Good morning/afternoon/night everyone! How are you?
So earlier this morning I was resting in the Lord and spending time with Him in the word reading Jesus Calling which touched on an interesting concept which I was going to talk about here, but as I was getting out of the shower I thought about the three servants in Matthew and immediately I knew this is what God wants to say to you guys (and to me especially) this morning.
I am really overwhelmed by this message. I have never really thought of this parable in such a way before, and as I’m typing this up I just keep thinking, “God you’re so awesome!” and , “What!?” and “Wooooooow!!!!” so profound!
The Parable I am referring to is found in Matthew 25:14-30 and I shall post it here for you, but I highly encourage you to prayerfully look it over in your own time with Him.
14“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone.15He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
16“The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
19“After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’
21“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
22“The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’
23“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
24“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’
26“But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’
28“Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25: 14-30 NLT)
Okay, so the servant we’ll be focusing on is the third; the one who was given very little.
What do you guys make of him? What do you think his thoughts were when he saw the other servants given so much, and he himself was given soooo little in comparison?
I personally believe he felt small, insignificant; I think he was afraid. Perhaps he looked to the servant who had a lot and could do a lot with it and felt inadequate in his abilities. Perhaps he looked at this tiny bit he was given and felt his master didn’t trust him with it. He was afraid to do anything with it because of that fear; he was afraid he would lose it and he didn’t have a way of getting it back if he did.
Now let’s compare these feelings with how we treat the responsibilities God has given each of us. I want to highlight for you verse 15 specifically the part that says “dividing it in proportion to their abilities.” I think we need to understand that God has blessed us all with gifts to be used for His purposes “in proportion to our abilities.” Yet, how often do we look at that awesome missionary who can go up to anyone without fear and boldly proclaim the Gospel, or who can shamelessly stand before a massive crowd and share their faith and testimony?
How often do we then look our abilities and feel as if they pale in comparison? How often do we even sometimes feel embarrassed to stand next to that charismatic believer who’s witnessing to the worker at Subway while she’s making his sandwich?
What’s wrong with this?
The problem is that we’re focusing on the “little” that we can see in ourselves and comparing it to the “multitudes” that we see in others, but we fail to realise that we were given gifts “in proportion to our abilities.” What does this mean? Let’s check out verse 18.
“But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.”
So we see how the servant responded to his fear: he did absolutely nothing!
Let’s think back to when we were in grade school and we had that awesome friend who was “seemingly” great at everything! They were sporty, friendly, compassionate, popular, and they didn’t have reduced or free lunch! How awesome was it to be their friend? Yet how much did looking at them weigh us down? How often did we think of ourselves as “less than” and just felt like it wasn’t worth it to even try to be good, because they would always be better?
Or how about when all of your friends are in dating relationships but you’re still single? Or if you’re married but you see your friend’s marriage and think to yourself how you wish your marriage was like theirs? Or, my personal favourite, if you’re a student and you’re struggling with studies, but your roommate never studies and passes everything with ease? How frustrating life is when you focus on them! You think, “How come I have to work harder?” or “How come no one wants to date me? Everyone loves so-and-so!! Nobody notices me!” or “How come my spouse doesn’t do that for me, or say stuff like that to me?”
If we keep up with this way of thinking we find ourselves eventually getting to the point where we’re “done.” Where, “there’s no point in even trying,” so we either don’t do anything at all, or we perform poorly. This is exactly where the servant was, and his response was to do nothing. He had fallen, as we so often do, to the lie that “what we do doesn’t matter, because we’ll never be like so-and-so,” and we lose sight of the point that God doesn’t want us to be so-and-so, He wants us, to be us.
Let’s look at the exchange between the third servant and the Master starting in verse 24:
“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you did not plant and gathering crops you did not cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look here is your money back.’
But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ (vs. 24-27)
Wow. Can you imagine how that servant feels?
He was weighed down with fear, broken and lost in that darkness to the point of giving up and doing nothing, but in his mind he felt the safest thing to do was nothing. What a shock for him when his master comes home and he returns what the master gave declaring “I did nothing with what you gave me because I was afraid,” and hearing his master respond with, “you wicked and lazy servant!”
