The High Honor of Working For God
For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. (Matthew 25:14)
In the parable of the talents we have a most instructive summary of our Lord’s teaching regarding the work He has given His servants to do.
He “called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods,” and went on his journey(Matthew 25:14). Our Lord went to heaven, leaving His work, with all His goods, to the care of His church. His goods were the riches of His grace, spiritual blessings in heavenly places, His Word and Spirit , with all the power of His life on the throne of God- all these He gave in trust to His servants to be used in carrying out His work on earth. Here we have the true root principle of Christian service: Christ has made Himself dependent for the extension of His kingdom on the faithfulness of His people.
“Unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to [each] man according to his several ability.”(Matthew 25:15) Though there was a difference in the measure, every one received a portion of the master’s goods. It is in connection with the service we are to render to each other that we read of the grace given to each of us according to the measure of the gift of Christ.(Ephesians 4:7) This truth has almost been lost sight of: Every believer, without exception, has been set apart to take an active part in the work of winning the world for Christ. Christ was first a son, then a servant; every believer is first a child of God, then a servant. It is the highest honor of a son to be a servant, to have the father’s work entrusted to him. The work of the church will never be done right until every believer feels that the one object of his being in the world is to work for the kingdom. The first duty of the servants in the parable was to spend their life in caring for their master’s interest.
The important question the parable of the talents asks us in the church today is this:
Is the purpose of the church to serve the interest of us or is it’s purpose to serve the interests of Christ? We hear a lot being said about what church members expect and require the church to provide for them. We hear a lot about what the church ought to provide for the community. Someone has coined the phrase “consumerism church”, the idea that church is designed to attract and supply the desire of its attendees. Many see their relationship with God driven and based on whether or not He answers their prayers or meets their need. We have almost made church a sport. What I mean by this is the majority come and sit in the bleachers and watch a small group playing on a field. The beauty of being a spectator rather than a participant, I suppose is the ability to second guess or critique what the players on the field are doing or not doing. It’s easy to be a recliner expert who could tell the coach and the players how to play better. It is another thing altogether to be the one on the field who is trying to win the game.
Church is not designed to be a spectator driven entity any more than the members of your physical body are designed to watch the other members function. The teaching of the Bible is that “every joint supplies.” The weakness of the church in carrying out its mission is largely due to the lack of engagement by its members. According to the parable of the talents, to each of us has been given the master’s goods. It is true that we have not been given equally. Some receive five, some two and others just one. We might envy those who have five or two and say to ourselves that if we have their gifts we would be more engaged. What the Bible teaches is that “ to whom much is given, much is required.” In other words, the more abilities you have, the more God expects from you.
Most of us fit into the category of the one who received only one talent. Few of us have been given a multitude of extraordinary gifts. Those of us who have only a single small gift may feel intimidated or embarrassed to use it as we see those who have great gifts. Yet Christ, who gave us the gift, even though it’s a single talent, has done so for it to be used in expanding His kingdom.
We often quote from Matthew 25 the blessing of the master:
19 “Now after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 And the one who had received the five talents came and brought him five more, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted to me five talents. See, I have [made a profit and] gained five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little, I will put you in charge of many things; share in the joy of your master.’ 22 “Also the one who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have [made a profit and] gained two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little, I will put you in charge of many things; share in the joy of your master.’
Do you see that the words “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little, I will put you in charge of many things; share the joy of your master” are directly related to the report of the servants, both the five talent ant the two talent, who had used their gifts for the master’s purpose. As we can see in this parable, Christ rewards those who put their gifts to work for His kingdom. This reward is only for those who have lived their life in service to the King. This is not to say that only human recognized positions such as choirs or preachers or church leaders qualify. Every believer has been given a measure of gifts and every believer has the opportunity to use those gifts to bless and benefit the kingdom of God.
You may say that there doesn’t seem to be a place in the church for your gift, it if God has placed you there then whether or not there is an existing program or ministry that your gift could be used, it is needed. God who orders all things orders and calls to a particular church all the individuals and their gifts and each of them must have a place to operate. My point is that we aren’t to wait until someone recognizes our gift and we have to be persuaded to offer it. We ought to approach church leadership and offer ourselves and our gifts for the church’s use. It could be that your gift is exactly what has been missing to move the church to growth.
