Title: Nothing Gained, Nothing Ventured
Text: Matthew 25:14-30
FCF: We often struggle understanding what is expected of us from our Lord and Savior.
Prop: Because what we do with what God gives proves the slave we are, we must be found faithful.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 25. Jesus has answered the questions the disciples posed. He has emphasized repeatedly that the His return is certain and soon. He wants them to understand that no one knows the timing of the coming of the Son of Man, except for the Father alone. So they must be ready. Being ready as we concluded last week, consists of listening to (hearing, understanding and believing) what Jesus says and doing what He says. When we are presently listening and doing, we are ready for His return. We saw that in the various illustrations and parables that Jesus gives spanning 24:36 all the way through 25:13, this theme is consistently portrayed.
But now, moving past this concept of his return being unknown, he turns his attention to readiness, not based on the imminence of his return, but instead on the judgment that will come at that return.
These final two parables don’t have the return of the Lord coming unexpectedly early or unexpectedly late. Rather, they emphasize the abounding reward for those who are ready and the terrible consequence for those who are not.
I am in Matthew 25, I’ll start reading in verse 14. I am reading from the NET, you can follow along in the pew bible on page 1123 or in whatever version you prefer. If you don’t have a bible, please take the one in the pew – you need to own a bible!
Some perplexing things in today’s passage. Let’s try to unlock what is being said here.
I.) The Kingdom comes and those found faithful will be richly rewarded, so we must be found faithful.
a. [Slide 2] 14 – For it is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them.
i. “It” here is clearly the kingdom. The construction is the same as the previous parable.
ii. And like the previous parable we must understand that the kingdom is like the parable in its entirety.
iii. Therefore, to get what Jesus is saying about the Kingdom, we have to understand the parable , down to the smallest detail, while being careful not to fill in details the parable does not give.
iv. It is not told to us what kind of business the master runs, but we do know that he has at least 3 slaves.
v. He is preparing to go on a journey, distance does not seem to be the issue – rather time. Verse 19 hints that he will be away for a long time.
vi. He will be away too long to manage his estate properly.
vii. So he gathers his slaves to him so that he may appoint them as stewards over his property.
b. [Slide 3] 15 – To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
i. Although not expressed clearly yet, it is implied that the master expects his slaves to use the money how he would use it. To truly be his representatives over the portion of the estate that he gives them.
ii. Thus, each slave is tasked with understanding who their master is and how their master would use the money they have been delegated.
iii. The master gives differing sums of money to each slave based on their own ability. What those abilities are we are not told.
iv. However, one thing we can know with certainty is that the master is not one who wishes to be overbearing or a tyrant. He knows his slaves well. He knows what they are capable of, and does not give them more than they are able to handle. His expectations are reasonable for each man.
v. The first slave is esteemed by his master as highly capable.
1. From our study of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18, we learned that a talent was primarily a unit of weight. Depending on which precious metal you were talking about, silver or gold, it would vary the amount in question considerably.
2. However, by most current archeology and history we can conclude with relative accuracy that a silver talent was equal to around 6,000 denarii.
3. A denarii would be a day’s wage given for a laborer. Basically a lower to middle class person’s average days wage was a denarii.
4. Translating this into modern money is somewhat inaccurate, but since the median income in the US is around $140 a day, the math works out to this first slave being entrusted with 4.2 Million dollars, or another way of looking at it – it would be what a slave would earn over 82 years of work.
5. That is a lot of capital!
6. Indeed the disciples of Jesus, hearing this amount, would have concluded the same.
vi. The second slave is not as capable, but is still given a ridiculous amount of money. Around 1.7 Million dollars, or almost 33 years of work.
vii. The third – with only 1 talent we might assume he has low capabilities and therefore is given a small amount. But at a whopping 840,000 dollars, or 16.5 years of work. We should not assume such things. Lower than the first and second – sure, but still put in charge of a hefty chunk of change.
viii. Which means the grand total of the master’s estate he is entrusting to his slaves is over 6.7 Million dollars.
