What Did You Do With The Talent: A Lesson In Stewardship

Matthew 25:14-30 is an excellent narrative about stewardship. The cast includes 3 servants, one of whom was slothful, lazy and ungrateful, and their master. Every story calls for you to pay attention to detail – making comparisons and contrasts; listening to tone and mood; examining characters; understanding context etc. In this particular story, there is, for me two striking characters: the master and the slothful servant (the one who received one talent). A talent was silver (money) which weighed between 58 to 80 pounds, so the master was entrusting his servants with quite considerable money. This was the kind of money you would entrust to a trusted relative or friend, not a servant.

The other two servants were faithful but there was one who wasn’t, that is, the one who received 1 talent or 80lbs of silver. Here is something about that servant that angered the master. He was selfish. Selfishness is the biggest hindrance to proper stewardship. One cannot be a good steward and seek self-interest at the same time. That third servant had reasoned that the master might not be returning. So, he kept the money. If the master returned, he could simply return the money without loss from a bad investment (verse 25) but if not he gets to keep it for himself. He did not want to deposit it in the bank because he would have to record it as belonging to the master and could not keep it if the master did not return (verse 27). His reasoning exposed his heart of selfishness and a lack of faith in his master in his master. He proved to be a worthless servant because of this. He perhaps was even comparing what the others got to what he got instead of being grateful that the master place confidence in him in the first place to have given him so much money as a servant/slave.
The master on the other hand demonstrates that he is a fair judge. Those who did not think about themselves and how they could profit off him, were rewarded for their selflessness. And the one who was selfish was not only not rewarded but he was stripped.

The lesson for us today is to serve without seeking our own interest. To serve gladly and willingly. To serve God, not out of compulsion but from a heart of gratitude for what He has entrusted you with.

The Freeing Power of Forgiveness

Text: Matthew 6: 5-15

Illustration: Jeffrey Dahmer is an American serial killer. He was known for preying on young boy whom he sodomized and would dismember them as he had sex with them. In order to dispose of the corpses, Dahmer would cook the remains of his victims and eat them reducing them to faeces. This dastardly act is repugnant, vile, contemptible and deserving of the severest punishment. Yet, we are presented with a counter-argument during Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount about the freeing power of forgiveness – even for the most repugnant of sins.

Jesus is somewhere in the middle of his Sermon on the Mount and he begins a conversation around prayer and that which hinders prayer (which is one of the ways we commune/fellowship/communicate with God). Jesus begins this conversation around the state of the heart – that centre of emotions – the place where we feel; where intent and motives are formed and often here hurt festers and brings decay. He begins show expose the evil motives in the hearts of the hypocrites who do good so that they might be seen but there is no reward or praise from him in such actions because of the state of their heart. You have often heard it said that prayer changes things. I wish to invite you to consider a different thought; that prayer does not necessarily change things but it changes people – and in particular the one doing the praying.

Jesus starts to show disciples how to change the condition of their hearts through their prayer. This prayer which we often misname as the Lord’s Prayer is really the disciple’s prayer or the model/pattern prayer. In verse 8, He presents the contrast to the state of the hypocrite’s heart by teaching the disciples how to pray. The first part of the prayer invites the person to look up

A. Looking up: The counter-intuitive culture that Jesus presents in His teaching of forgiveness calls for us to look outside of ourselves. This takes a recognition and admission that we cannot do this in our own strength and we must look to HIM who is greater and stronger and more capable that we are – that is The Father. Jesus says you must call on the strength of God (Our Father in Heaven) and we must relinquish (place/let go) everything into His capable hands (Your kingdom come; Your will be done)

B. Looking in: Jesus then invites them to look on the inside – something He does many times in the scripture. When other were quick to run to judgment and condemnation of that woman allegedly caught in the act of adultery, He invited them to look at themselves to see which of them had no flaws or had done evil (there is no evil more evil than the next. All evils are equal). “Ye without sin cast the first stone.” Similarly he invites the disciples to look inward at their own shortcomings and human foibles (And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors). When we consider ourselves, we cannot be like the hypocrites and pass judgment on others no matter how offensive we think their sin is. Here, Jesus encourages His disciples to realize that just as they are deserving of forgiveness, the other person is too. And just as they will want forgiveness, they must be willing to offer same. Forgiveness begins with the recognition that you are forgiven (too many people walking around with GUILT) and having been forgiven, you must now walk in that freedom by forgiving others.

C. Looking out: Verses 13 to fifteen is where the kernel of truth and liberation lies. “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” In verse 13, the forgiven prayers this prayer because he or she trusts God and distrusts themselves. The Father won’t allow us to be tested beyond what we are able to manage/bear. But the rest is also very instructive. Because it helps us to realise that in forgiving there are benefits that we enjoy. We forgive not because the other person is deserving but because we benefit from the act of forgiving. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you”. When you extend grace (giving someone that which they do not deserve – forgiveness) to others, that grace comes back to you. It is in forgiving others who have wronged us, hurt us, or caused us pain, loss or misfortune that we receive healing. Even if the offense against you was as awful as Jeffrey Dahmer’s, holding unto that pain not only blocks your prayers, it hinders the grace that is waiting to enter your life. Grace is (unmerited) favour but it is also power. It is that same root word from which we derive charisma. The truth is forgiveness may not change the other person but it transforms you from being bitter to being gracious; from weakened and imprisoned in hurt and pain to being strong and resilient.

Conversely, when we refuse to forgive, we block grace from entering our lives “but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”Unfogrivenesshinders our prayers. It stunts our healing. It blocks our advancing because it keeps us tethered to that old debt (hurt/pain/offense). You cannot move on to new relationships because you are still holding on to that old hurt. You cannot love and trust again because you keep walking around with that baggage. You cannot experience peace in your life because you are tormented by that which you refuse to let go of.

