish."
His disciples looked at him and said, "Look, we have a question for you." "…when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" In other words, all right, you just said there's going to be a day when you're going to come and show yourself to be King and this world and all that it puts its trust and faith in is going to be humbled.
Now we heard you're going to die, and that confuses the heck out of us how that's going to happen. You say something about this resurrection idea which we're not real fond of because we're not sure you're going to pull it off, but you're saying that one day all things will be set right. Will you tell us this? You told us that you're going to die.
You told us that three days later you're going to be resurrected. Is that when the kingdom is going to finally get kicked off? "…when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" When they ask that, Jesus starts to instruct them first with some truths that are didactic, polemic, or intellectual, if you will, facts.
Then he goes, "But let me tell you a couple of stories." First of all, let me give you the facts. In verse 14, answering these two questions he says, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.""This will happen when I have been clearly revealed and who I am has been established in all the nations."
Secondly, he said it's going to come and it's going to, "For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west…" You will not be able to miss it. It will happen suddenly and it will be powerful. Next he said in verse 30, "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn…"
** ** Why? Because they see the futility of the way that they have lived and they will be faced with the consequences of the rebelling against this one that they thought they had defeated by mocking, scourging, and crucifying him. When he comes on a white steed wearing his robe dipped in blood with his tattooed leg strapped over that stud of a horse, they're going to realize, "Guys, I think we were on the wrong team."
He says, "They will then mourn and they will see me clearly." You'll know when the day is. You won't miss it. It says in verse 39, it will be like the flood. It came and it took folks away without warning.When will it be? What will be the sign? We won't miss it. You can't miss it. It's going to be just like when the flood came when God told the people he was going to judge them, put his herald of righteousness, Noah, in the middle of the desert and said, "Look, man, I know you're not familiar with rain.
I'm not really familiar with it either. I know that we don't know what this thing called a flood is, but God said it is coming. If you can't swim for 40 days and 40 nights, you'd better come get on the ark. You better trust in me, Noah, whose name means rest. Come and get inside the ark of provision which God in his grace has instructed me how to build.
If you do that, you trust in God's coming flood, you have faith that you need a Savior, you come and get rest in this ark. It will lift you up above the judgment which is to come. Only if you trust in God's work himself and in God's man will you have life and freedom." People didn't believe that there was a flood. They didn't believe in rain.
They certainly didn't believe in his herald of righteousness. So all of a sudden in the midst of their marrying and giving in marriage, eating and rejoicing, and dancing, judgment came. When it came, we see that it was an issue of awakening for them where they realized that they had missed their opportunity. Realization will come too late for most.
Finally in verse 44 he says, "For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will [come] ." Jesus is telling them in a kind of indirect way some specific facts and in answer to their question, "Look, you're going to die. I know the resurrection is working in there somehow. When you come back, is that when we're going to set the case in order before the eyes of all these wicked me?"
He says, "No, it's going to be a while later. You need to be ready. You need to be watchful. You need to have hope. You need to realize that when I finally come back to take what is mine; no one's going to miss my Lion's roar. Everybody's going to get me for who I am." Now he's going to tell them some specific things. He tells two stories starting in Matthew 25.
If you have your Bible, I would love you to open up there. I encourage you to bring your Bibles every week. Matthew 25. Turn there with me. There are two stories. One we're going to move through very quickly. Another one we'll hunker down in and I'll give you some application. Here we go.
He says, "Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins…" I'll stop right there and we'll say that what he is going to talk about here is this idea of the kingdom of heaven. What is the kingdom of heaven? When you see a phrase like this used, Jesus is going to say, "My kingdom that is here on earth even now, I am King. I am firmly entrenched in my lordship. Even though it looks like another is ruling in this Narnia, in this world, I am in fact the Lion.
I am the Son of the emperor. I am the King himself. This is my land and I will rightly regain it one day. In this land, there are people who say they love me, but in fact they really don't. The kingdom of heaven is really made up of two different sets of folks: people who are truly followers of Christ and people who think they might be followers of Christ but are not." I'll say it to you this way. We talk about the church today. You'll tell folks you went and hung out with people at church today.
You are a part of a church this morning in certain vernacular, and in this church there are two kinds of people: people who are part of the church, the organizational, external structure and then folks who are part of an internal true church, which is people who have been called out by grace through faith to believe that God is Master, that they are servants, that they are sinners and God is holy, and if God in his grace didn't deal with the corruption and rebellion that is in their hearts, they would have no hope before him.
