Sermon for Twenty Fourth Pentecost

Sermon: Are we Good Stewardships?

Rev. Robert W. Landry

 

            On Judgment Day, we will be called on to give a personal report to God. That report will be based on the choices we make here and now. We can make all the changes we want here and now. But it will be too late to make them when we stand before God.  Have you ever been afraid to use your gifts, talents, or skills? Have you ever thought that your skills and talents were not appreciated by other people? If the answer to either one or both questions is “yes”, then you can probably sympathize with the third slave on the Parable of the Talents, which I read from Matthew’s gospel.

            The word “talent” represents all the opportunities God has given his people to serve him. Talents include wealth, abilities, and learning. The parable teaches us to invest everything God gives us for his glory. If we want to be faithful servants of Christ, we must use what he gives us to spread the Good News. If we are faithful stewards in this life, we will be rewarded with even greater responsibility in the next life. The reward will be in proportion to the tasks we have accomplished.

            Sometimes when we do God’s work, we will not feel appreciated. I am speaking from experience. I have often felt that my ministry has not been appreciated in the community, but I was proven wrong in my work outside of the church in this community and the sense of fulfillment I felt in those experiences. When we feel that what we are doing for God is not appreciated here on earth, all we have to do is what I did, -pray to God. When we please him, we are doing our daily job. The greatest reward God can give will go to godly people who have labored faithfully without any earthly recognition.

            We are encouraged to be better than average. We are encouraged to excel. So why don’t we excel? Why don’t we try?  The answer is fear. Fearful servants are afraid of God. They see him as a harsh taskmaster.

They do not see the meaning of the term, “fear God” as “total reverence.” They take the term “fear God” quite literally, and therefore they never multiply the gifts God gave them. To know God, as the moral slave knew, is to be afraid. To really know God is to agree that he does indeed make his rain to fall upon the just and the unjust alike. To know God is to acknowledge, as the fearful slave acknowledged, that he is a tough man, playing by rules we can easily question and often find deplorable. Such knowledge would make almost any thinking person afraid, and thus it was that the unprofitable slave took up the shield of playing it safe, to hold his fear at bay.

            God is both a generous giver and a strict judge. He evaluates our stewardship based on how well we administer the responsibilities and talents he has given us. He evaluates our stewardship based on how well we have kept His priorities instead of our own. If we use his gifts to spread the Good News, we will be rewarded. If we do not, we will be punished by being separated from him for eternity. We must master and receive the gifts God gives us, including the gift of time. No matter how old or how young we are, we can still use the gifts God gave us. Even when we are sick, God can still use us. If we master and use the gifts God gave us, we will have plenty of time to grow in faith and spread God’s Kingdom here on earth.

            One of the most important gifts we have is our salvation. Sometimes we take it for granted, and sometimes we treat it like one of our most prized possessions. Sometimes we treat it with reverence and respect when we are first saved, but sometimes over time we take it for granted. That is the wrong attitude to have. The gift of salvation is a gift from God, and we are to use it just as we use all of the other gifts, he has given us.

            Another one of the gifts God has given us is the Gospel. He gave us that gift not so that our ability to spread it can be put to good use, but so that our inability is exposed, and God is glorified. We cannot, but God can. Christ demands faithfulness. If we are faithful, we will produce results. If we do not use what God gave us, we will lose everything.

 We are to dedicate ourselves and all we have been given to Christ so that he can multiply those gifts. Jesus seems to imply that there will be a long period of time between his first coming and his second coming, but the delay does not mean that he will not be coming. We are duty-bound to expand God’s kingdom in his absence regardless of how long we must wait for him to return. God sees everything from the beginning to the end, even if we cannot understand things. He sees our motives. He sees how we handle even the smallest of things, and our future depends on the little things. Contrary to what a popular saying says, we must “sweat the small stuff.”

            So how can we know what God wants us to do? It is simple. We must read the Bible. If we do, we will discover that God does not want us to play it safe. He wants us to take risks. No risk, no reward. We must risk living the life Jesus taught us to lead instead of the life the world wants us to lead. There are lots of lessons to be learned from the Parable of the Talents:

1. Be good stewards of your abilities. Use them or lose them.

2. Do not be afraid to try.

3. Never say, “I have so little, my contribution won’t matter.” Every little bit helps.

4. People may not be equal in talent, but they can sure be equal in effort.

            The faithful servants gambled with the master’s goods in pure blind faith that that was really what he meant for them to do. They yearned so completely, in other words, that they believed his intentions–his spirit, if you will, as they understood it, and they gambled themselves on fulfilling it. They loved the master with all their hearts and souls and minds, for this is the first and great commandment, and all the others are secondary unto it. The only proper response to such stories as these is to pray that God may give each of us such grace and faithfulness in our times as he gave to those faithful servants in their storied ones.

            We are getting closer to the end of the church year. In fact, two weeks from today we will be starting the season of Advent. Advent is a time to remember Jesus’ birth in the stable in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. It is also a time to prepare for his Second Coming, and Matthew 25 talks about being prepared for the coming kingdom. When God comes to judge us, will we be afraid that we will be cast into the fires of hell? Are we being too cautious when it comes to serving God? Are we afraid of failure? Are we afraid of taking the chances that discipleship requires? The Parable of the Talents encourages us to take bold, risky action just like this St. Andrews many years ago, they took action when they built the new church and paid for it and recently by faith took care of the many structural needs and repairs the church in a time with fewer members than when the new church was built over 56 years ago.

            The Parable of the Talents is about trust. God trusts us to use the gifts he has given us to spread his kingdom here on earth. He calls on us to return the favor by acting on the gifts he has given us out of trust. God has blessed us so much that we cannot lift our bushel baskets on our own. God only asks that we use, spend, and grow our resources, including our talents. He only asks that we love him enough not to hoard or hide our resources. We can trust him. Can he trust us?

            There are a couple sayings by important people of history in regard to life. Winston Churchill once said that “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”  And Albert Schweitzer said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” On Judgment Day, we will be called on to give a personal report to God. That report will be based on the choices we make here and now. We can make those changes we want to, here and now. It will be too late to make them when we stand before God. What choices will you make in the coming year as we enter it and prepare ourselves for spreading the gospel here in our churches and beyond our communities.