The idea is rooted in a conversation between Roger Martin and I from mid-June. The following week, he used the word, “missions hub,” in a deacon meeting and that got me thinking how we could better promote missions – not just in the sense that we give money to some cause, but in how we are involved, and how we should be involved.
So, at the end of July we had our first Hub Sunday and I talked about these origins and why we would focus on this idea occasionally. I still do not know if it will be monthly long-term, but for now it is.
On Labor Day weekend, we used Hub Sunday as an opportunity to serve people around Fairfax on what we called Labor for the Son Day. I anticipate that is the first annual such day.
At the end of September, we brought out the boards showing various areas we served – in Fairfax, in NW Missouri, in the United States, and around the world. Lord willing, we will continue to add more to these boards over time. As a part of last month’s service, I invited Dr. Jeremy Burright to come and share, as the Superintendent of Fairfax Schools, how we might be able to serve the school. Some interest was generated and we will be determining a date to do some of the interior painting soon.
So, that brings us to today. And today I want to focus on the fact that God has gifted us to serve. I will present a few opportunities for us to consider, but first I want to review a familiar parable. This parable fits well with last week’s message related to the fact that the Spirit has given one or more gifts to every born-again believer as we saw in 1 Corinthians 12. Those gifts, called spiritual gifts, are a gift from God to us so that we may, in turn, give ourselves to Him through our service.
Before I begin to expand on today’s text, let me first read today’s text. The passage is Matthew 25.14-30. Please read Matthew 25.14-30.
The Master’s Journey
The man in the story is a wealthy man. We know this because He has servants and only those with some amount of wealth could afford to have servants. Furthermore, we will see by his gift, how wealthy this man really must be.
However, we must also note that he is a trusting man. Verse 14 says he entrusted his property to these servants. So, this wealthy and trusting man gave a certain amount of his assets to three servants as specified here. One servant received five talents, another two, and another received one. Before I describe a talent, let us understand that this distribution is fair. The Bible does not say this is a father trying to make certain that three of His children get the same portion of a candy bar. These are servants and the reason he gave more to certain servants is because of previous experience. The Bible tells us this – the master gave to each “according to his ability” (v. 15). This practice is good stewardship and, thus, good leadership. I teach this principle all the time. You give people certain responsibilities and as they succeed you give them more responsibility. A responsible adult does not give a 16-year-old $500,000 to do with as s/he pleases. The responsible adult gives a child a little bit of money and see how that amount first. If it is handled well, then more is given. Etc.
And we should be thankful for this because Luke 12.48 says that to whom much is given, much is expected. That verse is the verse I fear the most because I have been given much – and that would be true if I had nothing else but the grace of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus. From there, God has given me a beautiful wife, wonderful children, a loving church to serve, opportunities to use my education to benefit others within this country and now abroad. Again, much has been given. Therefore, much is expected.
So, in this text, what has truly been given to these three servants?
The Master’s Gift
In our culture, many will see the word talent and think of something they can do. Perhaps it is an expression of art, or working with certain kinds of tools, or playing sports, etc. But in ancient times, a talent represented a type of currency (in many different cultures). The key for our understanding this parable is to approximate the value of a talent. I know when I look at this story, it is easy to consider that the master gave $5, $2, and $1. If that is the case, what is the big deal?
Well, let me put it in better perspective. A talent of gold or silver weighed between 45-90 pounds. The standard was about 75 pounds, so this is a large amount of precious metal. In modern terms, the value of one talent would be about $16,000 for silver, but over $1.25 million per talent for gold. Those are based upon recent prices of those metals, and that is a large discrepancy in value. But many centuries ago, silver was often more valuable than gold.
