Upside Down Kingdom Parables: Don’t Be Idle


Upside Down Kingdom Parables: Don’t Be Idle


“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘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.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘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.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:14-30

In our series, The Upside Down Kingdom, we have been looking at the parables of Jesus. As we have seen, parables were stories Jesus used to teach and communicate the values and truths of His Kingdom: the Kingdom of Heaven. While on earth, Jesus taught on the Kingdom of Heaven more than anything else, and He often did it in the format of these parables.

Jesus started several of the parables with phrases such as, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” or “The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to…” He taught these stories as comparisons to reveal the values and principles found within the Kingdom of Heaven.

Now, wherever God rules is where the Kingdom of Heaven exists. When Jesus came to earth in the form of a man, though fully God, He ushered in the Kingdom of Heaven. Wherever He went, whatever He did, those around Him experienced the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus was the full embodiment of the Kingdom of Heaven come to earth.

After His ascension, God sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in the lives of His followers, His disciples, empowering them and giving them authority to go and make disciples. That wherever they went, they went in the Spirit of God as ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven.

This continues to be true for us today – if you are a disciple of Christ, the Spirit of God dwells within you, and wherever you go you carry the Kingdom of Heaven with you. Our commitment, our allegiance is to the Kingdom of the Heaven, and the mission, or call of the follower of Christ, and even more so the Church, is to live out the values of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

Such values as:
● When the world calls for self-preservation, the Kingdom of Heaven calls for self-sacrifice.
● When the world calls for revenge, the Kingdom of Heaven calls for turning the other cheek.
● When the world calls for storing up of our resources, the Kingdom of Heaven calls for generosity.
● When the world calls for fighting our enemies, the Kingdom of Heaven calls for loving and praying for those who persecute us.

Yet, we know this is not the Kingdom in its fullness, rather, only in part, because of our brokenness. The fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven will come when Christ returns, and He will establish the fullness and permanence of His Kingdom on Earth.

Earlier in this series, Pastor Mark unpacked to a greater level the Kingdom of Heaven, so if you want to hear more about this, I would encourage you to check out that sermon. What is key to our time this morning is the call to the church to live out the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth while we await the return of our King, our Saviour, our Master: Jesus.

Today’s parable is the picture of the relationship of a Master to his Servants, entrusting and empowering them, his unspoken expectations of them, and the consequences of meeting, or failing to meet, those expectations. The overarching theme of the parable, and I believe the question being presented to each of us this morning, is how are we investing that which God has entrusted to us. Are we eager to see the Kingdom of Heaven advance, or are we spiritually idle and slothful?

The Parable
In the parable, the Master entrusted the servants with differing amounts of talents. A talent during the day of Jesus was a monetary denomination which had value, a sum of money. The amount or value of the talents in this parable is unimportant; rather, the emphasis is really placed on two simple observations:
1. The master entrusted the servants
2. The master gave to each according to their ability

When I was a child growing up, we would take a few weeks almost every summer and go out to Iowa. My mom is from Iowa, and so my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins on that side of my family were either in Iowa or somewhere in the midwest. So we would spend a portion of almost every summer out there seeing them.

Most of my memories of these trips were us driving to Iowa as a family. However, on this one particular occasion, my parents decided to send me, and my older brother and sister to Iowa ahead of them on an airplane and they would meet us in Iowa later. We were approximately 10, 8, and 6 years of age.

The airline that we flew on had a program for minors to fly without a guardian. I was young, so I don’t remember too much of the specifics, but we did have a flight attendant assigned to us that escorted us onto the plane, checked on us regularly during the flight, and escorted us off the plane until we met up with our grandparents in Iowa. However crazy it might sound, my parents entrusted our care and well-being to the airline.

To entrust is to assign the responsibility for doing something; to put something into someone’s care or protection. The master entrusted the servants with his property, with his talents, and with that, the master in essence gave the servants authority to act on his behalf for his benefit. By entrusting them with his possessions, the master was granting them authority to act.

And we don’t want to miss that not all of the servants were given the same portion – the master gave according to their ability. He understood that the one-talent servant was not capable of producing as much as the five­-talent servant.

As ambassadors for God’s Kingdom, God has entrusted His church collectively and each of us individually, with much that has value and authority for the furthering of the Kingdom of Heaven. The talents are symbolic of all that God gives to us that can be directed to His purpose in our life as we allow Him to mold and shape us into something useful to His glory and Kingdom.

I want us to consider this morning three categories in our lives as Christians, living in America, where I believe God has called us and entrusted us to intentional living. He has called us to various types of work and vocations, He has created for and placed us in relationships, and He has blessed us with abundant resources.

Man was created to do good works. We see in Genesis 2 that God created man, and gave him dominion over that which had been created, and man and woman were instructed to subdue it, or rather to bring under control. The implication is that although God’s creation was complete and good, there was a sense of rawness in creation that needed cultivation, and this is what mankind was commissioned by God to do: to be culture makers, to do good works. Yet, with the introduction of sin into the world, this commissioning was broken because humanity was broken.

However, the Gospel teaches us that in Christ, God is restoring us into that role:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

The Greek word for workmanship is poiema, which means that which is made. It is not a word used for something roughly put together, but that which is crafted and meticulously detailed with intention and care. Poiema is from which we derive our English word poem, something elegant, balanced and structured. Some commentaries claim that it may be better translated as masterpiece.