They would be consumed as wrath. They know they deserve it so they have cried out for forgiveness for choosing to go where God has told them not to go in rebellion against him. They have seen the brokenness of their lives, the hopelessness of ever trying to restore themselves as right before God's eyes, and they have accepted his provision of grace. That is the true church.
In church today, there are some who are a part of that true church and others who are just part of the church who are here. Likewise, the kingdom of heaven is made up of 10 virgins. You'll find out that some of those virgins truly loved the master. Others are living in the master's house familiar with the master, but are not good servants in the household.
So the master has gone away to take for himself a bridegroom. When he returns, the ones who loved the master have acted as he said that they should act because they have a relationship with him. They will enter into the celebration upon the master's return with his bride, but there are those who are going to go about their own business, their own way, are not going to be ready, are not going to be watchful.
They don't have faith that who the master is much concern to them. They don't have readiness. They will be locked out and separated from him. When you hear that story you go, "I don't want to be separated from the great celebration of the master when he gets his bride and returns." Jesus is saying, "Well, that's what the kingdom of heaven is going to be like. When I come and establish my kingdom, there are going to be people here who were underneath me, but really were not related to me at all."
Watch this. Jump with me to the next story because this is where we want to focus today and this is how we're going to wrap up our little series called Consumed. It starts in verse 14. "For it…" Now what is it? It is the kingdom of heaven again. Watch this. "For [the kingdom of heaven] is just like a man about to go on a journey…"
What's he answering? "…when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming…?" He gave some intellectual reasons there in chapter 24. Now he is telling stories. "It will be a time when I come back and people who thought they knew me weren't ready because they really hadn't done business with me and they're going to be separated from the kingdom I'm going to establish."
Next story, "It will be like a man who is about to go on a journey." Jesus is saying, "I'm the man and I'm going to call my slaves, anybody who wants to say they want to be related to me, and entrust my possessions to them." Look, all the folks in the story we're about to read are identified with this master, yet we have not yet determined whether people in the kingdom of heaven, the people in the church, the people who are hanging out in the story are good or bad citizens of this little place. Okay?
It says he "…entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey." Let me just say what a talent is right here. Talent in that day and age was a measure of weight, roughly 75 pounds. The real value of a talent depended upon that mineral or the metal which was weighed.
In other words, 75 pounds or one talent of gold is more valuable than 75 pounds of silver, which is more valuable than 75 pounds of copper. We use the idea of a talent in today's language of somebody who is skilled or gifted. We're saying, "They have a lot of substance of this thing. They are weighty in the issue of singing, teaching. They are weighty as an athlete. They have a lot of substance in this area."
Depending upon how we value that thing, it's more valuable than others. In other words, intellectually if you have a lot of intellectual weight, you are talented, skilled as an intellectual. We value that in our world. That's more valuable than being a skilled maker of goofy faces. You are very talented at crossing your eyes and making funny faces.
Unless you're Jim Carrey, we don't value that very much. We'll let you get on Letterman and do a stupid human trick and we'll applaud and your 30 seconds of fame will be over and you'll move on, though you are more talented or weighty in that giftedness than somebody else. Jesus is saying right here though is a talent… It uses the word a little bit later for money.
The word for money in this particular parable is the word for silver. What he gives them is about 75 pounds of silver, which is the common currency pretty much of the day. Now watch this. One talent equals 60 minas. A mina was 100 drachmas or 100 denarii. A denarius was a day's wages. So if you have one talent, you have 60 minas, and you have 6,000 days wages.
So when you're given five talents, you do five times 600, do your math, you have about 20 years worth of work pay entrusted to you. Another guy gets four years. Another guy gets a little over two year's worth of pay. That's a lot of cash that's given to them. "I'm going away. I'm not going to tell you how long I'm gone, but I'm giving you according to your ability some serious jack. All right? So be faithful with it."
Whose was it? The master's. There's not a single guy there who thought it was his. They knew whose it was and they were to be consumed with one thing. What's that? Not all the things that were in the catalog now that they could buy with this money, but that they would be faithful with that which is given to them. Watch.
It says, "Immediately…" Right away as a sign of faith, not tallying about but as a matter of first import. "… the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money."Or silver coin is what the Scripture really says.
