24th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Not many of us have ever been put into the position of being responsible for a great sum of money. Today’s gospel according to St. Matthew is about servants to a wealthy master who were given the responsibility of varying amounts.
It is difficult to try to calculate the specific amounts of money given in the form of talents. Many factors must be considered. There were silver Talents and gold Talents, which were different in worth. We know the weights of these talents of valuable, coveted metals, but conversion into today’s dollars is difficult and usually doesn’t hit the mark. One of the best comments on the value of a talent I read in doing my research on talents was that one talent was equal to 19 years worth of wages of the average worker.
This means, a low to medium average income amount for one talent today would be in the range of 500,000 to 850,000 dollars. Can you imagine your boss, father, or friend giving you almost a million dollars and asking you to take care of it while they are away for an indefinite time? In addition, imagine that the person who gives this money to you expects you to invest it and make more money. Eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars is quite a bit of money, so imagine being given $1.7 million dollars or $4 million dollars and expected to turn a profit.
Some people have great abilities to do this; others may not be able. Some are talented in Art, Music, Science, or Politics. However, no matter how much money one makes, nor how much talent one has, all is completely worthless if not used to the glory of God. It is true that power, money and talent will win you accolades in this life, but when you die, all of these earthly things die with you.
It is a simple trick used by our great Adversary, famous and talented in his own right. He keeps us focused on the kingdom of the left hand while our very souls perish in the kingdom of the right.
Like the wicked, lazy servant in the parable in the Gospel of Matthew, we are deceived into thinking that what we have been given by our Father in heaven is ours to do with what we please. We know that our God is the true almighty and everlasting God. We know that he harvests where he has not sown and gathers where he has not scattered seed, for His is true power and might. Yet we still think it is all about us.
He has given us our talents each according to our ability. These talents are our coin of His realm. We are to use these gifts to further His kingdom. But what do we do? At the very least we bury these gifts in the dirt of our sin. At the very worst, we use them for our own glory. As embezzlers and frauds, we take what is holy and good and twist it into self-serving, venal pleasures.
The temptations of this world are all around us. We see how evil works.
- A person who works at a bank may think, “I’m good with numbers. I could skim money from these accounts to put it in my own pocket and no one will ever know.”
- An athlete may think, “My abilities are so great, I can affect the outcome of the game. I’ll make a little money on the side by not playing to my fullest capacity.”
- A doctor may think, “I don’t need to waste my time helping anybody who is sick, I’ll just help those who can pay the most.”
Just as evil as extorting others with your talents, is to hide your talents in fear. Fear of ridicule, fear of responsibility, fear of additional toll on your time, are all as deadly as avarice or vice.
The Master of the heavenly kingdom did not give any of his servants on earth more talent than their ability. It will not kill you to put these talents to work for the glory of God. Will it be difficult? Yes, sometimes it will. While we live in a broken and sin filled world, it will require effort on our part to stand firm in our faith. Will we be blessed? Yes, continually we are and will be blessed by our Lord and our King.
Our Lord will return on the last day. At that time, he will ask us if we have increased that which he has given us. Jesus Christ came into the world to save those who are lost. He gave us the currency of the kingdom of heaven. He gave us Salvation from death eternal. He gave us the Holy Spirit and he gave us our abilities.
Before Jesus Christ left this earth and ascended into our Father’s kingdom, he entrusted his property to us.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matthew 28:19-20]
Our brothers and sisters who have not heard the good news of their salvation are waiting for the Word. All souls belong to God. He is our God and we are His people.
The day of our Lord is coming. Upon His return, our accounts will be balanced. On that day, what will you have to show for His investment in you? Will Jesus look upon you and say:
‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ [Matt 25:21]
Or will you say, “I was afraid to speak to people about you. I was afraid I would get it wrong or that they might ridicule me.”
God will say to you, “Well then, you should have taught your children and your children’s children, so that when I returned, I would have received it back with interest.”
One day, during my stretch in the U.S. Navy, I was ordered by my chain of command to march over to the opposite pier where another Destroyer was moored to stand watch at the end of the gangplank. I was to be in dress uniform and wearing a sidearm.
When I arrived at my post, a commander gave me additional orders. I was to stand guard on the pier in front of the ship and to prevent anyone from embarking or disembarking from the ship until the commander relieved me.
I was told nothing else as I stood alone at that gangplank. I had no idea how long I was to stand guard or what was going on, until I heard the call over the ship’s announcing system, for the entire ship’s company to form up on the flight deck. I then heard the voice of a man, who introduced himself as the admiral of our fleet; tell the crew that they had failed in their training exercises that qualified them to be deployed. The captain of that ship was immediately relieved of his command and a new captain was assigned to replace him.
Down the gangplank came the admiral, the former captain and the commander. The commander paused briefly to tell me I was relieved of my duty and then he got into the admiral’s staff car with the admiral and drove away.
That captain who was relieved of his command, never to command another ship and his commission as an officer was resigned. Just as in the parable by our Lord:
“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” [Matthew 25: 26a, 29b, 30]
What the former captain had was taken from him and given to another officer who had proven he could do the job. The next voice I heard was the new captain aboard the ship say, “All leave and liberty is cancelled for all hands. This ship will unmoor from the pier and be under weigh in 15 minutes – not 16 minutes or 20 minutes, but 15 minutes! Dismissed!” That ship did not come back to port for 3 weeks as the crew ran training drill after training drill to regain their qualification as a fighting warship.
My friends, we all have abilities given to us by God. These abilities are as different as the people who embody them. The amount of these talents also differs but they are all important in the body of Christ. Most importantly, we all have the command by our Lord to spread the Good News of salvation, to baptize in the name of the triune God and to forgive as we have been forgiven. As the hymn writer Daniel March wrote in 1868:
If you cannot speak like angels,
If you cannot preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
You can say He died for all.
If you cannot rouse the wicked
With the judgment’s dread alarms,
You can lead the little children
To the Savior’s waiting arms.
[LSB 826, Hark, the Voice of Jesus Crying]
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, took our sin upon himself, was crucified, died and was buried. On the third day, He raised himself up from the grave; giving us a life eternal in His father’s house. As our good Dr. Martin Luther said:
“God does not bestow these gifts for us to seek salvation through them but for us to utilize them in the fear of God and for our own and our neighbor’s benefit in this life. This is the purpose [that] our power, wealth, and wisdom are to serve. To become a child of God takes more than silver and gold, wisdom and might; it takes “the Lamb of God, who bears the sin of the world.”
God created us, Jesus Christ saved us, and the Holy Spirit now works through us. We are the messengers of the Gospel. Just as the twelve Disciples of Christ came from many different occupations and had many different talents, all were used to the glory of God. So why should we feel greater or lesser than our fellow Christians? Dr. Luther continues;
“Even if you owned the whole world and were endowed with all sorts of physical talents and gifts, all this will not contribute toward your salvation; for Christ’s kingdom is built solely on grace.”
Salvation requires more than dancing, singing and preaching. A faith in Christ that believes He is the true Son of God who takes away the sins of the world is the only talent one needs and this faith is given to us through our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
By this love of God, we are shown how we ought to bestow our talents for the benefits of others, by contributing, by showing mercy, and by loving, and how we should bestow honor and good report among ourselves.
As true Disciples of Christ, we do not sit idly hoping someone else will do the work. As Christians, we act; we use our God given talents in service to Him, so that He may increase His kingdom. This is what a good and faithful servant does.
I pray all of us remain faithful in our service to God so that we may all share in our master’s happiness forever. Amen
 Martin Luther, vol. 22, Luther's Works, Vol. 22 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther's Works, Jn 1:45 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).