1st July 2023
Read (Matthew 25v14-30)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Benjamin Franklin probably didn't say "fail to prepare, prepare to fail" and Martin Luther probably didn't say "If I believed the world were to end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today." That might be news to some of you but there is no evidence to suggest that Luther ever made this often repeated comment. The famous reformer didn't utter those words but wisdom is found in them regardless of their source. What the phrase teaches us is that we are to live in light of Christ's return whilst doing our duty to God and our neighbour each day.
Jesus taught a parable with a similar thrust. A master was going on a long journey and he entrusted to his servants a substantial amount of money (v14-15). To one he gave five talents, to another two talents and to a final servant one talent. It is difficult to quantify the modern value of a talent but one commentator suggests that a talent could be worth something like a quarter of a million pounds. Therefore, the master was incredibly generous and gave to his servants according to their ability before going on his journey (v15).
The first two servants took their talents and worked to double the amount (v16-17). But the third servant took his talent and buried it in the ground (v18). When the master returned he settled accounts with his servants. He was delighted with the first two and told them "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." (v21,23) However the master's smile turned to a frown when he spoke to the third servant. That servant had not responded well to his master's generosity and saw him in a negative light saying "Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours." (v24-25)
The master's response was scathing. He marvelled at the attitude of his servant and wondered if the master was so bad, why didn't the servant just invest the money at a bank so at the very least his master would receive the interest? The servant had completely misunderstood his master and his own responsibility and in response he was stripped of his one talent which was given to the first servant (v28). Furthermore the master had the third servant thrown outside into outer darkness (v30).
What are we to take from this parable? The master is Christ and He is surely coming soon. In the meantime we are to make the most of the gifts entrusted to us by the Lord. The Christian has no business retreating to an underground bunker fleeing from the world to await Christ's return. Instead we are to be active in the Lord's business, serving Him, praising Him and making Him known. We have been given varying gifts and abilities which are to be used for the glory of God. No one has an opt out. No one can sit on the sidelines.
I've always enjoyed Paul's challenge to the Thessalonians who had given up work in anticipation of the Lord's return. Paul urged them "aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you" (1 Thessalonians 4v11) In other words, Christ might return tomorrow but you should still plant that tree today. The life devoted to the things of God is not wasted and will result in having an abundance when Christ comes (v29). Not so for the one who misunderstands God and thinks they owe Him nothing. To the one who lives for self and personal glory giving no regard to the Lord, only judgement and hell awaits.
How then shall we live? To God alone the glory, knowing that to live is Christ and to die is gain. Brothers and sisters, go and plant that tree.
Q87 What is repentance unto life? Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.