Verse 19, "Now after a long time…" What's Jesus doing? Telling a story. "…the master of those slaves came and…" Reconciled is what the word literally means. Reckoned with them. Like you reconcile a bank statement? He is going to reckon accounts. He is going to settle accounts with them."The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying…"
"I am so excited you're back! I was eager for your return. I was expecting that you would come back. I'm not going to shrink back at your coming. I'm ready for you to see what I have done because I've loved you and I've behaved as if what you said was real: that you would go away and you would come back and that you wanted me to do business until you return with what you have given me, entrusted me with. Welcome back! I'm so glad you're here! Look what I have to give you!"
It says, "'Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'" Watch this. He gives them additional wealth. Additional responsibility comes with that. He said, "You enter now into my joy, a deeper relationship with me. There is no breach here. In fact, I'm going to have you now even more in the inner circle because the reward (this is so key) for faithful service is the opportunity for more service."
Isn't that the way with everything? When you have somebody who is going to execute what you want them to execute and they do it well, you're going to say, "Man, I have to give you more responsibility, more leadership, more opportunity to be faithful because everything you do turns out exactly like I want it." So the reward for faithfulness here is the greater opportunity for faithfulness. The second guy comes up. He said, "Look, I have received two talents and I have gained two more."
In verse 23, "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew you to be…'""I made you out in my mind to be, I reckoned you as…" "'…a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.'"
In other words, my misunderstanding, my misinformation, my mistaken understanding about your nature created in me a fear. It also created a bit of an opportunity for me to do what I wanted to do and not to order my life under the responsibility that you had given me so I could do what I wanted to do, but let's not go there.
The point is that I know you to be a certain way. I've made you out to be this in my mind. This is my excuse for why I don't have something to give you. Now watch this. "But his master answered and said to him, 'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to [if that is true] have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.'" Is this a lamb or a lion talking here?
Not much of a lamb. He doesn't say, "Oh, you misinformed theologian, poor pitiful you. You read the wrong books. I am so sorry." No, what he says is, "You wicked, selfish, lazy imp!" That's what he says. "The reason you did what you did is because you wanted to live the way you wanted to live and justify your lifestyle by making me out to be something that you knew I wasn't. So I'm going to get you someplace where you'll never be reminded of who I really am.
It's a place where there is no joy, no reminder of my grace, no reminder of my goodness. It can be described as a place of intense emotional pain where only weeping happens. There'll be nothing to remind you of the goodness of your master. It will be a place of intense physical pain where there is only gnashing. You created your own little story.
You made me to be what you wanted me to be so you could do what you wanted to do without accountability, without responsibility, without duty, and with no regard to me. Well, you are not mine. Though you've been near me and around me, thrown yourself underneath me. You've made me out to be something of your own creation, which is to say you've denied who I am. So since you wanted nothing to do with me, I will put you in a place where there is nothing there that will even remind you of that which is who I am." Merry Christmas.
He says, "Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness…" Not a happy day. In other words, there is a guy there who wants to give the illusion that he is a servant, but he really isn't.
The story is told of a guy who is starting his first day in the job, wants to impress people. He is sitting there in his office and he hears somebody walking in. He wants to impress them so he quickly grabbed up the phone and says, "Yes, Mr. President. I'm glad you called. Thank you. Yes, I'm glad to be a part of the company. What? You want my input?
Well I knew you were going to bring me on to give great instruction to you about how we would do as a company, but let me just get my arms around some of the folders you've given me and study a little bit. How about if we grab a little bit of lunch together today and I'll introduce you a new marketing plan and a new strategy I think will take our company to where you want it to be and how you would like to have me hire. I've got to go. Somebody is here in my office. I'll be with you at lunch, Mr. President," and hung up the phone.
Then he looked at the guy and he says, "Excuse me, I was just taking a very important phone call. How can I help you?" The guy said, "I don't really care. I'm actually here to hook up your phone." See, that guy in the office didn't really have a relationship with the president, but he wanted to give the appearance that he did because he thought it would make him somehow look powerful, right, or glorified in that individual's eyes. It was a mockery and there was no real authenticity there. There's a day that he is going to be exposed.
What I want to do is walk you through… Jesus told a lot of these stories about masters and servants. I want to walk you through something that is true in every one of them. Then I'm going to give you some very specific application for us today. Because it's our job to tell each other the story, to remind ourselves, "This is who we are. This is where we came from. This is who God is. This is the accountability that we all have."
We can choose to make God into something that he is not. We can deny his coming. We can deny the fact that he will come again, but at the end of the day, he says he has come and he will return and whether or not you're in church won't determine whether or not you're a part of the celebration when he returns.