ix. Not only does this point to the GREAT wealth of the master, but also to his desire to share the administration of that property with his slaves. A generous and wealthy master is he.
x. Once the master distributes his property to the slaves, he goes on his journey.
c. [Slide 4] 16 – The one who had received five talents went off right away and put his money to work and gained five more.
i. The one entrusted with much, sets off immediately to putting the money to work.
ii. It is not elaborated on in the parable as to what that means.
iii. Obviously some venture is implied where the money is used as seed money to make more. It is invested in one way or another – the exact way is unimportant in Jesus’ parable. We just need to understand that he used the money. He spent the money. It takes money to make money – nothing ventured is nothing gained. This slave understood that the only way to make money was to spend it wisely.
d. [Slide 5] 17 – In the same way, the one who had two gained two more.
i. The word here means in the exact same way, not same but of a different kind but same of the exact same kind.
ii. In other words this slave too, immediately set out to make more with what he was given.
iii. And like the first slave he too doubles the master’s money.
e. [Slide 6] 18 – But the one who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money in it.
i. There were no formal banks where you could deposit money for savings at this time. Therefore the most secure way of hiding something valuable is to bury it in the earth and tell no one where you buried it.
ii. We talked about this when we were in Matthew 13 and discussed the great treasure buried in a field. Oftentimes, the secrecy would go with someone to the grave, and none would know of the great wealth buried in a field.
iii. We can actually understand a couple things about this slave from this verse alone.
1. He considered the talent he received to be of great wealth. So valuable that should he lose it, he would surely be given a severe punishment.
2. Of course to spend the money in investments would have been very risky. Because he might lose it.
3. So instead he buries it so that he is sure to give to the master what the master had given to him.
f. [Slide 7] 19 – After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled his accounts with them.
i. A long time has passed. Again, Jesus hinting at a delay between when the signs will be fulfilled and when He will return.
ii. He comes to settle his accounts. It was time to see what they had done with what He had entrusted them with.
g. [Slide 8-9] 20-21 – The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Sir, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’
i. So the first slave reports on what he did with the money.
ii. You entrusted me with 5 talents and I doubled your money.
iii. What the master says back is further evidence that he is indeed VERY generous.
1. Well done good and faithful slave! – You have done well, you are good, and have shown yourself to be reliable. Dependable. Obedient.
2. When you were entrusted with a few things, you were found faithful – Here we see that the master views 4.2 million dollars as a few things. It is now we realize that the master’s wealth is far beyond what he had given to the slaves.
3. The master’s total possessions must be beyond what any might imagine possible. And what does the master say next?
4. I will put you in charge of many things. – In a world where 4 million dollars is but a few things – one can only wonder what many things may be. And as if it could not get any better for this slave…
5. Enter into the joy of your master. What does this mean? Without pressing too much into the parable here – I think it is well within reason to assume that the master is elevating the slave to a status that is like his own. He is offering him a hand up to know and experience the fullness of what it means to be like his master, and inherit all the responsibilities and privileges that go with it.
iv. Such a master cannot be found among men. The slave only did what was asked, and the master elevated him and treated him as an equal.
h. [Slide 10-11] 22-23 – The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’ His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’
i. In the same way the other slave reports that what he was given has been used and doubled.
ii. And even though the gain was less than the first – the reward is exactly the same. Indeed down to the letter the master says the exact same thing and gives the same reward to the second slave.
i. [Slide 12] Passage Truth: So what is Jesus teaching his disciples and Matthew to the Jews? Jesus teaches what the kingdom of heaven is like. It is a place that divides. There will be a day of reckoning and on that day those who were faithful to God will be rewarded. Those who used the resources given by God for God, will be given charge of more, and will enter into divine joy.
j. Passage Application: Jesus obviously wishes his disciples to be these first two slaves. To be found faithful when the master returns to settle accounts.
k. [Slide 13] Broader Biblical Truth: So broadening this out to a whole bible perspective, we understand that God’s kingdom is here and is coming. That one day the Son of Man will return. And those who are found using what He has given them to further His Kingdom will be richly rewarded. We are promised that we will reign with Christ. We are also invited to enter into the joy of the master – the eternal fulfilling of finally being in the presence of our God and King. Forever.
l. Broader Biblical Application: So the application is simple. We must be found faithful. We must be diligent investors of all that God has given us, so that His Kingdom may flourish and that His name be glorified.
