The Master’s Reward For Our Work
Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. (Matthew 25:19)
Christ keeps watch over the work He has left to be done on earth; His kingdom and glory depend upon it. He will not only hold reckoning when He comes again to judge, but comes unceasingly to inquire of His servants as to their welfare and work. He comes to approve and encourage, to correct and warn. By His word and Spirit He asks us to say whether we are using our talents diligently and living only and entirely for His work.
Some He finds laboring diligently, and to the, He frequently says, “Enter into the joy of the Lord.” Others He sees discouraged, and them He inspires with new hope. Some He finds working in their own strength; these He reproved. Still others He finds sleeping or hiding their talent; to such His voice speaks in solemn warning: “From him that hath not shall be taken away even that he hath.”(Matthew 25:29)
Christ’s heart is in His work every day. He watches over it with the most intense interest; let us not disappoint Him nor deceive ourselves.
That the man of one talent should have been the one to fail, and to be severely punished, is a lesson of deep solemnity. It calls the church to beware lest, by neglecting to teach the feebler ones, she allow them to let their gifts be unused.
In teaching the great truth that every branch is to bear fruit, special stress must be laid on the danger of thinking this can be expected only of the strong and advanced Christian. Care must be taken that the feeblest Christian receive special training so that they too, May joyfully have their share in the service of their Lord and all the blessedness it brings. If Christ’s work is to be done, not one can be missed.
I read recently that in the average church that somewhere between 10-20% of the congregation does 80% of the work of the church. I think it is apparent that the volunteer numbers have been steadily declining over the last several years and those who do volunteer do so almost with complacency and in many cases half-hearted uncommitted obligatory that quite often leaves the work undone or not well done.
I realize this sounds like a horrible condemnation. It is certainly not meant to be. However, if we are ever going to change, we must first accept things as they really are and not the seeing of them as we wish they might be.
Somehow we have drifted into what I call “spectator church” where we watch the “pros” play the game. Someone has said it this way: The stands are filled with the out of shape who need the exercise watching and critiquing the strong and healthy players on the field. This is well for sports I suppose but the church is not designed to become a place where we are mere spectators. The Bible teaches that every single person has been called by God from the day of salvation to contribute to the work of the church.
For just as the body is one and yet has many parts, and all the parts, though many, form [only] one body, so it is with Christ. For by one [Holy] Spirit we were all baptized into one body, [spiritually transformed—united together] whether Jews or Greeks (Gentiles), slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one [Holy] Spirit [since the same Holy Spirit fills each life]. For the [human] body does not consist of one part, but of many [limbs and organs]. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” is it not on the contrary still a part of the body? If the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” is it not on the contrary still a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole [body] were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But now [as things really are], God has placed and arranged the parts in the body, each one of them, just as He willed and saw fit [with the best balance of function]. If they all were a single organ, where would [the rest of] the body be? But now [as things really are] there are many parts [different limbs and organs], but a single body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” But quite the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are [absolutely] necessary; and as for those parts of the body which we consider less honorable, these we treat with greater honor; and our less presentable parts are treated with greater modesty, while our more presentable parts do not require it. But God has combined the [whole] body, giving greater honor to that part which lacks it, so that there would be no division or discord in the body [that is, lack of adaptation of the parts to each other], but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. And if one member suffers, all the parts share the suffering; if one member is honored, all rejoice with it. Now you [collectively] are Christ’s body, and individually [you are] members of it [each with his own special purpose and function]. So God has appointed and placed in the church [for His own use]: first apostles [chosen by Christ], second prophets [those who foretell the future, those who speak a new message from God to the people], third teachers, then those who work miracles, then those with the gifts of healings, the helpers, the administrators, and speakers in various kinds of [unknown] tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire and strive for the greater gifts [if acquiring them is going to be your goal]. And yet I will show you a still more excellent way [one of the choicest graces and the highest of them all: unselfish love].
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
Jesus in Matthew 25 is explicit in His teaching of the parable of the talents. He says that each of us have been given something to work with and though the quantity varies between believers (some have five talents, others two, and others only one), each person is accountable to use their gifts for the work of Christ. Every natural ability we have has been given to first work for the kingdom of God and then to bring blessing to us. For example, if God has given you the ability to earn large sums of money, He has done so that you might bless the church with large gifts. O the other hand if you can only do menial tasks, God still requires that you offer even the small things to Him. Consider the widow and her two mites.