Now let’s take a look at man with the single talent. Jesus said these words:
24 “The one who had received one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a harsh and demanding man, reaping [the harvest] where you did not sow and gathering where you did not scatter seed. 25 So I was afraid [to lose the talent], and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is your own.’ 26 “But his master answered him, ‘You wicked, lazy servant, you knew that I reap [the harvest] where I did not sow and gather where I did not scatter seed. 27 Then you ought to have put my money with the bankers, and at my return I would have received my money back with interest. 28 So take the talent away from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ 29 “For to everyone who has [and values his blessings and gifts from God, and has used them wisely], more will be given, and [he will be richly supplied so that] he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have [because he has ignored or disregarded his blessings and gifts from God], even what he does have will be taken away. 30 And throw out the worthless servant into the outer darkness; in that place [of grief and torment] there will be weeping [over sorrow and pain] and grinding of teeth [over distress and anger].
Hear what the servant said: first, his view of the master was corrupted. He saw the master as demanding and harsh. Yet, the master took of his treasure and entrusted it to this servant and that speaks of generosity. The very fact that God has given us eternal life, care and love, and besides this has endowed us with His gifts ought to cause us to see His compassion for us. Unfortunately the Jews and many Christians today view God this way. We are often afraid to give ourselves to the work of God lest it be insufficient. But our Father isn’t asking for perfection but just our best effort. Second, the man stated that he was afraid. I think that often it is fear that hinders us in offering our gifts. What if I mess up if I teach a class or what if I sing a sour note, or what if I don’t know enough scripture to witness to someone, and on and on we go giving reasons why we don’t use our gifts. So the man said to the master, “I hid your talent, placed it in a safe place and here it is back. I didn’t lose it, I just didn’t use it.”
To this servant no words of praise were given. He did not hear, “Well done” instead Jesus said the master called him a “wicked, lazy servant.” Instead of reward, this servant’s talent was taken from him and given to the five talent servant.
Let’s read again Christ’s words:
(29)”For to everyone who has [and values his blessings and gifts from God, and has used them wisely], more will be given, and [he will be richly supplied so that] he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have [ because he has ignored or disregarded his blessings and gifts from God], even what he does have will be taken away.”
Beloved, one day we will stand before the throne of Christ and we will give account for how we have lived our lives. It will be a time of great joy and a time of sorrow. Those who have invested their lives into the kingdom of God will hear those words, “Well done.” Those who have used their gifts for every other purpose that the kingdom of God will sadly hear these words: (30) “ throw out the worthless servant into the outer darkness.”
Our objection to this scripture may be that we are not saved by our works and that is absolutely true. What is being addressed in this parable is not salvation by works but the obedience of a child of God. Again Jesus speaks to this idea that those who love God also obey Him.
15 “If you [really] love Me, you will keep and obey My commandments. 21 The person who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me; and whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him [I will make Myself real to him].” Jesus answered, “If anyone [really] loves Me, he will keep My word (teaching); and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling place with him. 24 One who does not [really] love Me does not keep My words. And the word (teaching) which you hear is not Mine, but is the Father’s who sent Me.
So I plead with us today that as the church, we would reverse the trend. I plead that rather that asking what the church can provide for us that we see the church as a gateway to give ourselves and our gifts to the work of God. I know that for this to happen, our structures and processes will have to make room for these gifts but if God has called a group of believers together then He has also called each of them to contribute from their gifts and if at this point there seems to be no place for the gift then maybe it’s time to begin something new and something more until every member and every gift is being used to their maximum potential. We have too long delegated the work of God to the “professionals” such as pastors but that is not in keeping with the teaching of Scripture.
Therefore it says, “ When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive , And He bestowed gifts on men .” And [His gifts to the church were varied and] He Himself appointed some as apostles [special messengers, representatives], some as prophets [who speak a new message from God to the people], some as evangelists [who spread the good news of salvation], and some as pastors and teachers [to shepherd and guide and instruct], [and He did this] to fully equip and perfect the saints (God’s people) for works of service, to build up the body of Christ [the church]; until we all reach oneness in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, [growing spiritually] to become a mature believer, reaching to the measure of the fullness of Christ [manifesting His spiritual completeness and exercising our spiritual gifts in unity]. So that we are no longer children [spiritually immature], tossed back and forth [like ships on a stormy sea] and carried about by every wind of [shifting] doctrine, by the cunning and trickery of [unscrupulous] men, by the deceitful scheming of people ready to do anything [for personal profit]. But speaking the truth in love [in all things—both our speech and our lives expressing His truth], let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ. From Him the whole body [the church, in all its various parts], joined and knitted firmly together by what every joint supplies, when each part is working properly, causes the body to grow and mature, building itself up in [unselfish] love.
Do you see the pattern? The ministry gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are not given to the church to do the work solely but to “fully equip and perfect(train) the saints for works of service, to build up the body until we all reach oneness in the faith and knowledge of God and become mature believers- no longer children tossed back and forth; but speaking truth in love, joined and knitted firmly together by what every joint supplies, when each part is working properly, and the body grows and matures, building itself up in unselfish love.” May God grant that we become that church.
Dr. John Thompson