The Westminster Catechism was designed to teach people about the faith. The opening question is, “What is the chief end of man?” with the correct answer being, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Author and pastor John Piper believes we should change one word in that answer. “The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.” Piper’s conviction is that “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.”
In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the master rewards his faithful servants with a deeper relationship with himself. “Come and share my joy!” It is not a stretch to conclude that we can worship God and share in his joy by serving him faithfully.
As was his teaching style, Jesus used a story to illustrate spiritual truth. In the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the truth was to wait faithfully until Jesus returns. In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the truth was to work faithfully until Jesus returns.
The first principle in the parable is that God has given each one of us many resources (14-18). In the parable, the wealthy landowner is preparing to leave on a long journey. Prior to his departure, he calls together his three slaves and gives each one a portion of his property and possessions to manage during his absence. One receives five talents (one talent was worth about 20 years wages), one two talents, and the third receives one talent. The amount was tailored to the individual. The master knew the capability of each servant and didn’t give them more than they could manage.
During his absence, Jesus has entrusted each of us with his resources to manage. For some it may be wealth, for others it may be artistic ability or craftsmanship, for still others a listening ear. We each have one or more spiritual gifts. Rather than compare our gifts and abilities with others or complain that it’s not fair that we got too much or too little, we need to invest our gifts and abilities in serving Jesus.
Two of the slaves in the parable went to work and doubled their investments. The third stuck his in the ground and didn’t use it at all. When the master returned from his trip, he called for an accounting of his investments (19). Faithful service is rewarded (20-23) while unfaithfulness is judged (24-30).
Two of the servants are rewarded in three ways. They receive words of praise—“Well done!”; increased responsibility—“Serve me more”; and a deeper relationship—“Share my joy!” We discover the principle that Jesus will reward us for our faithfulness rather than the amount of our results.
The servant who didn’t use his investment tried to make excuses and shift the blame to the master’s character—“I knew you were a hard man.” The master sees through his excuses and addresses the root cause. The slave was wicked and lazy. Because of his actions, the servant misses out on the rewards and the relationship with the master.
There are times when I am just like the lazy servant. I want to stay in my comfort zone. I don’t want to risk failure and take a chance. I want to coast along rather than continue to grow. I hate to think what blessings I have missed because of my laziness.
Bertoldo de Giovanni is a name even the most enthusiastic lover of art is unlikely to recognize. He was the pupil of Donatello, the greatest sculptor of his time, and he was the teacher of Michelangelo, the greatest sculptor of all time. Michelangelo was only 14 years old when he came to Bertoldo, but it was already obvious that he was enormously gifted. Bertoldo was wise enough to realize that gifted people are often tempted to coast rather than to grow, and therefore he kept trying to pressure his young prodigy to work seriously at his art.
One day he came into the studio to find Michelangelo toying with a piece of sculpture far beneath his abilities. Bertoldo grabbed a hammer, stomped across the room, and smashed the work into tiny pieces, shouting this unforgettable message, “Michelangelo, talent is cheap; dedication is costly!”
What are the gifts, abilities, talents, and resources that God has blessed you with? How are you investing them in building Christ’s kingdom? Use ALL you have and ALL you are for God’s glory.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 8, 2014. It is part of a series on The Heart of Worship. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.