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“Well Done!”

• Greg Boyd
Guest Panelists: Shawna Boren, David Morrow

From the parable of the talents, we can see that God trusts us to participate and partner with him in his work, as we have been entrusted with an offering that can advance the Kingdom. Though we don’t often see this reality, we must embrace what God says about us and what we have been given.

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We are called to live in a way that makes God proud. In this sermon, Greg interacts with the parable of the talents. Before diving into it, a couple of preliminary comments about the nature of parables may be helpful.

There are two common mistakes that can cause people to misunderstand this particular parable. First, most assume that the authority figure in a parable is meant to represent God. But if we make this mistake, then what do we do with many of the authority figures who are actually evil, as in the case of the land owner in this parable? Parables are not meant to show us what God is like. Instead, the characters in the parables are used as they are because Jesus is drawing on the common experience of the audience. The second mistake is that people conclude that the implications of the parables are about the afterlife, having do to with questions about whether or not one goes to heaven. Therefore, phrases like “weeping and gnashing of teeth” are assumed to refer to eternal rewards and punishments. However, the focus is not on the afterlife, but on life in the here and now.

In the parable of the talents, we read how the land owner shared three sums of money with three servants. A talent would be equivalent to what a peasant would have earned in fifteen years. To one servant, he gave five talents, to another he gave two, and to the third he gave one. The first two doubled what had been entrusted to them, while the third acted in fear and buried it.

The basic takeaway is that God has entrusted us with the spiritual equivalent of bags of gold. We have say-so. We have power to make a difference, both collectively and individually. In fact, what has been entrusted to us is more than most of us realize. Each of us has potential to influence the world in a Kingdom direction. If God has called you to do something, it is because you are capable of doing it with the power of God’s presence. God believes in us to make an impact, to partner with God to love and to change the world.

It is crucial to see this as a privilege, not a burdensome task. This is not a set of rules that we must follow so that we don’t go to hell when we die. If we are motivated by fear rather than love, like the third servant, we won’t take risks because the task is a burden. We just don’t want to make God angry. This religious spirit dominates many today.

Paul talks about this in 2 Corinthians 5 as he wrote about being compelled by love. He did not operate out of fear of not pleasing God because he might do something wrong. He had a desire to put a smile on God’s face because he knew that God believed in him.

We are made to be more than recipients of God’s love; we are made to participate in God’s love. The same faith that God has for us we are called to have in ourselves. This is found throughout scripture, as God is calling people to do things that they don’t think that they can do. Moses is one example of this, as he gave all kinds of excuses about why he could not do what God called him to (Exodus 3). Gideon is another, found in Judges 6. God called Gideon a mighty warrior of God even though Gideon did not see himself this way.

We all struggle with this to some degree. We have voices in our heads that resist God’s call on our lives. We tell ourselves that we cannot multiply what has been entrusted to us as we do not see ourselves the way that God sees us. So, we must ask ourselves: who are we going to believe? If we believe the lies we have been told, we will just sit on our spiritual bags of gold, like the third servant. As a result, instead of living in victory we’ll live in misery and frustration, another way of saying “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” If you are sitting on God’s love without participating in it, you are living against the call on your life and will be stuck in frustration.

God sees us as we often can’t see ourselves – as people who can be trusted with God’s talents. Greg shared something a coach once said to him: “A winner is not the one who never loses. A winner is the one who never quits.” God does not give up on you. Get up and get in the game.

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Topics: Faithfulness, Kingdom of God


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Focus Scripture:

  • Matthew 25:14-30

    “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

    “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

    “His master replied, ‘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!’

    “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

    “His master replied, ‘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!’

    “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

    “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

    “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’’

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2 thoughts on ““Well Done!”

  1. Matthew says:

    two cents worth …
    What if the “master” had given five talents to the third servant instead of the one?