But what of the third slave? What were his motives for burying the talent? And what reward would he receive for this?
II.) The Kingdom comes and those found unfaithful will be severely punished, so we must be found faithful.
a. [Slide 14] 24 – Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed.
i. What a perplexing contrast.
ii. The first two slaves were eager – joyful even to report to the master what they were able to accomplish with his money. For him. They were excited to have done well for Him.
iii. But this slave does not come with joy, but with excuse. Not with eagerness but with fear and a desire to be vindicated.
iv. His actions were not like the others, but in his mind he was just to do with the master’s money what he did.
v. What is his explanation?
vi. He blames his master for his decision to not produce anything greater than what he was given. What does he say?
1. I know you to be a hard man. – His understanding of his master is that he is tough, difficult, taxing and tyrannical. That he is hard to please.
2. Harvesting where you did not sow and gathering where you did not thresh. What does this phrase mean?
a. Theft? Is this saying that he farms land that isn’t his own?
b. Oppression? Is this saying that the master puts no work in of his own and forces his slaves to work, yet he takes all the profits?
c. Up to this point there is no indication that the master is agrarian. To suddenly introduce agricultural references seems odd.
d. What we do know is that there is an agricultural idiom, a proverb that Paul references in Galatians. You reap what you sow. Probably this is an idiom that predates Paul and even Jesus here in Matthew.
i. The idiom’s meaning is twofold.
1. Quality sowed is quality reaped.
2. Quantity sowed is quantity reaped.
ii. But this slave turns this idiom on its head. He says that his master reaps in a place he does not sow and gathers in a place that he has not threshed.
iii. So if the idiom meant what you put in you get out – the slave’s perception of his master is that he expects to get out without putting in.
3. In this slave’s mind, the master is taxing and tyrannical because he expects GREAT returns FAR above what he has invested.
b. [Slide 15] 25 – so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’
i. His perception of his master produced in him fear. After all, if a tyrant expects a return FAR greater than his investment, and he has invested so great an amount, how can a slave improve upon what the master has given him?
ii. So the slave’s reasoning is this… Unless I take great risk in losing most or all of what my master has invested, there is no possible way for me to achieve what my master expects for a return. So I will play it safe and not invest the money. I won’t squander it – I’ll return every penny because I know he’ll be counting– but I won’t risk losing it either.
iii. So I buried it, protected it, and made sure that none could reduce it.
iv. And in vindication he declares – SEE! I didn’t take a penny! I didn’t lose a penny!
c. [Slide 16] 26-27 – But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest!
i. The master calls him evil and lazy. Now why those are true we’ll bring out in a moment, but let’s begin there.
ii. Although the master quotes the slave here, we should not take this to mean that the master is agreeing with the slave’s assessment of his character.
iii. Really what is happening is that the master, using the slave’s own words, points out a flaw in his reasoning.
iv. If you really thought that I was this kind of master, a tyrant who expects to receive far greater than I give, then why didn’t you at least deposit the money somewhere that would have earned interest?
1. As we said before, there were no banks as we know it in the 1st century
2. But the word here probably means something like money exchanger or broker. Who would loan money with interest to gentiles or break Jewish law and charge interest to both Jews and gentiles.
v. So since the master had been gone for a while, that whole time could have been used to gain some interest from the money. It may not have doubled it, but it certainly would be more than what he was originally given.
vi. The slave’s assumption was that the master’s desire was a GREAT return on his investment. But he was in error.
vii. We see here the heart of the master. It is not so much that he required a doubling of his investment, an assumption that we may have arrived at from the previous two slaves. Instead, he simply wanted his investment to bring returns.
viii. What a foolish assessment of His master this proves to be.