Another way we can look at a talent is to consider its value compared to someone’s wages. Many Bible scholars believe the talent to be the equivalent of 20 years wages. But even the most conservative estimates place the value at over $1,000 per talent. So, let’s use 20 years wages. An average salary can be skewed because some people make enormous salaries ranging well into the tens of millions or beyond. So, let’s use the median salary for the US. As of tax year 2014, the median salary was about $40,000 per year. So, based upon that number, this master gave a gift of $4,000,000 to the first servant, $2,000,000 to the second, and $800,000 to the third. Now, we have perspective on why burying the talent in the ground is such a big deal. But let us first look at the rewards given.
The master went away for some unknown, but long, period of time and when he returned, he did not expect the second servant to have as much as the first servant. Nor, did he expect as much from the third servant when compared to the second – suggesting interest would have been something beneficial.
But it is only the first two servants who received a reward. And the primary reward is the same – entry into the joy of the master. (Yes, the first servant also received the talent that the dishonored servant did not steward correctly, but that was not the primary reward.) The latter servant did not receive a promise of joy; rather that man (the text says “him” – v. 28) was cast into outer darkness and would be in a place that knows no joy (with weeping and gnashing of teeth, v. 30).
How does this passage apply to Hub Sunday? If you are a Christian, you have a God-given gift designed to serve His church for the benefit of His Kingdom. And because you have a God-given gift, you have a God-expected responsibility to serve – that is, to use the gift(s) He has given. How do I know? Verse 19 says that the master returned to “settle accounts with them.”
One day our Master will return to settle accounts with us. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3 that many will enter heaven, but will have nothing to show for it. Why will tears be wiped from our eyes in heaven? I think multiple reasons are possible, but one is that we will truly realize how much Jesus did for us. Certainly, that begins with His death on the cross and His resurrection to bring life after death. However, I believe we will also realize how many opportunities He gave us to serve and how little we did in response.
What’s Next? The Challenge
Like the master in the parable, our Master has been away for a long-time on His journey (v. 19). But Jesus is not on vacation. In fact, He is quite busy, as He is currently preparing a place for us (John 14.2-3). The question is: Are we idle in our response? Again, the Christian life is not about waiting to die so we can go to heaven, it is about us bringing a bit of heaven to earth and extending the reign of God across this earth. Or is that not what we pray with the words, “on earth as it is in heaven?”
So, as we consider our journey, let us consider how we might better serve our Lord. Let us recognize the gifts He has given to us. (If you do not know what spiritual gift, let me know and I will give you an item that can help you to begin to discover it.)
Before I close let me mention three final thoughts.
1) Yesterday was a difficult day for many because of Ferd’s funeral. As we do several times per year, our church not only hosted the service, but provided a meal afterward. I know many people were involved in buying and/or preparing items to make that meal possible. But I want to especially thank the four ladies who spent upwards of six, maybe seven hours at the church setting up, preparing, serving, and loving on the family. I can say thank you. But you will have to wait for the real blessing because it is the Master from whom you wish to hear, “Well done.”
2) Let me now mention a couple of opportunities for us to help the BSU in Maryville.
- First, the students in the ministry are holding a coat drive for international students. Some of these students come from warm climates and have no idea what is about to happen related to our weather in northwest Missouri. If you have any lightly worn coats or if you wish to purchase a new coat, that fine too. But in addition to our OCC collection, please feel free to bring any coats you would like to donate and leave them behind the sound booth near the window. We will have another collection box back there for these coats.
- Also, the BSU has been hosting a dinner for college students for years. This dinner is on Monday evenings and they are asking churches to sponsor a Monday evening. I will have to get more details as to how many people are needed to serve and how much food should be prepared, but as a part of our church being a hub for missions, this is a great opportunity for us to partner with another ministry and allow them to make connections that can lead to gospel conversations.
These brief mentions are simply other ways that we can serve. The goal for all of us should be to hear our Master say, “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.”
As we fulfill our responsibilities as individuals, we will realize our potential as a church. We have done some, but if we have been faithful with a little, then He will give us more to do. Let us respond, serving Him with the gifts (and talents) that He has given us to become the people and the church He has called us to be – a church that is truly a large church in a small town.