Matthew 25:14–30 (ESV) - Jesus Describes the coming Kingdom of God
14 “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.’
Stewards of Talents
- Talent = 6000 days wages. (16 1/2 years)
- Our english word “talent” comes directly from this greek word talent
We will all answer for what we did with what God has given us. The money He’s given us, the health He’s given us, the time he’s given us, and, as we are going to talk about today, the calling that He has given us, or the work that He has given us to do.
How can we be good stewards of God’s calling for our life? Today I want to discuss three perspectives will help us to steward our life’s work for His Glory
- God created you for good work
- You work for God in every task
- Your good work will last forever
Perspective 1: God created you for good work.
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
What is a calling?
At this idea of calling, or vocation, we have to understand that there is a primary call, and a secondary call.
The primary call is, God’s call to all men to trust in the person and work of His son, Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of their sins, restoration to a right relationship with Him, all resulting in eternal life in a new heavens and new earth with Jesus reigning gloriously as King. This call goes out through the preaching of The Gospel, and is open to all who believe.
The secondary call is usually the one we’re thinking of when we think of “vocation” or calling. Secondary is a call to love and good works, in ANY and EVERY area of life, in ANY and EVERY legal, moral, and ethical profession. The secondary call is everything that we do in response to the primary call.
(So perhaps one good question to text in, if you are curious, is how you know what your calling is!)
Typically the term is synonymous with job or career. In certain corners of Christendom it means being part of a religious order or the priesthood. But since the reformation, the term most rightly has meant simply this: God’s calling on your life, all of it.
No such thing as a higher call
There is no such thing as a “higher calling.” We have this idea in our head that some types of task, such as ministry, evangelism, prayer, fasting, missions work, being on staff with the church, etc, are more important than other types of tasks like farming, spreadsheet slinging, cleaning bathrooms, lawn mowing, etc, but the Bible makes no such distinction.
If you take an honest look at the whole picture of the Bible, you will never see manual labor or other marketplace work degraded as somehow lesser. This idea of “higher” and “lower” kinds of work came from Pagan Greek philosophers, not from a scriptural perspective.
The greatness of a calling depends on the greatness of the caller.
All kinds of work we are called to are high callings, because God is the one asking us to do it. Ephesians 5:16 teaches us to “make the most of every opportunity for the days are evil”, but the way to make the most of every opportunity depends on the moment. Let me give a few examples:
When an airplane is in its landing sequence, what is the most important job that pilot has? TO LAND THE PLANE! When it’s harvest season, the farmer’s most important job is to bring the crop in. They rightly drop everything else to get that work done.
When the plane is on the ground and the pilot is with his coworkers, or when the crop has been brought in, it is important for them to remember that everyone will die and then stand before the throne of God and face judgment for the deeds they have done in life, and so we ought to be very bold in evangelism as well!
If your neighbor or coworker who you’ve been trying to reach out to for months or years, one evening wanders over to your yard with something heavy weighing on their heart, wondering about their eternal destiny, that may be the time for you to drop your plans for the day to spend time with them.
The issue is one of scope and priority.
It is good stewardship of my property and loving to my neighbors (both are commands of the scriptures!) to tend my lawn. But this only takes so much time, and then the task is complete.
There is necessary time to be spent on all kinds of work, and as such, these works are spiritual, important, significant, and valuable, when kept in scope and when priorities are correct. Answer the scope question this way: How much time, and how many resources should be spent on a given task to complete it with excellence? Answer the priority question this way: what would love for God and man have me do right now?
We go wrong when we absolutize one type of task over another categorically, because God will not call us to contradictory tasks. For example, take two important tasks in my life: providing for the physical needs of my family, and my involvement in the Great Commission, the spreading the news about Jesus. I cannot rank these two. They are not in conflict. God has called me to work toward both.
I have to pray and think hard to plan my days, and in faith make decisions moment by moment to make sure I am being effective with both, but I cannot make a blanket statement that one is higher than the other.
Perspective 2: You work for GOD in every task
All tasks are a spiritual act of worship to our God because He is the one that is calling us to them, and because we work for God in them. He is the one you are ultimately serving in your task. He is your boss, and He is benefiting from your work because He is glorified when you follow His call on your life.
Colossians 3:23–24 (ESV)
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
This brings dignity and humility to all work, high and low. It removes pride and boasting from high profile, high prestige jobs, brings dignity to the messiest, most menial tasks. And vice versa.
Think of the implications of this for a minute... The Lord Christ is the one you are actually doing the task for. So, if I am building God’s Web site... how am I going to go about my work? If I am building God’s apartment complex, if I am farming God’s land, if I am cleaning God’s house, if I am doing God’s laundry, how am I going to go about my tasks?? With extreme excellence! With care and precision, with careful research, and with joy!