1. He was not hard, but generous, giving each slave a large sum of money each according to His master’s assessment of their individual abilities. If he were hard, he would have required the same amount from each regardless of their ability. And he certainly would not have given them each so much.
2. The slave claimed that the master demanded GREAT return without him investing much if anything… when in reality, the master has invested quite a lot, and expects more than he invested – which is the way we would expect it to be.
ix. That is why the master concludes that the slave is evil and lazy.
1. Evil because of his twisted view of the master. We need to see this relational component here. Although a slave – there was no relationship here. What he “Knew” of the master was exactly nothing. This is why he is evil… because his relationship to the master was non-existent.
2. Lazy because of his REAL motive for burying the treasure – he simply did not wish to do anything, especially not for the master he hated. He only thought of himself. I mean if he wasn’t using the master’s property for the master’s purpose while the master was away all this time… what exactly was he doing with all his time?
d. [Slide 17] 28-29 – Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.
i. The master begins his punishment of the wicked and lazy slave.
ii. The first thing he commands is that the slave lose the 1 talent that he had, and that it would be given to the first slave who was entrusted with 5 and earned 5 more. Meaning of course, that the master did not take what the slave had earned for him away from the slave, but allowed the slave to reinvest it.
iii. Jesus’ next statement is perplexing.
1. Starting from the back of the phrase we can see clearly that to “have” in this context must not simply mean to possess what was given, but to possess returns for what was given.
2. If to “have” meant that you simply had something, anything, even the 3rd slave would have had something. But it is clear that the “having” of this is referring to dividends.
3. So starting again from the beginning of the phrase, we see that the one that has dividends from what he was given, will be given even more, far beyond even what he needs.
4. But the one who shows no dividends from what he was given, will not only NOT be given more, but what was given previously, will be taken away.
e. [Slide 18] 30 – And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
i. So already in the story, he was not rewarded for returning exactly what the master gave him. In fact, he was rebuked and the talent was taken from him.
ii. So by verse 29’s standards, the judgment is complete. But the judgment on the slave is not over.
iii. There is no story equivalent to the additional punishment for the slave. Jesus does not correlate this to a parable fitting component – he simply says to cast the slave into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Again, this is another way of describing the second death, the lake of fire, the enduring and permanent wrath of God.
iv. So whatever the talent means spiritually, it was removed prior to sending the slave to the second death.
f. [Slide 19] Passage Truth: So what is Jesus teaching to His disciples and Matthew to the Jews? The day of reckoning promises great reward for those who are faithful, but also terrible judgment for those who are unfaithful. Again, faithfulness, is being found using what God gave for God’s glory.
g. Passage Application: So again, Jesus desires that His disciples are prepared for that day of reckoning. That they too would be found faithful.
h. [Slide 20] Broader Biblical Truth: So for us the whole bible truth is that on that day, when the Son of Man returns, those who are slaves, those in the visible church, but those who have not used what God gave them for His glory, will be shown to have a twisted perception of the master. Their true disposition toward Christ and God will be revealed. All that they have kept secret will be uncovered. The talent will be dug up and the interest non-existent. On that day those pretenders will be cast out of the master’s presence into eternal death. Not because they did not believe in Him. Not because they did not attend His church. But because they did not know Him, and did not seek to use what He had given them for His glory.
i. Broader Biblical Application: So for us, we must take the same assurance that the day of reckoning is coming, as both a promise and a warning. We must be sure that we are producing dividends for the Kingdom. That He may receive greater glory from what He has given to us.
[Slide 21 (blank)] So how do we apply the words of this parable to our lives? What can this mean for us? And that is actually where this whole thing gets really complicated.
We have absolutely no idea what the talent represents in the parable. Many people think they know – trust me, every commentator has an opinion.
Is this making disciples? He made us His disciples so He expects us to go out and make disciples. Meaning that real disciples make disciples?
Is this using Spiritual gifts? He gave us gifts to use for the unity and edification of the body of Christ. So real Spiritual gift inheritors use their gifts?
Is this grace and mercy? He gave all men mercy which would draw some to ongoing repentance and ongoing faith by His grace. So real Christians continue in grace from the mercy shown on them?
