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The Parable of the Talents?

Tonight we are going to be taking a look at one of the parables of Jesus.
Now sometimes parables are taken to be like little morality tales – like Aesop's fables – And sometimes
the parables DO have good ethical points to make – but more often than not they unsettle our
expectations, turn our world view on its head. Workers paid equally regardless of how much work they
actually do. A farmer who scatters seed around regardless of whether or not the ground is fertile. A
rebellious son who seems to receive more honor than a faithful one. This is not the kind of practical
wisdom that is necessary to be successful in the world. But the parables are not talking about how the
world works – they're talking about heavenly things.

How does Jesus begin almost every one of his parables? - The Kingdom of Heaven is like.

Prudence and moderation are the kind of wisdom you need to get by in a world – a world of limited
resources, and limited power. Workers willing to give a fair days work for a fair days pay, will loose
their incentive to work if you don't treat them right. A farmer who sows carelessly will not have
enough seed to, A father can only bare to have his heart broken so many times.

Read / Pray

So I'd like to start by asking you some questions about bosses. Now you don't have to answer if you
are self-employed, unemployed, or if your boss comes here to church with you.

How many of you like your boss?

How many of you are afraid of your boss?
How many of you think your boss is every unfair?

Now let me ask you another question. If you were to think of Jesus as your boss, what kind of boss
would he be? That's what this parable is about isn't it? But he's more than a boss. When we read the
bible most of us put an “=” between master and boss, because these are both categories of people to
whom we have some obligation to work

But what's the difference between a boss and a Master? - A boss just buys a couple hours of your time,
a master buys YOU!

If it makes a difference in your life whether or not you have a good boss, think of the kind of difference
it would the kind of Master you have would make?
The Servant's Allegations.
So a Master is preparing to go on a long journey – and he calls his three servants to him, and gives
them each differing amounts of money to work with while he's gone. The first two get to work right
away and turn a profit

What does the third one do? - He buries it. Why?

The servant says, I knew you were a HARD MAN – so I buried it, because I was afraid.

Was this performance anxiety? Did he think he wasn't up to the task? Did it have anything to do with
his sense of his ability? - NO! He blames the Master.

He says “I knew you were a Hard Man – reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you
have not scattered seed.” What's he saying? - You come here expecting something from me, and you
haven't given me anything to work with.

The master does nothing to deny the servant's allegations, in fact his actions seem to confirm the
servants charge. He calls him a Wicked and Lazy servant, and has him thrown out. And to add insult
to injury, he takes his talent and gives it to the guy who already has ten. You'd think he'd give it to the
guy with four to help him get ahead, wouldn't you? So, are the servant's allegations true. Is the master
really being unfair. Let's look at the master and see if we can find some answers.

The Master's Defense

The servant's complaint against the master is that he's is expecting something back from him when he
hasn't given him anything to work with. Is this true?

What's a Talent Worth?

How much was he given? - A talent.

So he was given something. How much do you think a talent was worth? Was it a small sum of
money? There are a lot of factors involved – like whether or not you were talking about a silver talent
or a gold talent. Then there's inflation – the average person only made about $.20 a day back then. So
its really hard to know what a talent would be worth by today's standards. But it regardless of the
actual value it was a LOT OF MONEY. One estimate places a Gold talent at $84,000. So a talent was
probably worth several years wages at least. Could you do something with that much money?

What would make the servant think he had nothing to work with? – he must have been looking at what
the other servants got. There was probably a bit of envy there. These other guys get to go around town
writing the big checks – accomplishing great things.

Does the amount of money he has to work with really matter? - No.

At the end of the day, the money belongs to the master? It all goes back to him. It would be foolish to
think that anything the master gives me to work with should brings any greater glory to myself. And
those who would honor me more highly because I seem to be making the big things happen are fools –
and if I believe them, I'm an even bigger fool. At the end of the day I'm a servant – only one thing
How Do You Measure Success?
How do you think that the servant is expecting to be evaluated – if he's looking at his fellow servants?
He sees the guy with the five talents and he thinks – of course he's going to succeed – he's got FIVE
TALENTS, and I've just got one. He's going to do at least five times better than me, the master is going
to be five times happier with him. How can I compete with that. And the guy with two talents, he's
still got twice as much as I do. He's going to do twice as well. The master's will definitely be happier
with him than he is with me. What's his conclusion? - you've set me up to fail.

Is that true? How do YOU think the master will judges the work of his servants? What standard does
he use?

Is he going to judge his servants based on the amount of money they bring back to him? - NO

How does he address the first two servants when they come to him? - Well done GOOD and
FAITHFUL servant. Good here does not refer to the servants performance - it refers to their character
– It has nothing to do with the size of their accomplishments.

They've each been given differing amounts of money, how can they possibly be judged based on what
they've been given – something which they had NO control over.

They are judged on something they all have equally within their power – to be faithful with what they
were given.

So Did the master set anybody up to fail? No – It says he gave to each “according to his ability.”
Some people will fail because you give them too little to work with, some people fail because you give
them too much to work with. The master doesn't want anybody to fail – he knows his servants and he
gives each one what they are capable of handling.

And how were they rewarded? Did the servant who brought home ten talents get a better reward than
the one who brought home two? - No, they are rewarded equally – look again at the reward given to the
first two servants. “Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful in a few thing, I will
put you in charge of many things. Come and enter into your master's happiness.

Conclusion about the Servant

So the the servant fears the master, he has set a standard of performance for himself, and already
judged himself by it before the master has even left town. Only he doesn't think he's doing this to
himself, he believes this is what the master is like. How did his perspective get so bent out of shape –
that he would see his master as evil and unjust? - He was looking at the other servants – maybe he was
even envying them. What did the other's do when the master left? - They went right to work. They
knew that success depended on faithful obedience – so it didn't matter who got what. The third servant
forgot what it meant to be a servant? He lost sight of what standard he was being judged by? And
because his beliefs got so out of whack – he was compelled by what he believed to be true, to act

This parable can surely be applied to money – if others seem to be more prosperous than us. We are
not judged by what we are capable of accomplishing for God monetarily. But this can also be applied
to any kind of power, influence, or prestige we have in the world. My parents became sincere followers
of Jesus several years after I did. One day I remember my mom telling me how she was leaving CVS
and saw a lady struggling to get into the store with her wheelchair. She called out to my mom for help,
she asked her if she could go in and pick out a card for her daughter's birthday. My mom agreed and
bought the card for her. When she told me the story I remember feeling compelled to tell her that it is
quite possible that from God's point of view, that may have been the most significant thing that
happened that day. My mom is not a very social person, she feels very awkward around other people.
The courage that it took to minister to that woman, was no less significant, than the courage it would
take for an accomplished preacher like Billy Graham to speak to huge stadiums full of people. In some
ways I think it takes more.

When you've heard the call of God in your life, it is important to go straight to work. The old testament
uses the expression “turn neither to the right or the left” as a way of describing faithful obedience or
dedication. To the right and the left are distractions, if you look at them your going to walk off the
path. To the right and your left are your brothers and sisters who may have been blessed in ways that
you haven't – if you are caught up in your own work, you can rejoice with them. If you are not you
will forget what you've been given – and you may even come to resent God. Let's pray that God helps
us to recognize the things that he has sown into our lives, to get to work and not be distracted, so that
we can also enter into our master's happiness.