The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
LSB Proper , 13 November 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This is the Gospel of the Lord? Yes, for Judgment Day is a good thing for the Christian. Only one outside of Christ truly has something to fear. In this week’s parable, Jesus gives important insight into the Kingdom of God. Although there is heavy Law here that we need to talk about, the primary message is one of Gospel, good news.
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like this: The man went away on a journey. We are given no indication when he will return. Daily life must go on. He has assets that need managing. We are told nothing about livestock, crops, other servants, or even the man’s family. We are simply told that eight talents are given to three servants according to their ability.
Our use of the word talent as the ability or gift of an individual is derived from this parable. But in the parable, the word talent has a more tangible meaning. A talent was a coin, a very valuable coin. In the parable of the unmerciful servant, we heard about a denarius being a common wage for a day-laborer. A talent is a year’s salary.
He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.
How long did these events take? We are not specifically told. The only measurement of time we hear is that of the first servant. The one with five talents went at once. No hesitation. He got to work. He wasted no time. He doubled the money entrusted to him. Not bad! And the second servant doubled his two talents. We are prepared to expect the third servant would double his one talent. Nope. He went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Why?
We hear of the faithful work of the first two servants and the fruit because of their hard work. And then we hear of something else entirely. This third servant is different than the other two. He hid his lamp under a bushel basket. He buried his treasure in the field. He sat on his hands. He did nothing.
We are saved by faith alone, but faith is never alone. Faith acts. It receives the Lord’s good gifts and serves Him by serving the neighbor. The hands of the faithful get dirty—literally and figuratively. Fields are bought because of the treasure discovered and dug up from them. A flame under a bushel will go out. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Faith cannot keep the good news of the kingdom of heaven to itself. It must tell the good news.
Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘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.’
It is time for the audit. The three servants are called to give an account after a long, indeterminate time. The first faithful servant received what the master delivered. And it was put to work in his service. Well done!
And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘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.’
The second faithful servant received what the master delivered. And it was put to work in his service. Well done!
He also who had received the one talent came forward, 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.’
The third servant was not faithful. He had a different attitude entirely. It was based upon what he thought of his master. The first two faithful servants knew they had a gracious master who took joy in their faithful service. This servant saw his master as a hard man.
The third servant served not in reverent awe, but was fearful. There’s a difference. His own words show his unfaithfulness. If he knew that his master reaped where he did not sow seed, did he really think the master would be satisfied with no return on his investment?
Some see the Lord not as gracious and merciful as He is in Christ, but as a hard, unknowable God who takes our loved ones away and makes us live according to his whims. In short, they see Him not as a God who is primarily Gospel, but one who is only law. We know the law can lead to several reactions. 1. The law is ignored. I can’t keep the law and be perfect, so why try? I’ll just do whatever I please. 2. Hypocritical self-righteousness. No, I can’t keep the law, but I do better than those other people. God will accept me. Look at all the good I do. 3. Despair. This is common among perfectionists. Such a person may lose all hope.
Judas betrayed our Lord. Peter denied Him three times. Judas lost all hope (and went and hung himself). Peter remembered the Lord’s words. The Gospel made all the difference in the world. Peter was restored, forgiven. You are restored, forgiven in Christ.
He also who had received the one talent came forward, 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.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
There is judgment for the unfaithful, for those who have been given the Lord’s gifts and do nothing with them because their faith died. They ignored God’s Word, Holy Communion, their pastor, and their congregation just as surely as if they dug a hole and buried it all.
It gives me no pleasure to speak of judgment and hellfire as a consequence of unfaith. Rejecting Christ, His servant, and His people, ignoring the Word, neglecting the Sacrament of the Altar—all these are sinful rejection of the work of the Holy Spirit. Others say, “Sorry, Pastor. I’ve been lazy.” I appreciate that kind of honesty. That’s certainly different from unfaith, but it has problems of its own. In medieval times, laziness, sloth, was called one of the seven deadly sins. All these sins are deadly serious and can lead to the sin against the Holy Spirit. If one rejects the way forgiveness is delivered, can they receive forgiveness? No.
The Lord has entrusted His gifts to us. They remain His, yet they are here for your benefit. The law questions would be, “What have you been doing with them? What have you failed to do with them?” The questions condemn and convict us. They measure, evaluate, and judge.
Remember how the hymn goes? “We give Thee but Thine own.” We are stewards of all that we have. The state of Wyoming may recognize us as rightful owners, but the Christian knows that the owner and giver of all things is the Lord. Now let’s ask the vocation questions. What gifts has the Lord given you? How has the Lord given you to use these gifts to serve Him by serving those entrusted to your care?
What gifts has the Lord given you? Health. Wealth. One Another. Skill. Training. Family. Faith. Time. The Gospel. Daily Bread. All you need to support this body and life. Do you lack anything you really need? Usually we just complain that we don’t have all we want.
How has the Lord given you to use these gifts to serve Him by serving those entrusted to your care? He richly and daily provides all we need to support ourselves, our families, and our congregation. (If attendance is down, financial needs remain, congregational offices remain unfilled, and if there are empty chairs at Bible classes, the fault is not with the Lord.) He richly and daily provides all we need to support ourselves, our families, and our congregation. The law shows your sin.
The Gospel shows your Savior and forgives all your sins. Think about it! The solution to the guilt for not being here is the forgiveness delivered to you when you are here, gathered by the Lord around His gifts for you.
Jesus ascended into heaven. He went away on a journey. We don’t know when He will return, but the day is surely drawing near. It will happen. We don’t know when. Therefore, we are always prepared because He has given us forgiveness, life, salvation, and our daily bread. We watch and pray in repentant faith. And we serve as stewards of the good gifts He has entrusted to us, both physical and spiritual.
This Sunday, the third servant is a warning to us, so that we do not take the Lord’s gifts for granted or ignore or despise them. He is a counterexample. We are given to eagerly receive the good gifts our Master delivers. Only after that can we put them to work in His service. We cannot feed others with the Word until we have been fed first. We remember how gracious and loving our Lord is in Christ. He has not promised an easy life free from pain, one where He answers our every whim. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has given us forgiveness, life, and salvation. And because of Christ, we will enter into the joy of our Master.
As Christians, we eagerly await the Last Day, for Christ, the Judge, is already at work in us. You will say, ‘Master, you delivered to me these talents; here I have made as many talents more.’ The Master will say to you, ‘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.’ Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.