Lets look back on those times where we’ve fallen victim to that fear and decided to “do nothing” or to perform less than the set standard. Can you imagine if Jesus came back shortly after, and we’re still stuck in that fear, and we say to Him: “Lord, I did not use the gifts you have given me for the sake of your kingdom for the benefit of others, because I was afraid that I wouldn’t do a good job. I was afraid I wouldn’t be as good as the missionary next door, or Matt Chandler, or Paul. I was afraid I would mess it up, but I kept it safe for you. Here it is.”
And to hear Him respond: “You wicked and lazy servant!”
Would this not be devastating? You would be in shock wouldn’t you? “wicked! Lazy!? I was afraid Lord. I didn’t want to mess up. How was I wicked?” Would you not ask that? But here we see, the master asks the servant a question that I think most people gloss over and don’t dive too deeply with, in fact, I myself did not get it until this morning after the shower, and even more so as I type this up for you guys. (God is awesome…just saying.)
Look at verse 27:
“Why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.”
What makes the servant wicked and lazy?
Well there’s the obvious, he fell into sin–he gave into fear and worshiped fear as his master. This is what led to his laziness; he did nothing, not even the least he could do to benefit his master. He did absolutely nothing because he was a faithless servant.
When I used to look at this story before–it may have been just last year actually–I always believed that if the servant had done everything he could and lost it all and explained that to his master, his master wouldn’t have cast him out because he had little faith, and yea he was scared, but he was obedient. He did exactly what his master told him to do, even though it did not yield the results he was expecting.
This is how God is with us. He knows what we’re capable of, so when he go out in obedience, even if we don’t bring in the harvest we were hoping for, God rewards our obedience. This is what He truly wants: for us to step out in faith and loving obedience.
This is not what the servant did; sometime this is not what we do. I know I’ve struggled with fear for a very long time both before and after Christ became real and personal to me, and I can tell you fear can be crippling. We become “wicked and lazy servants” when we fail to trust in the Lord through that fear–choosing to have faith in God, rather than bowing down and worshiping fear as our god. In these moments, we are not performing in the way God expects us to, because we are not stepping out in faith.
The master did not want his servant to compare his performance with the performance of the other servants, or to gauge his skill set to the skill set of his other servants. The master wanted the servant to obey his command based on the skill set he knew his servant possessed.
I firmly believe, that the master gave very little to the third servant, not because he did not trust the servant with much, but because he wanted the servant to grow in his skill set, to become aware of his abilities and learn how to best use them for his master’s benefit. He didn’t give the servant a lot because he did not want to overwhelm his servant, he didn’t want to give to his servant a burden he could not carry, and he trusted his servant to be faithful, to even make mistakes, but in the end to learn from those mistakes so that he could do better next time.
This is what I believe God does for us too.
When I first came to Christ in 2011 I had no idea what my skill sets were or how He was going to use me, and now in 2013, I still don’t know! I have discovered little things about myself that I never knew or noticed had He not used someone to point them out to me. He has blessed me with many gifts and talents, most of which I am not yet aware of, others I have not yet learned how to use for His glory.
But there are those which He has addressed and is helping me grow in now. I have free time, so earlier this year He put it on my heart to use that free time to clean Epoch (the building we fellowship in) on Wednesdays (sometimes other days).
He removed the hold the enemy had over me in regards to using my musical talents, and now I have piano lessons with my friend and music director at Epoch.
I could have selfishly, or fearfully, held on to those lies and refused to allow God to use them for His purposes, but I really wanted to be free of them, but more importantly I desired to do what He put on my heart to do–that’s called obedience, and this is what God wants.
Now I still have no idea how to use this for His glory, and I’m still learning and growing musically, but as long as I am obedient to Him, and as long as you’re obedient to Him, and as long as we’re obedient to Him, He will reveal to me, to you, to us, how he will use us and the gifts He’s blessed us with for His glory and our good.
Which brings me to the next point He put on my heart to share.