It is remarkable that this statement was given to slaves, to those in the lowest possible position, though it does apply to us. If this reminder was given to government officials, or kings, or others in high positions, it would not have had the same impact.
So, this truth, that we are working FOR God, makes it a little clearer how our tasks are an act of worship. All tasks are a spiritual act of worship to our God because He is the one that is calling us to them. And because we work for God in them. And also because He is accomplishing His work through you!
HE IS WORKING IN YOU TO WORK FOR HIM
Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV)
“...work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Martin Luther commented on this verse in this context this way:
Martin Luther (From “Exposition of Psalm 147”)
“What is our work in field and garden, in town and house, in battling and in ruling, to God, but child’s play, through which He bestows His gifts on the land, in the house, and everywhere? Our works are God’s masks, behind which He remains hidden, although He does all things. If Gideon had not obeyed and gone to battle with Midian, the Midianites would never have been conquered, although God could, of course, have conquered them without Gideon. He could also give you corn and fruit without your ploughing and planting, but that is not His will...
...God is the giver of all good gifts; but you must fall to, and take the bull by the horns, which means you must work to give God an occasion and a mask.”
Gene Veith, commenting on Luther’s statement above, also turns this thought around for a very convicting application in his book “God at Work”.
If we are masks of God, even when we do not realize it, it is also true that God is masked in our neighbor. Particularly when our neighbor is in need—when he or she is sick, hungry, thirsty, naked, a prisoner, a stranger—Christ Himself is hidden. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,” the Lord says, “ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40).
You are working for God in three senses:
- He is your master
- He is accomplishing His work through you
- He is the one being served
Perspective 3: Your good work will last forever!
Paul speaks of his work in establishing the early church in this passage, but there is application we can all make to all the rest of us in our work the God has called us to in this amazing passage:
1 Corinthians 3:12–15 (ESV)
12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 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. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
We have this saying in evangelicalism: “It’s all going to burn.” And that saying is true, but not everything will be destroyed in that fire. If your work is built with “gold, silver, precious stones” it will survive.
Revelation 14 talks about our deeds following us. There is a sense in which your work will last. Maybe not the physical structures, but maybe. Randy Alcorn says in his book “Heaven” that one potential implication of the scripture’s teaching on the resurrection is that even some of the work we have done will be resurrected. That’s speculation, but worth consideration.
This passage says that some of our work will, in some sense, survive. That is encouraging to me. The work I am doing all day, is not temporary.
What are the “gold, silver, precious stones”? This is work done out of love for your neighbor. It is all about the motive and direction of the work. Work done for self is the wood, hay, and straw. It is interesting that Paul is talking about ministry work specifically in this passage. Even MINISTRY work, done for the wrong reason will burn up and be destroyed. But even a cup of cold water given in love, will not go unrewarded.
Whatever is done out of faith in God’s promises, accurately understood int he bible. Whatever is done in hope (which is saying the same thing), and whatever is done out of love, all of these defined Biblically, not romantically, will last forever!
Remember the Gospel
There is a danger here when we focus on the work itself. We will NEVER be justified before God, we will never be saved by our work. Our work will never be good enough to save us. Only Christ’s work if effective for salvation.
Even our righteous deeds are as filthy rags before God in His holiness, and are made clean only through Jesus blood.
And even our worst deeds can be redeemed by Jesus’s blood through repentance and faith in His work on our behalf.
Our good works are a response. “Go and love others as I have loved you, is Jesus’s command.” So let your good work be done as a loving response, you will drive yourself mad either out of despair, or out of pride, if you seek justification before God through your works.
Question and answers?
We ARE stewards. God has entrusted to us a certain amount of resources (time, money, health, etc) to be used for work that He has prepared for us to do. This can be a terrifying realization, if we do not understand who God is. It can be an amazing realization if we understand that God has allowed us to take part in His work, and like a loving father with his children, He is helping us along the way, making up for our shortcomings, training us gently, correcting us when we stray, disciplining us when we disobey, all the while extending Grace and Mercy to us through His son Jesus. What a wonderful God we have.
We can be encouraged in the stewardship of our calling by realizing that God has:
- Created good work for us to do, that includes every kind of work - Eph. 2:10
- That we work for God in every task (both that He is the one we are ultimately serving, AND that He is doing His work through us.), - Colossians 3:23-24, Philippians 2:12-13
- That our good work will last for eternity. - 1 Cor 3:11-15, Revelation 14:13, 1 Cor 15:58
- Describe your vocation / calling. (Maybe you’ve never articulated it before!) What are your different roles and duties you are called to? (Remember that because God is totally sovereign over (in control of) all things, wherever you find yourself now, is what you are called to.)
- How does your vocation serve people by loving them through helping them?