As such, I believe in Christ, God has crafted each of us uniquely for His work, His good work. He has gifted, shaped, and entrusted each of us with personalities, strengths, skill sets, and talents for good works. When we walk in these good works, God uses or will use them to further His kingdom.

In the 1940s, there was a questionnaire published with the purpose of indicating differing psychological preferences in how people perceive the world around them and make decisions. Known as Myers-Briggs, the questionnaire provides individual results on four different spectrums, one of which is the introvert/extrovert spectrum.

This spectrum, which all of us fall somewhere on, identifies how we are energized by the world around us – introverts being energized from internal experiences, and extroverts being energized from external experiences.

Too often, these terms are misused to define people as relational or nonrelational, which is not an accurate depiction. Do relationships look different for introverts than for extroverts? Yes, but both introverts and extroverts are still relational.

Humans are relational beings. God created mankind to be in relationship with Him and with one another. We believe the Kingdom of God is built on relationships, and we see it throughout scripture:
● Four men who brought their lame friend to Jesus where he is not only healed, but finds forgiveness
● Jesus calls twelve men who were of lowly status to follow Him and spends three years teaching, investing and discipling them of the kingdom
● Jesus dined with the “sinners”, the tax collectors and prostitutes, teaching them of the kingdom
● In Acts we see the intimate relationships amongst the early church and the favor they had with the people
● The Apostle Paul had relationships with others such as Timothy and Titus.
● At the closing of several of his letters, Paul mentions greetings and
affections to many individuals

It is in and through relationships that God works, and none of us live life in complete isolation, but rather we live, work with, and interact with various people to differing capacities. We do not always know why God has brought certain people into our lives.

I have heard several sermons where the person teaching rattles off wealth statistics that show even poor Americans are amongst the top percent of the wealthiest in the global population. And although statistically this may be accurate, it has never sat well with me, because I don’t believe statistics paint the whole picture.

Some of you here this morning may have had success in business, or received a large inheritance from a distant aunt, and you may have an abundance of resources. Others here may feel they live month-to-month, out of work or on disability, struggling to pay bills and feel you have limited or no resources.

Money is the resource that we naturally think of first in this context. However, time, skill sets, knowledge, experiences, and possessions can be greater and more effective resources than money. The resources that we do have, whatever they may be, God has blessed us with for our pleasure and also to bless others with.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

God has apportioned to each of us accordingly, and we are to be intentional about what we do with what God has delivered to us ­in our work, in our relationships, and in our resources.

Although on the surface, this parable appears to be about works and investment, it is actually more about faith than about works. The two servants acted in faith, not knowing the outcome of their investments, but rather seeking to be faithful with that which they were entrusted and empowered by the master. They acted not on their own authority, but on the authority given to them by the master. And at the master’s return he commended them saying, “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.”

It is important to note here that the response by the master was the same. The servant with 5 talents and the servant with 2 talents, although differing ability and differing allocation, received the same response and reward from the master. This shows us that what is valued is not the quantity with what we are provided, but rather our faithfulness on what we do with it.

However, the third servant lacked faith and embraced fear instead of the authority that the master had entrusted him with. He feared the wrath and punishment of the master, and due to his lack of faith, that is what he received.

To make investments in the Kingdom of Heaven, to be intentional and not idle, requires us to walk by faith and not by sight. This is not a blind process, but it is submitting ourselves to the Spirit of God that dwells within each of us.

The Holy Spirit
The greatest gift that God has given His saints is the Holy Spirit.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

“the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you” Romans 8:11

“In him, you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” Ephesians 1:13

“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:6

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26

The Spirit of God, the same spirit which raised Christ Jesus from the dead, dwells within us. It testifies to our inheritance in Christ, claims us as adopted sons and daughters of God, and empowers us to walk in boldness and authority for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Our authority in life is not of our own, but rather our authority is from the Spirit of Christ that dwells within us and we should walk in the power and authority that comes only from the Spirit of God.

Knowing the truth of the Holy Spirit and its role in our lives is necessary if we are to walk by faith and identify the good works we are to walk in, the relationships we are to pursue, and the resources we are to be generous with.

The intent of the parable this morning is to give us a place to pause and to contemplate the areas in our lives where God has gifted us and entrusted to us. What has He placed into our care? And are we investing that in the Kingdom of Heaven, or are we being idle and slothful?

The fuel for faith-based intentional living and the desire to see the Kingdom of Heaven lived out here on earth flows from an intimate relationship with our master. The parable is silent on how well the servants knew their master, but we can know our master intimately:

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4­5

Our faith, our relationship with Jesus – knowing who He is, what His life and death represents, and what He taught – will transform us and drive us to live out the values of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Specifically, what has God entrusted you with? Relationships? Skill sets? Work abilities? Opportunities? Resources?

How are you making space in your life to let God lead and speak to you on how He wants to advance those things for His kingdom?

If you feel spiritually tired, spiritually hurt, or spiritually burned this morning, you might find yourself struggling to respond or feeling guilty. If that’s you, just come and sit at the feet of Jesus and know His love.

Let us not be idle in waiting for the Kingdom for we carry the Kingdom wherever we go.

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