Forgiveness might seem illogical and counter-intuitive but it best for you. You cannot do it in your own strength. You have to completely trust in God’s enablement and surrender to the process. It is not easy to forgive, for it goes against our human nature. But it is possible once we surrender it to God. For He will not lead you into any test that you cannot bear/manage and He will deliver you out of them all. Keep praying. Keep confessing and keep moving in the freedom that forgiveness affords.

How Do I get to know God: Tracing God Through His Word

DAY 1

Good morning Family lets reflect on :  Knowledge of God from 2 Peter1:2

“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.”

Renowned African American  educator, Burghardt DuBois was convinced that he could change the plight of black Americans if the truth of their condition was known, so he made careful scientific investigations and  presented his thesis. But several years after his presentation nothing happened. Remorsefully he came to the conclusion that ‘the availability of truth does not mean it will be appropriated’.

The church, today, spends much of its time claiming  all manner of things from  God as if we are entitled and  should have them.   Peter’s desire was that grace -God’s activity towards man to enable him; and peace – shalom- completeness, wholeness, prosperity, blessings and victory; be multiplied! But this was not wishful thinking as Peter instructed them how it could be accomplished which is by the knowledge of God.The  Greek word for knowledge has the preposition attached which means ‘towards’, ‘in the direction of’. So a knowledge that is always moving in the direction of that which it seeks to know. As our  knowlege of God and Jesus Christ increases  grace and peace  are multiplied to us. The better we know Them the more we experience grace and peace. The only way  we can gain this knowledge is by a  careful and purposeful study of God’s word .  So  lets us forget the  naming and  claiming and  start studying the word of God and appropriating it to our lives.

DAY 2

Good morning Family, today we reflect on the purpose of  having a knowledge of God.

2Peter1:3 tells us “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything  pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us”

How can finite man come to knowledge of an infinite God? Zophar long ago asked, “Can you by searching find out the  deep things of  God?” (Job 11:7) It was not left up to man to discover the  things concerning God but He revealed them in His word. And in knowing the word we find authority (power ) to live godly .

Chuck Swindoll listed the following six reasons why it is important to pursue knowledge of the Scriptures:

  1. Knowledge gives substance to faith.
  2. Knowledge stabilizes us during times of testing.
  3. Knowledge enables us to handle the Word of God accurately.
  4. Knowledge equips us to detect and confront error.
  5. Knowledge makes us confident and consistent in our walk with God.
  6. Knowledge filters out our fears and superstitions.

Godly living is not dependent on the binding of  spirits or invocation of supernatural power but on complete obedience to the revelation of the knowledge of God’s word.   Knowledge of God  produces godliness in us. Let us seek to gain knowledge of God through the study of His word.

DAY 3

Good morning Family,  today’s  encouragement  ‘Be faithful to grow in the knowledge of God.

As Peter concludes his epistle on false teachers that had infiltrated the Church the  charge is   “Therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:17-18

We live in an age where scant regard is given to the discovery of the truth of scripture. Worst even there is complete disregard both of the hearers and the preachers of the impending judgment given by Peter for those who would perverse the word. The Apostle  implores the church to be watchful and resist those who twist the word leading people astray. Peter says excuses will not stand if you  fail because he has given a warning  about  these persons and  of the consequences   to those who lead and also  follow.  He commands  against complacency and  exhorts his readers to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

If we are not rooted and grounded in the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ  which comes from a purposeful  study and application  of scripture    it will be easy to be swept off our feet and  loose our spiritual balance by the false teachings which swamp our culture. Lets remain faithful to growing in the knowledge of God.

DAY 4

Good morning, Family.

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:  The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and  the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 1:17-18 KJV

Paul is praying that God would give believers a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the true knowledge of Him. What becomes clear is that to know these important truths requires God to reveal them. In Eph 4.18 he describes our previous state as , ” darkened in  understanding, excluded from the life of God because of ignorance “. Sin blinds the minds of unbelievers rendering them incapable of first, understanding the truth of the gospel and second the truths of God. It necessitates God to open blinded eyes to believe in Jesus as Saviour (2 Cor. 4:4,6). Our finite minds have to be enlightened by the Spirit of God to understand the deeper truths of His word.

This prayer of Paul includes an intellectual grasp of the Scriptures. We cannot obey what we do not understand. It engages our emotions to desire relationship. This brings us  into a greater submission to His will and conformity with His purpose . When we know  His plans, (the hope of His calling and glory of His inheritance  we become strengthened in the inner-man and will live victoriously as believers .

Psalm 19:7 reminds us that the Law (Word) of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making the “simple” wise. The Word of God makes us wise and formidable against false teaching.

DAY 5

Good morning Family. Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesians 3:18-19 “may be able to comprehend…what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

These verses express the heart of Paul  for his fellow believers to understand the fullness,  vastness and completeness of  Christ’s  love . The Apostle  prays  because only by Divine intervention can our finite minds comprehend the great love that Christ’s gives. Such love  surpasses human  knowledge.

John McAuthur does a good contrast; human love lasts until it is offended. Christ love lasts despite every offense. Human  love is  for what it can get. Christ love is  for what it can give.

Paul knows that when the child of God grasps the magnitude of this truth it will  result in deep gratitude, manifested  in a life  yielded to the will and purpose of Christ born out of a deep sense of obligation. The book of Romans describe it as a living sacrifice which is our reasonable response to His love demonstrated through  His mercies and grace. Being filled with all the  fullness of God that is  being under God’s complete control and emptied of self.

These are critical elements for victorious Christian life.

Paul’s prayer, then, is that we live victorious Christian lives  fitting of our calling.