Is this our lives? He gave us our lives and he expects us to use them for His glory. So real believers use their lives for his glory?
Personally I favor the last two. But listen… Jesus doesn’t make it plain, so as an expositor of the Word of God, I can’t either.
Fortunately it doesn’t actually matter, because they all teach the same thing.
God Himself has given many marvelous and glorious gifts to mankind. And He has given even more to His visible church. But remember last week how we talked about the free gift of salvation costing you everything you have?
God expects a return on His investment. In fact, He has made sure that He gets a return by giving us His Spirit.
But do not fall into the trap of the wicked and lazy slave. Do not look at the expectations of our King and conclude that He expects a HUGE return from you even though He is unwilling to invest much in you.
First of all, if you are human, His investment in you is far more than you deserve. He allows you to breathe every day even though you were born a rebel to His will. He feeds you, clothes you, and offers mercy to you.
If you are human and have heard the gospel, He has demonstrated His love and mercy by revealing Himself to you!
If you are human and are part of the visible church, He is demonstrating His mercy to you through His elect!
And if you are His child, He has placed you in Christ and given you a new name. The bible says that He has put His treasure into jars of clay. What’s His treasure? His Spirit – among other things. What are the jars of clay? The worthless pots – that’s us!
No matter who you are, His investment in you is significant, far more than you could ask or think. He expects a return. In fact, As we saw in the parable, if you are His child – He guarantees you will have a return.
But does He expect you to return what He has put in? Perhaps you’ve heard people say, God has done so much for me, I’ll live my whole life to pay Him back.
Friends that is the mind of the wicked slave. We can’t possibly repay God for what He has given to us. To think we can means we don’t understand the magnitude of what He’s done, and it is to misunderstand our own capabilities to do anything without Him.
Every good thing you do, every righteous deed, the desire to do it came from God, and the power to do it came from God. We can only live for Him because He gives us grace to do so.
No friends. The appropriate response is simply to bring Him glory with everything that He has given to us.
Grow in grace, use your gifts, make disciples, lose your life for His sake – not because that is what He demands, but because that is what He deserves! May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward for His suffering!
Which leads me to the final angle on this teaching that is less exciting, but needs to be said and I hope you’ll hear it.
Friends you were not saved to sit. If you have been baptized in the Spirit, you have been given gifts to use. If you have been made a disciple you were made a disciple so that you would make disciples. You were not saved to put in an hour in church every week, read your bible and pray, comfortably waiting for the bus to take you to heaven. You were saved to serve. To empty yourself. To lose your life for His sake.
[Slide 22 (end)] Ephesians 2:8-10
For by grace you are being saved (perfect tense in Greek indicating a completed action with continuing results) through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for Good works that God prepared beforehand so that we may do them.
Just as you were predestined for conversion, you have been predestined for good works!
No one has been predestined to wait until the bus to heaven arrives.
If you are not using your spiritual gifts, you must start wondering if you have gifts, and if you know the gift giver.
If you are not making disciples, you must start wondering if you are a disciple.
Simply put, if you are not pouring out what God has poured in, if you are not being an ambassador, representing His Kingdom… then friend, you have no assurance that you are in His Kingdom.
Because the salvation that forgives a man of his sin, is the same salvation that changes a man into a new creation.
This wicked slave had bad theology, which produced inactivity, he saw his master poorly and as a result, he did nothing for him. And He didn’t simply miss out on some rewards… He was cast out of the Kingdom altogether.
But a right relationship, a right disposition toward God produces risk, it produces reckless abandon, it produces absolute surrender. The kind of surrender that concludes to live is Christ and to die is gain. The kind of abandon that counts it joy when persecuted for His name. The kind of risk that faithfully goes when others cower in fear. Why? Because where else shall we go? What other cause is greater? Those who’s eyes have truly been opened, could not imagine it being any other way.
But if you have gained nothing… then you will venture nothing.
Kingdom children risk much for His name – because their eyes have been opened, and what they have seen – they cannot unsee.
He is worthy to lose everything for!