It's what you do with him, what you say of him, and how you live to validate what you say you believe (which is to say how you behave), which really determines what you believe. Okay. Watch this. Here we go.
In all of these little stories, the master, he owns everything. In every story that Jesus told of a master/servant relationship, and there are many… I read you one specifically. The master owns everything: possessions, money, even the servants. They all belong to him. He has the right to do with everything whatever he pleases.
Also, he is sovereign. Whatever he says goes. What he says you must do in response to his position. He is trusting with his assets, with his name, with his authority. He lets other people have it, but he wants you to use it well.
He has expectations, in every one of the stories, that his servants will do what he has instructed them to do.There is an absence in every story because he wants you to know that in your story there will be a time when you will not be able to see him physically as King, but he is still king. He is still the owner of the manor. He will be gone for an undisclosed period of time. This is the story. His physical absence will make servant's actions free from immediate accountability. There is, however, a return, a promised and as yet unspecified date, but he said, "I'm coming back."
He is good. Meaning that though he has the right to expect that servants will do exactly what he asked because they are servants and servants just serve, he chooses to reward servants who act faithfully because he is good and kind and gracious.
He is also strict. He has no patience for excuses. You can stand before him all day and tell him the reasons why you did not do what he asked you to do, but in the end, he is going to be honest and forthright about his evaluation of who you are. He'll happily tackle your words. He'll deal with your profession, but he will also deal with that which really possessed your heart. He will say, "You know what? You said you loved me, but I'm going to tell you who you really loved and I'm going to prove it by walking you through some things."
Now, to the servants in every one of these stories, you find this. They are all stewards. In other words, they are all individuals who must be reminded continually or live in the mindset that they are not owners of anything but only the caretakers of what the master has given them.
They are accountable. In other words, they will be evaluated on how they conducted themselves and how they used the master's possessions and authority which have been given and entrusted to them during his absence. The judgment of their behavior is not immediate.
There is responsibility, which is enduring. It is not fleeting. They are to work until their master returns or until they die.
Resigning or abandoning their post is not an option. You can't resign from being a slave. You are a slave. Are you going to be a good slave who loves his master, who willingly gives himself or are you going to be one who only does it when the master is looking and when you think it really matters? There is an ethic that is expected of them. They are to work hard, do well, and not be lazy or irresponsible. Their entire life is to be defined by the relationship with and responsibility to the master.
There is watchfulness. They should expect that today is the day their master will return and their motivation is to be 100 percent the relationship with and the respect for the master and his character and position. That's what motivates them: that their master is good, fair, just, and that their master is a man of his word who is sovereign.
So while they are given provision to conduct affairs and business, provide for their family and for themselves, they are not told to be consumed with cash and comfort. They are told to be consumed with acting honorably while he is gone.
Just very quickly some lessons that come from this and every one of these stories. That's one. Today's behavior does affect tomorrow's benefits. You'll find this: it takes time before today's behavior results in either rebuke or reward.
The master's absence is an opportunity for the servants to show their love for or lack of respect for their master. Let me say that one again, because this absence here is a very crucial period. That's why the story is being told. During this time in the story while the master is away physically, this is your moment to show either your love for him or your lack of respect that he is strict and good. Have you made him out to be something different than he is or do you trust him for what he has said?
The servants are entitled to nothing, we find out. Their entire job is to fulfill their master's wishes. It is their job to find out what the owner wants done and to do it. That's their whole life. They should be consumed with that. When they act by thinking out of the mindset of entitlement or ownership, they are living in rebellion. It is true in every story.
There is only, and this is huge, one opinion that matters, and it's the owner's opinion of the servant's efforts. It doesn't matter how many other servants knew their name. It doesn't matter what others thought of themselves or how renowned they were by others in the kingdom. All that matters in every story is the judgment of the owner. But, boy, isn't it just like us and I'm sure all these guys in the story, to be consumed with what other servants think of us or what we think of ourselves. That's not what matters.
Then, finally, there is a limited amount of time for every servant to show their faithfulness. After appointed time has elapsed, there is certain judgment.
That's the story. You have to decide why God told that story and where you fit into it, who he is and whether or not you're going to live as if those stories are reality. Did he sneak the truth past the watchful dragon of your own entitlement and desire to be consumed with comfort? Has he convinced you that he is trustworthy and good?
