As we head into our second year as a church, we are starting a new series on the Parables of Jesus. The focus of this year is LOOKING OUT, and nothing teaches us how to do that well better than the words of Jesus.
What is a parable?
= A brief metaphorical narrative, a story consisting of two levels of meaning.
Jesus did not event the parable, nor was he the only one using parables during the time he lived. But his parables are the most well-known in the history of the world (i.e. the Good Samaritan).
It is clear from the times Jesus interprets his own parables for the disciples, that he is referring to things beyond just the immediate context of the story. While there may be one dominant point, there are on average three total points that most parables are trying to make.
Why does Jesus choose to speak in parables?
Jesus himself gives his rationale for speaking in parables in Mark 4:10-12:
“And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that
they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.'”
Jesus explains that he is revealing secrets not previously understood about God’s plan for his people.
- For those already out of touch with God, the parables are Jesus’ enigmatic yet forceful way of revealing these secrets as they illustrate the coming kingdom of God.
- For those without ears to understand and ears to perceive, the parables will either further repel or repulse them from Jesus and his kingdom.
- BUT for those truly open to honest consideration of Jesus’ claims, a greater understanding and discipleship resulted from telling these parables.
There is always mystery when we talk about the Kingdom of God.
Why is there mystery?
Because in a real way, human language cannot fully articulate the realities of God and his kingdom. That is not to say that there is nothing we can know about the kingdom, but our knowledge is never exhaustive and so there will always be mystery. The finite human mind can never fully grasp the infinite mind of God and therefore his plans for his kingdom.
We are in need of someone or something to REVEAL the truths of the kingdom.
The parables are a very special type of rhetorical device that awakens the epiphany of the mystery in God’s children…so think of hearing the parables like a child listening to the King tell stories of his Kingdom.
THE PARABLE OF THE TALENTS
Matthew 25:14-30 – “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. 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. 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 me five talents; here I 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.’ 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.’ 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 sown and gather where I scattered no seeds? 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.'”
This is a Triangular Triadic Parable, for it involves:
- a Master
- a good example (x2)
- a bad example
So why TWO “good servant” examples?
It highlights that it is not the gross return that the master is interested in. The Master is clearly not concerned about everyone making 5 talent for him…that’s not what makes him rejoice. He responds to both in the exact same way: “‘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.'”
Even in the example of the foolish servant he says, “‘if you had put it in the bank…'” What he wanted was for him to INVEST what had been given to him, to multiply, that he too would be able to enter into the joy of the master.
THE MASTER’S REACTION
(25-26) – “so I was afraid…But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?'”
The Master’s reaction emphasizes that the reason the servant used to justify his laziness was the very reason why he should have been brave in how he managed his money. He knew that there was nothing the Master could not get his hands on, his resources are not limited. So why would he think that losing ONE talent of silver would break his Master’s bank?
Jesus is using this Parable to describe God’s character and his kingdom:
- Do you suppose anything is outside of God’s grasp?
- That he cannot reap even where he did not sow?
- Does he need you to hide what he gives you, otherwise he might be short in some way?
- Did God not create the world out of nothing?
- So why are you worried about taking risks with the talents he has given you??
Like the wicked servant, are we missing the real reason God has ENTRUSTED us with His kingdom resources?
TOO BIG TO FAIL
In 2008, the federal government bailed out the Big Banks in order to save the economy. And in that process, we found out something very scary about our banking system. They are playing by a different set of rules…because they are “too big to fail.”
This means that even if they take on a huge risk like they did in the sub-prime mortgages leading up to the 2008 crisis, even if their risk backfires, they know that the federal government will bail them out in order to keep the American economy and dream intact.
Now, most entities in our world that are “too big to fail” are prone to corruption, greed, and injustice…but what about an entity that is proven to be Holy, generous, and just?
Is this not what Jesus is referencing in the Parable of the Talents? The Master is essentially telling his servant, “I am too big to fail, so why are you acting like I am not? Why are you hedging my risk for me? That’s not what I asked you to do.”
God doesn’t need you to MANAGE his risk, he is asking you to TAKE RISKS as we seek to multiply His Kingdom.
We can take big risks because we have a big safety net.
What is the safety net that God has built for you? Perhaps it involves your education and training, certain skills, a supportive family, friends you can count on, a stable income…What is the purpose of these blessings?
- For your own enjoyment and pleasure and comfort?
- OR so that you can take giant risks for His Kingdom?
YOU CAN’T LOSE
For most of us, going to a casino usually means setting aside $40, playing conservatively and strategically to make it last. But imagine if the head of the casino walked up and said, “Here’s $1 million for you to play with. You owe us nothing at the end of the night, just see what you can do with it.” — Wouldn’t that change the way you played??
Gambling is not really a gamble if you’re playing with house money.
So if it’s truly house money, why are we so terrified of FAILURE? Some common excuses:
- I’m not ready.
- The timing isn’t right.
- Someone else would be better at this.
- It’s not worth doing if I can’t do it perfectly.
- What if I break something?
The underlying belief here is that the success and failure of God’s plans hinge on your execution. But the TRUTH is that it doesn’t. It never has. It never will. God’s plan cannot be thwarted, Christ has already proven that by the cross.
Then you may wonder, if his plan cannot fail, and I can’t mess it up, then why should I work hard with the resources he has given me to invest? The answer is that He has asked us to. God has given to us so that we may invest for his kingdom.
God has gifted each of us with unique talents and ways of investing those to invest for his kingdom. It isn’t healthy to look at others in comparison of what talents they have, how they’re using them, or to what degree they’re multiplying. Comparison can happen in two main ways:
- GUILT that comes from thinking, “wow, they are doing such a better job at that,” or “they are such inspirational Christians.”
> Seeing ourselves as inferior to others.
- PRIDE that comes from thinking, “well, I’m doing way better than them,” or “at least I’m not sinning in the way ___ is.”
> Seeing ourselves as superior to others.
It’s important to remember that each and every servant must give an account to the Master, and each servant is addressed INDIVIDUALLY based on the amount given to him.
- It doesn’t matter how much he gives you to start with, he expects you to invest it in the expansion of his Kingdom.
- Stop making excuses, especially “I’ll get to it later,” because we don’t know when He’s coming back!
- It doesn’t matter what the guy or gal next to you does with her or her gift, it only matters what you do with yours.
WHAT KIND OF COMMUNITY?
As we start year two, we can look back and see how God has built an amazing foundation for a community that considers together. But how will we move forward?
Are we going to be a church that takes the grace given to us and hold onto it so tightly that we squeeze the life right out of it? That spends all our energy in simply maintaining what we have?
Or will we be a church that recognizes the talents God has invested in us and seeks to invest them well–not for our own benefit, but for the befit of others in this city and around the world? Will we take risks to multiply this great gift and share it with our neighbors?
1. Look Up:
- What does God reaping where does not sow tell us about who he is? About his resources?
- Why does he entrust us with those resources?
- Listen to this week’s sermon on our website.
2. Look In:
- What is your “safety net” made of?
- What’s holding you back from taking big risks for the kingdom of God?
- Is your community holding tight to the blessings God has provided? Or is it sharing them with the world?
- If you’re not yet connected, consider joining a Fellowship Group.
3. Look Out:
- How does playing with God’s house money change the way we play the game?
- What does it look like to take risks? To use the unique gifts you’ve been given to be a good servant?