If we compare the church to our physical bodies, for that’s what Paul has done, we would find that if only 20% of our bodies functioned, we would be considered disabled. Yet we think nothing of the Body of Christ attempting to function at a 20% capacity. I’m thankful for everything the church is able to accomplish. This past year has been a great challenge for the church to survive much less thrive. Yet it has revealed the need for the 80% to become engaged and involved. Yes, it has and will continue to require innovation and creativity for the church to thrive in this changing environment, but I believe that God has graced every church with talented people for such a time as this.
One of the things I’ve learned is that the human brain and body is an amazing creation. It seems when there is an injury, the body will go to work healing itself. Stroke victims experience their brain rerouting its circuits and their limbs learning to function again. It does this because it has been designed by God to be fully functional. There are times when it cannot heal itself and so it then compensates. For example sight loss seems to enhance hearing or touch capabilities.
So we find in the church, that quite often the 20% compensates for the non-contribution of the 80%. And just as a physical body becomes limited in its abilities even though the functioning parts are trying to compensate, so also the church becomes limited in its capabilities to do the work of God.
Dream with me for a moment. If the church is doing what it’s doing now, which by the way I pretty amazing, with 20% of its members committed and involved, what could it do at 30% or 40%? Dare we dream of 50, 60, 70, 80% involvement and committed service? We’re we somehow able to attain to the ultimate goal of 100% we would find the church’s work at a 5 times or more accomplishment in the work of God. Could you imagine if we could see the outreach multiplied by five? What would it be like to have five times our current numbers of volunteers? What if our giving increased by five times?
This may sound beyond our capacity in our current state but if every believer would read Matthew 25 seriously and see that God requires that we use our gifts to benefit the kingdom of God, then we could easily reach the place where God intended that in the church, “every joint supplies.”
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.
So I challenge us today, no matter whether we are just beginning our journey of faith or we are a seasoned believer to seek out ways to offer our gifts to God for His use and purpose. I challenge us to become committed volunteers that can be counted on to carry out our assignments with joy and enthusiasm. Whether our gifts are large or small, whether we have great skills or none at all, there is a place for us for the God who called us to be part of that congregation did so because they need us to make them complete. To those who may have volunteered for years and have “retired” from the work of God, let me encourage you to “refire.” While it may be true do to aging and health you can’t do all you used to do and somethings you did years ago are no longer being done, ask the Holy Spirit to reroute your circuits to another assignment that you could do. If you have just begun your walk with Christ and feel you aren’t yet mature to do the work of God, begin with what you can do and God and the church will give you the training and support as you learn.
When my boys were small, I would take them with me to my construction jobs. Though they couldn’t drive nails or saw lumber, there was things they could do. They would begin by picking up scraps of lumber and keeping the site clean and as they grew, little by little they progressed until now at this time either of them can do an entire build. In my own life and work in the kingdom of God, I didn’t begin as a pastor. Not long after I was saved, I was asked to teach the junior boys class. Frankly, the only reason they asked me was that no one else was willing to deal with those five preteen boys and I think the Sunday School Superintendent saw a fresh 17 year old that would be foolish enough to take the assignment. Here I am all these years later and four of the five are actively involved in called ministries. Little is much when God is in it. As the years went by, I served as a youth leader, deacon, assistant pastor and then the senior pastor. What a mighty God we serve who can take a 17 year old kid who had nothing to offer but his willingness to serve and work through him. I tell this to say that all God is asking is that you make yourself available. He will provide the “talents.” All you have to do is use what He provides. One day we will stand before Christ who offered all He was and all He had been given for the Father’s purpose and glory. We will hear the proclamation the because Christ “ became obedient, even to the death on the cross,” He has been given a name above all names.” At His name every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He will turn to each of us to inquire how we spent our “talents,” whether the five, the two or the one. To those who put theirs to use He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of the Lord.” To those who hid it away and the kingdom gained nothing He will say, “Take from him what he has and give it to the one with the ten…and cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.” O that each of us would hear “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
14 “For it is just like a man who was about to take a journey, and he called his servants together and entrusted them with his possessions. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and then he went on his journey. 16 The one who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he [made a profit and] gained five more. 17 Likewise the one who had two [made a profit and] gained two more. 18 But the one who had received the one went and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 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.’ 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].
Dr. John Thompson