Do you believe that you're just passing through and this is your moment and opportunity? Most of us, many of us, some of us here will say, "Yeah, I'm part of the kingdom." He says, "Do you know how I'm going to know? I'm not going to know by what you say. I'm going to know by what you do."
Very quickly, keep your hand there. If you want to, turn to Matthew, chapter 7 with me, and watch this because he spells this out about as clearly as he can. You know, he says you have to enter through the narrow gate. There is one way to show yourself that you're really serious about who I am.
"…for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." Watch this."Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves."There are going to be folks who are going to say, "Stewards should act like this."
"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit…" It's not what you say you are. It's not where you say your roots are; it's what you produce in your life. "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." Weeping and gnashing of teeth.
"So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord…'" Master, master; king, king; on a journey, journey, you'll come one day. "…will enter the kingdom of heaven…" Because the kingdom of heaven is like 10 virgins, the kingdom of heaven is like a master who went away for a long time and gave three servants… We find that five came and five didn't. Two did well, one didn't.
"…but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not [do business] in your name…'" Didn't we say that we buried this stewardship of life of resource, this weighty thing you gave me, this talent, this money? I did this because of who you are and who I was as your servant?""'...and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'"
Rebelliousness, laziness, selfishness, wickedness, not those who at times are tempted to, not those who at times have slipped in that direction, have come to their senses and repented of it, but those who practice this and make it really what they are all about. Now that's pretty sobering stuff.
What do we do with all this? Well we go, "Lord, make us consumed with one thing. Make us consumed with you. Remind us of this truth. One: there is a day coming when all of us will give an account." That day is coming. Our world is in great denial about this.
It's as if we now don't believe in the cry of the Reformation that justification is by faith or we don't believe what was taught before the justification by faith and works. It's like we believe justification comes by death. "There really isn't any judgment when you die, you know? It'll work out. Just don't even deal with it."
But the Bible says, "You have to deal with this fact, that when you die you don't just evolve back into nothingness. You don't have another opportunity." "…it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…" There's a day coming when all of us will give an account for who we said the Master was and how we substantiated our testimony about the Master with our lives.
Our accounting…this is key…will be an evaluation of what we have done. Our accounting will be an evaluation of what we have done, not what we have said about who he is. Because a lot of folks will say, "I'm related to the Master," and they'll make the Master out to be something that he is not. Or they'll say, "I'm related to the Master," and describe him for who he really is, but they're going to act in a way that shows that they don't think that he is their Master.
Let me just give you one more thing that I want to unpack this for you because this is very sensitive stuff. Okay? The Scripture says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Salvation is a gift. Okay?
Let me walk you through this, basically. The gift of salvation is offered to all men. You, because some of you are better than others, some of you have kept more of the law and some of you have gotten closer to the life of glory that God intended in others, but he says this: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all."
God says lawless people will be judged. Just like we want lawless people prosecuted, incarcerated, God says, "Anybody who doesn't keep my law will be prosecuted and judged." You can keep all the law except this one and you're a law-breaker. He said, "You want to do business with me, be my friend? You must be holy. Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Because I love you and I'm just and I want to be the justifier of those who I love, I will give you a means through which you can be reunited to me. But there are going to be some people who go, "That is foolishness that the cross has come that I might live."
They're going to say, "No, thanks," to your offer of a gift of life. "I'll get life on my own." These people, who do not want to be given the gift of salvation, will be judged by what they do. Because they have broken the law… All of us have at some measure or manner, in thought, word, deed, or action, not been the people who God wants us to be.
I've never had anybody come up and say, "I am sinless in everything that I've ever done." I doubt anybody here this morning thinks that. You need to know that when you say, "I'll be judged," you're going to be a person who will be judged as lawless and you will be then sent away from the one who is holy. You cannot be in relationship to him.
You will be in a place that can only be described as a place of great emotional torment and great physical pain. Now there are those who don't say, "No, thanks," they say, "Yes, sir, I would delight in that." Those people who say, "I need the gift of salvation," are either people who really have trusted in God and through faith believe that he has given them what they cannot earn on their own or they are people who say, "Yes, please, I'll take that Lord, Lord," but are still going to continue to operate the way that they want to operate. Now who are those people?
Which one are you in this kingdom of heaven? Which one are you in the church? You know what? God doesn't ask me to figure that out. It's not my job to see through you; it's my job to see you through to greater faithfulness, which is where this story is about to head. My job is to spur you on to be as fruitful as you can be as a son by grace, no longer a child of wrath who says, "No thank you," but a son of mercy who says, "Give me your grace."