    A point that Pastor Boyd made about parables is that if the authority character is acting in accordance with how we’d expect them to act then that character does not likely represent God, but rather simply how we’d expect a master/owner/boss to act. In this case the boss is acting exactly how we’d expect a boss to a act. From my own experience the boss will place a greater trust in someone that they expect more from and less value/trust in someone they expect less from. This is how bosses become rich. Knowing how to recognize that someone is trustworthy and can bring value is a shrewd talent that makes talents (sorry about that). However, this is not how we see or expect from God. I don’t see that God would not place greater trust in me than in you OR place a hierarchy value/trust/grace in someone as opposed to another based on a perceived expectation of what will be returned as interest on the investment. We are constantly surprised by how God places value in someone that we would expect absolutely no return from.
    So, to me something else is going on here.
    The master/owner/boss is us.
    When we entrust someone with a highly valued possession we place on that person a high value and by doing so we instill in them a value in themselves to liberate them to do something of even greater value. Conversely, when we entrust someone with little or no value we instill in them that they too have little or no value. Before we’ve even come back to collect our return on investment we’ve stated implicitly that “you are a good and faithful servant” or “you are a worthless slave” and should be thrown into darkness.
    I don’t imagine God doing this. But we do.
    If I were to introduce my son as my future doctor from the time he was five years old, there’s a much better chance that he will aspire to be a doctor. If, on the other hand, my son gets caught shoplifting and I introduce him from that time on as my thief or liar or criminal, what will his perception of himself be or how will he be perceived?
    I see in this parable that entrusting others is a way that encourages them by our hope and expectation in them. If we want someone write a better story with their lives, he needs to know that they have a pretty good story to tell. But we can do better than to entrust like an ordinary boss.
    Ok, my two cents may be still only worth two cents, but just a thought.
    I sure miss coming to church!!

  2. Jerry Grace says:

    Another way to look at this parable is one on stewardship

    I get why Greg reframed this from money to say so.

    The Roman Empire, at Jesus time, was an upper and lower class agrarian Society.

    Upper:

    Patricians – an aristocrat or nobleman – Ruler and governors who made up 1% population but owed at least half the land. Also the priests owned another 15% of the land.

    Equites – retainers, ranging from military generals to expert bureaucrats and merchants who probably evolved from the lower class but could end up with considerable wealth and even some political power. (Note: this as an agrarian society – not like ours, (the Christian Nation?), no middle class – it was not consumer driven.)

    Lower: Plebeians Freedmen and slaves

    Peasants (farmers) about two thirds of the economy whose annual crop went to support the upper classes. If they were lucky they lived at a subsistence level, barely able to support family, animals and social obligations (taxes about a third of the crop) and still have enough for next years seed supply.

    Artisans, example: Jesus a carpenter, about 5 percent of the population below the peasant in social class because they were usually recruited and replenished from its dispossessed members.

    Beneath them were the degraded and Expendable classes – the former with origins occupations or conditions rendering them outcasts; the latter, as much as 10 percent of the population, ranging from beggars and outlaws to hustlers, day laborers, and slaves.

    So 80% of the world, at that time, had very little.

    Today one billion people in the world make less than a dollar a day while another 2.5 billion make less than two dollars. That’s still over 50% of the world.

    A family of three in the U.S. making $24,000 is in the top two percent of the world.

    Two dollars a day = $730 a year

    24,000 / 3 = $8000 (+) or ten talents to one to over half the world. https://whchurch.org/sermon/master-vs-master/#!

    Consider we is the U.S. are the upper class. We are entrusted, in varying degrees, to manage Gods stuff and it’s NOT all ours to spend. We need to give some, save some and live on the balance. https://whchurch.org/sermon/get-to-not-got-to/#!

    A popular Christian phrase today is we are in the end times.

    However consider from science the universe being 13.5 billion years old and we, Homo sapiens, having just begun moving from hunter gather to agrarian in just the last 12,000 years that maybe this is just the beginning of time and Jesus may not return for another billion years or more.

    From Luke 16:19-31 we may experience a cleaning process in the intermediate state between death and resurrection.

    As God’s resource managers we might want reflect on where we will land, in this state, closer to Lazarus or the rich man. A billion years, though temporary, is a considerable time to be in mental anguish without a drink of water which only comes finally in period of purification after as a result of the Day of Judgment.

    Revelation 22:17: And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

    Jesus came to free us from hell, a present reality (including possibly the intermediate state) – NOT send us there a future event Revelation 20:14

    And that’s the hell of it.

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