Once again let’s look at verse 27:
“why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least then I could have gotten some interest on it.”
What do you think of when you hear the word “bank?”
Usually we think of a “safe” place, a “trusted” place, a place where we can “save” things, or “grow” as we save it.
When money is placed into a bank, it is protected from thieves, and you don’t have to worry about losing it, or spending it where it doesn’t belong.
Think about that for a second in regards to this parable.
The third servant, even though he was afraid, even though he wasn’t very sure of himself nor of his abilities, could have saved the money in the bank. As its accruing interest, he would have had the freedom to go to the first servant and ask for investment tips, and how to do it wisely. He could have gone to the second servant and asked what the best jobs were, so that he could double the money that way, and advice on saving his earnings. All the while, the money in the bank is slowly growing and being kept safe while he’s growing in knowledge and skill.
Suppose for a second that he asked the first servant for advice after depositing his money in the bank. Let’s say he went to trainings and seminars on proper investment strategies, or perhaps enrolled in a 3 month program that instructed him on such things. After those three months, that servant will have more than a bag of silver, he probably has two bags, or maybe a bag and a half. He could then take some of the extras and invest it in a wine bottling company (’cause who doesn’t need wine?) leaving the original amount in the bank to keep it safe.
So now he has money safe and growing in the bank, and an investment in wine which will surely grow faster than grape vines. Let’s then say he was afraid of making another investment, so he goes to the second servant and asks for help with the dos and don’ts of working a job.
The second servant leads him to a 6 month training that discussions everything from writing resumes to what not to say at an interview. They even have limited internship opportunities. So 6 months goes by and the money in the bank has tripled, and the investment has doubled and now he’s working and saving his earnings.
I’m not sure about you, but I think the master would be very pleased with his servant indeed!
So what does this mean for us?
Well, let’s look at the words we used to describe a bank: safe, trusted, grow.
What place do we know of as believers that is safe, that is trusted, that encourages growth? Ding-ding! You got it! The body of Christ: His church!
The church is our bank! If we are too afraid to witness to the people out in the world, then we should conquer this fear by “depositing” our gifts into our spiritual bank: we should start small and safe and serve within the body of Christ whom we fellowship with every week. By doing this, we will grow, we will meet those who either do what we like, do what we hope to do, or both!
When that happens, we should serve alongside those who do what we like, and partner with those who do what we hope to do so that we can grow in the gift set that God has blessed us with while helping others who have similar gifts that we already know we possess.
We should also look for small things we can do in our building, and small outreach opportunities that come up, especially in the summer. Many followers have VBS (vacation bible school) for little ones and middle school-age kids, and countless other things.
As we learn and grow and do this God will equip us to be faithful and obedient to Him in other areas. What’s more, as we ‘deposit’ ourselves into the bank of Christ, we are protected from thieves–we wont be so easily lost in lies, or shaken because we’ll know on whom and what we stand on; truth. We will not be so easily lost, nor worry about getting caught up in things we don’t belong in.
I am convinced that we sometimes feel when God says “Go here and do this” we respond immediately, yet neglect to really do what He called us to out of fear. So we start of strong, but then we slowly begin to shrink back. In these times is when we “go to the bank” and look within our church and see who has the resources we need to grow.
There’s nothing wrong with being afraid, that’s human to recognize our limits; what separates a “faithless” servant from a “faithful” one is how we respond to fear.
Are we going to do nothing as we wait for the Lord’s promised and very near return, or are we going to at least seek to get some interest on the gifts He has given us.
The least we can do is encourage, but the worst we can do is nothing.
My prayer today (especially for me) is for all of us to learn what it means to be a faithful servant, to trust in our God that He has fully equipped us to do the work He has called us to do: be His witnesses. I also pray that we will seek to grow in Him and in these gifts by tagging along with those who are doing what we know He put on our hearts to do. I also pray that we will, at the very least, encourage and assist those we see and know we can help.
Our faith may be small, but that doesn’t mean we can’t step out in obedience to Him.
I leave you with a final thought:
“But Samuel replied,
‘What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.’ ” 1 Samuel 15:22-23