I'm not to say, "Was that just a profession or do you really now get it and are you possessing the Spirit so you are being conformed more every day to his image?" He tells two stories earlier in Matthew 13 about this. He says, "Let me just tell you something. The kingdom of heaven is like…" He says it's like a dragnet that's thrown in the ocean, and it scoops up good things and bad things.
It's not your job to sort it out. It's God's net, and God at the end will sort out the good from the bad. You just make sure you're good. He tells another story. He said it's like the wheat and the tares. He said there is wheat and there are tares that look like wheat but are really just a weed. Don't go through trying to pull out, "You're a tare! Get out of our church! You're really not the wheat that we want you to be. You get out of here."
He said, "You try to pull all that up, you're going to pull up some wheat with the tares. Just let the Lord of the harvest at the end of time take care of that. You just call people to be wheat, as fruitful wheat as they can be." Now watch this. When you say, "Yes, please," which is all you can say, you have to ask yourself, "Is that just a nominal yes or is that a true yes which determines how you will live in light of who the Master is?"
Then guess what you will be judged by? What did I say? Salvation is always a gift. Judgment, I said, is always based on works. If you don't want the gift of salvation, you're going to go right to the works camp and you will be judged a failure. If you want the gift of salvation, guess what? There is a second judgment. It's the judgment of sons and daughters who are servants. See Matthew 25:21.
In Matthew 25:21, you will either hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things…" Sometimes temporally, but not always that reward, and sometimes…always…eternally. Okay? God will always reward folks eternally for their faithfulness. Sometimes there is a temporal benefit, but not every time.
In other words, let me say it this way. Two men owned a farm side by side. One was an atheist and one was a devoted follower of Christ. The atheist was absolutely annoyed by the follower of Christ, so he said to him, "I'll tell you what. I am so sick of your praying. I am so sick of you talking about how good your God is. Why don't we do this? Next year, let's both buy the same seed. We'll split it in half under the same amount of acres. You plant the seed and I'll plant the seed. You pray every day. I'll curse God every day. Then in October, we'll measure our harvest and we'll see if your God is real." The guy said, "Fine."
They did that. October came. The atheist was absolutely delighted because his crop was exceedingly more than the person who had prayed every day. He taunted. He said, "What do you have to say for your God right now?" The believer said, "My God doesn't settle all of his accounts in October. That's what I have to say about my God right now."
In other words, the reward that I'm going to get is not every October. It's not every paycheck. My reward is that there will be a day that God will come and settle all accounts. Now there is reward for keeping his Word here today. It's not always external, however. Sometimes he even disciplines his sons in a harsher way than he disciplines those who aren't for the purpose of conforming you more to the image of Christ and giving you a greater opportunity to speak of the hope that is to come.
But you will either be a Matthew 25:21 servant where it is said that you are well doing in your actions or you will be a 1 Corinthians 3:15. Let me read to you from 1 Corinthians 3. Go back to verse 10 for me. Here's what it says. "According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it."
Paul is saying, "I laid the foundation on the one thing that you can stand on, which is the preaching of the grace of God, the death of Jesus Christ, the covering that comes through his perfect blood for your wicked little heart. Now another person has come alongside you and is building you up in the truth of that." "But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." You try and build your life before God on anything other than the gift of God's sacrifice for you, you're messing up.
"Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident [in the day of judgment] for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; [yet if his foundation is on Christ] he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."
In other words, here is the deal. Salvation is always a gift. Judgment is always based on what you have done. This parable, this story that Jesus told has to be understood on two levels. First of all, are you a servant that has really reckoned him for who he is? Have you said, "He is my Master," but just given lip service, in which case Matthew 7:23, "DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS." Get out of here!
Just because you said he is your King doesn't mean he is your King. If you say he is your King and he is really your King and you're building your life on that foundation there's a possibility that you can build on it irregularly, foolishly, with fleeting things, inconsistency. It's not going to last. Or you can build well and he'll say, "You've been consumed with who I am, what I've given you, and stewarding it well. Man, it's going to be well with you."
Let me make this very clear. Salvation is always won on the basis of Christ's work for humanity. Okay? Rewards are won on the basis of our work for God. Next, our work for God is never a substitute for God's work for us. Ever. Finally, God's Word to us is that he will never forget what we have done for him. Ever! He'll never forget it.
So what you want to be is, first of all, make sure in this little kingdom we're in this morning that we're not just giving him lip service, but having really met with our hearts that he is the foundation which gives us hope, let's build on it. Now not saying that he is Lord and Master and really meaning it and dealing with our sin and saying, "Yes, sir, please give me grace."
But are you building well? Are you concerned as the steward says he should be concerned with one man's opinion? Are you concerned with every day conducting yourself as if everything you have has been given you by him for the purpose of conducting business as he would have you conduct business? Because there is still a ton at stake.
Don't miss the fact that salvation is a gift, that there is still not a judgment for all of us. We will all be judged, not as to whether or not we're in or out of the kingdom if our profession is real and we possess the Spirit, but as to whether or not we have been a faithful steward and servant. How are you doing? How are you doing? Have you dealt with the foundation yet?
Man, make that priority one. Are you insecure about whether or not what you said in that moment was really sincere because you continue to live your life on your own way and there is no evidence in your life that God's Spirit indwells you and is conforming you more and more to the image of holiness and righteousness and love and others-centeredness?
You ought to be concerned if you don't see that. Was there a time when you were doing that well, but you've been consumed by the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, the concerns for many things and a lot of what you've built lately is wood, hay, and stubble and you want to get back to building that which won't be consumed.
I want you to reflect on those things and we're going to get ready to hand you something that will give you an opportunity to think through this on your own. I want you to meditate on the words of the song, reflect back on the truths that are in this specific parable, and ask yourself, "What am I going to do with what I've been given?"
Remember this: everything we have is a tool, a test, and a testimony. It's a tool to glorify God, to further his work, or to just feather our own bed and show that we really don't know him as Master and that there's an accounting coming. It's a test. Will we use it for ourselves or for him? It's a testimony of the goodness of our God and the way we spend his money while he is gone. Are we using it in the way that he would in order to increase his fame?
Ask yourself those questions. If you have not yet received an envelope, we'll bring the lights up and we'll make sure that you get one in your hands. Let me tell you, this parable tells us a couple of things. First of all, as we get ready to do what I want you to do with these envelopes, know this. Judgment comes for failing to use what you have. It does not come for failing to do what others have done.
There's a reason I believe that God had the person with one talent not invest it well in the story. He is not concerned at the loss of the tremendous production that could've happened had this person done it. He is concerned with the rebelliousness of the heart. It's the lost opportunity, not the size of the opportunity. Because the opportunity that each servant was given in that story was given to them in relationship to their ability.
Some of us, most of us in this room, have really been trusted with a lot. I want to remind you that in the end none of our excuses for not doing what we should have done will work. None of them. It amuses me to no end… That's actually not even the right word. It saddens me, perturbs me to no end that folks take the doctrine of justification by grace through faith as a means through which they are not serious about building well. It's an excuse.
"God, I thought I was saved by grace, not through works, so I really didn't concern myself with my works." He's going to say, "You never really got it. You never knew me, did you?" He uses people who have this doctrine of prosperity in order to justify their increasing accumulation of wealth and self-indulgence as a sign of God's favor upon them. They use their arrogant interpretation of predestination and election as an excuse for their not being involved in sharing the story of Jesus Christ with others and doing everything they can to compel others to come in.
He is going to say, "You know what? If that's how you use doctrine to feather your bed, if that's how you use doctrine to justify that you didn't need to be concerned with your works, if that's how you used doctrine to be an individual who didn't need to passionately share Christ with their lost friends, you never really got it right, did you? You made me out to be something I wasn't."
In the end, God will prosper us all, but not always in the temporal realm. It is true that God has foreknown us, called us, predestined us, and elected us. It's all there, but it's not an excuse that we are to toy with and take us off our responsibility. Here is the truth. John Wesley told us that one of the ways that we should methodically consider how we use money is by asking ourselves these three questions.
First…Am I spending this money in such a way that I'm acting as if I owned it or am I acting as if I am the Lord's trustee? Secondly…Can I offer up this purchase as a sacrifice to the Lord? Thirdly…Will God reward me for this expenditure at the resurrection of the dead? Wesley, as best as he could, methodically went through this little process and others before he spent money that he might be seen as a good steward.
Well, what are we doing today? In your hands is an envelope. I'd like you to open it up right now. It is something that we are giving to you. We're giving it to you differently than individuals in the parable because we didn't have time to interview you personally and find out what you were able to handle.
Some of you were given $5, some $10, some $20, some $50, some $100, and some $1,000. Now you might be overwhelmed with $1,000. I want to say this to you really quickly. If everybody could just stop counting their green for just a second and go, "Man, I should've come to first service!"
You know all of us, we hear about people who have a lot, have been given a lot, and they talk about the burden that it is. We, in our judgmental ways, look at them and go, "Yeah, give me that burden!" Some of you got it this morning. I want you to know that's not your money. That is money that I am responsible for along with all the members of this church.
This money has been stewarded to us as a work of Jesus Christ to make him more famous. We are trusting you as a steward of what God has given us. We are entrusting it to you, and you are to use that money to further the fame of who Jesus Christ is. If you go, "Look, man. I don't play your games. I don't believe that I am accountable to you."
Guess what? You can take that money and we'll never know. You don't have to worry that I'm going to track you down because we haven't taken photo IDs of everybody who has been here this morning. You'll get away with not being a steward of what is ours, but you will not get away from the stewards of whose you are.
In fairness, I want to tell you, if you're overwhelmed because you've gotten more than you know how to handle well, come and speak with us and we will shepherd and help you any way we can and give you a different amount if that would bless you differently. Okay? We don't want to overwhelm you, but here's the deal. We are going to ask as stewards of this, the money that God has entrusted to us as a community of faith, three things.
We ask that you invest the money. You can pool it with others or add to it as you are lead, but you are using it for the advancement of the Lord Jesus Christ's fame and kingdom. It should be clear that what you are doing with the money to others or however you are going to use it is not a random act of kindness.
In other words, when you use it, you have to explain why it's being used the way it's being used. Use the money only after you have prayed and sensed the Lord's leading regarding how he would have you use it. You are not allowed to simply give it to the first person you meet on the street.
Quickly, we have given your children the same thing in different denominations. But we have told them to do the same thing: to pray about it, but also to lean upon their parents so that they might, with your help, honor our entrusting them with this money. What we would ask you to do is every single one of you write your name, the amount you received, and then you just shoot us back on this little card, just write it on there, put a little stamp on it. It's already addressed.
Drop it in the mail or go to Matthew25email@example.com and email us. Just say, "After praying about it, pooling with others, adding whatever resources I felt led, this is what we did to advance the Lord Jesus Christ's fame and kingdom." I want you to know that you are a steward of this money.
Obviously, what we're going to do with this is it should affect you in a specific way. I'll tell you a story about a pastor friend of ours who had a guy come to him one time and said to him, "Listen, I know that you come in touch with needs that I don't at different times. So I want to give you a large amount of cash that you can use anytime you want for the purpose of ministering to other people."
This pastor friend said that he found himself consistently, when he saw a need, thinking through, "What would So-and-so think if I spent the money right now this way?" He was very careful with that money. Then it hit him one day, "You know what? This money was given to me by this guy to advance the Lord Jesus' fame, but guess what? I ought to do that with everything that I've been given." Because he figured out the parable in Matthew 25.
I imagine that you might look at this $5 in your wallet, this $20, this $50, this $1,000 that you've been given differently than the rest, but I would ask you to reflect back on the truths of all master‑steward parables that we went over today.
Let me just tell you. If there is somebody who is here who came to church today who was hungry, who was cold, who had no means to provide for themselves or those they cared for, do you think God would care if you used that money and you went and you bought yourself a meal? Absolutely not. But if you have all the meals you want and you decide to get an extra dessert on top of the dessert you already have, how do you think God would feel about that?
We want to hear your stories. We're going to celebrate these with you. I can't wait to celebrate for eternity those of us who have figured this parable out for our lives and start to live in the story that when the journey is over and our King returns and he strictly gives good accounts we can be humbled at how we have lived our lives because we got it by his grace.
But let's figure out together what we're going to do with this. To whom much is given, much is expected. Discern, pray, and increase his fame. When you do it and as you do it with all things, have a great week enjoying the pleasure of serving your King.
Whether youre deep in debt or have the tendency to hoard, the Bible is clear that there is a direct correlation between our attitude toward money and our relationship with God. Through these six messages by Todd Wagner, pastor of Watermark Community Church, you will learn Gods heart on the issues of materialism, debt, and being consumed with money and possessions. Our hope is that you will take away practical tools for handling what God has entrusted to you and surrendering your finances to Gods wisdom and direction - ultimately leading you to financial freedom.