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May 20, 2018

Divine Investing

Passage: Matthew 25:14-30

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Parables That Change the World

Keywords: good and faithful, heaven, hell, investing, management, stewardship, wealth, divine resources, lazy and wicked

Summary:

Investing is becoming a lost art in many American's lives. But every human being, disciple of Jesus or not, has been entrusted with immense resources from God for which we will each be accountable. This message looks at the parable of the 3 Financial Managers in Matthew 25 while mining it for gems that can help all of us be better stewards of God's good gifts.

Detail:

Parable of Divine Investing

Matthew 25:14-30

May 20, 2018

Get acquainted:  If you were loaned $10,000 and told to make as much return on that money as possible in the next 5 years and then return to the owner, what would you do to invest it well?

When you think of the word “investing,” what are some of the words that come to your mind?  (Scared?  Risk?  Stock market? Real estate? Retirement plan? IRA? 401K, gold, silver, etc.?)

In a word or simple sentence, what is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received about investing?  (Diversify; avoid get-rich-quick schemes; stay in the market over the long term; if you can’t understand it, don’t invest in it; etc.)

We are living in a day when fewer people are engaging in the practice of investing.

  • Just over half (54%) of Americans own stocks, according to a 2017 Gallup report. That includes individual stocks, 401(k) plans, shares in an equity mutual fund or an IRA account. 
  • ¼ (24%) of workers in Am. today have less than $1,000 in retirement.
  • 55% have less than $50,000 saved for retirement.
  • The average Social Security monthly payment is $1,407.

So if those are the statistics when it comes to American’s taking care of their own financial futures, what do you think it would look like if everyone here were given $10,000 today to invest?  How many of us would be able to invest it well and come back in 5 years with $15,000 or $20,000? 

            How many of us today would say, “Investing successfully is a cinch!  It’s easy!”?  Why is that? 

            Investing well takes work.  It takes time.  It takes research.  It takes wisdom.  And maybe that is why about half our country doesn’t engage in investing. 

            As a follower of Jesus, I’ve got some good news and some bad news.  And it’s all contained in one simple statement:

God has entrusted every one of us with resources to invest.

How is that good news? (No one is left out; God knows us and trusts us to use his resources well; Whatever God gives us must be usable for good; no cheating allowed; motives matter; etc.)

How is that bad news?  (Accountability, responsibility, judgment, no fooling God, everyone will be responsible)

Our parable today comes from Matthew 25:14-30.  It’s the longest parable in the Gospels.  And it comes in the middle of a string of 3 parables, all of them having to do with “the kingdom of heaven.”  All of them deal with salvation.  All of them deal with judgment.  And all of them deal with the relationship of our eternal future to what you and I are doing right now.

14 “Again, it [the kingdom of heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

            So let’s take this parable apart and see what Jesus is saying to all of us. 

Vs. 14--“Again, it [the kingdom of heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.”

Clearly, Jesus is talking about himself when he refers to this wealthy “man” in this story.  He’s going away on a journey, just as Jesus told his disciples in John 14 that he was leaving to prepare a place for them in heaven.  He’s got “servants,” people who claim to be under His leadership and Lordship.  And he has wealth to entrust or invest with us here while he is gone.  

            So just who are these “servants”?  At first we might think they are all believers, all followers of Jesus, people who claim Jesus as “Lord” and seek to serve Christ.  But the problem with that definition of “servants” is at least two-fold:

1.)  The latter part of this story makes it clear that 1 of the 3 servants is called a “wicked, lazy servant” who is no steward at all of his “master’s” wealth and, in the end, is stripped of what little he had been entrusted with and “throw[n]…outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  That is a common metaphor for eternal judgment in hell in the N.T.  So based just on this parable, not everyone in the story is a true follower of the Master, Jesus.  God desires that every human being BE one of his faithful servants, but not everyone will agree to receive God’s offer to join the ranks of His true servants. 

2.) The general thrust of all 3 parables here in Matthew 25 is identical.  They all have people who don’t gain eternal life with God. 

  • The first is the Parable of the 10 Virgins, 5 of whom were actually prepared for the Bridegroom’s coming and join him at the wedding banquet and 5 of whom were woefully unprepared and don’t make it in.
  • The 2nd parable, this one, we’ve seen has someone who is thrown out from the presence of the master.
  • The 3rd parable is about “The Sheep and the Goats,” the former of which represent those who actually were Christ to those in need around them in life and the latter of whom disregarded and ignored those in need around them in life.

If these 3 stories were all that we had about the Gospel, we might conclude that salvation is something that comes to us by good works—by being ready for Jesus’ return, by being good managers of God’s resources/life, and by dealing kindly with the needy, the naked, the hungry, the sick and those in prison.  All three stories emphasize what servants and people were doing when they were commended and received into the kingdom by God. 

            But this is NOT all we have in the Bible about salvation.  We know that salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-10). We know that nobody is justified before God by works of the law but by faith in the work of Jesus Christ for us (Romans 3:24, 28; 5:1; Galatians 2:16, 3:11).  [Put on overhead.]

            We are not saved BY works we do.  Rather saved people actually do works that honor God. It is not our responsibility to try and determine who is saved and who is not in this life.  God is the only one who can and will be the judge of that.  But if you are truly saved, truly “in Christ,” you and I will do the works of righteousness that God has foreordained we should do (Eph. 2:10).  And if someone says, “I’m saved!  I’m a child of God by faith!” but there is no marked evidence of the “fruit of righteousness,” the life of Jesus flowing out of them, the Bible says that kind of “faith” is useless or “dead” faith (James 2:17, 26). 

            What Jesus is teaching about salvation is consistent in all three of these parables:  faith without works is dead faith, not saving faith.  Don’t expect to be applauded in heaven if you don’t apply God’s calling on your life on earth. 

Our CALL is to faith in Christ…living, active faith.   

            Vs. 14 also tells us that God has “entrusted his wealth” to people here on earth. The story goes on to talk about different levels of that wealth entrusted to different people in the world. But while the quantity of wealth differs significantly, one reality about that “wealth” stays constant:  everyone receives a significant quantity of “talents,” “bags of gold” or “wealth.”  The Greek term here is literally a measure of wealth that is probably equivalent to around $150,000-200,000 per bag/coin/(talanta) today.  This was no chump change!  We’re talking $200K (1) to $1 million (5) of investment capital. 

            So what does the “wealth” signify?  Since it involves both good and faithful as well as wicked and lazy servants, I think it may well be the varying abilities, gifts, opportunities, health, etc. that God grants to different people. It could be ALL the “wealth” of life that God gives us in a lifetime.

Clearly, we are not all made the same

  • I look at other pastors in this town and I think, “Wow! That brother is gifted in leadership, in communication, in sense of humor, in faith, etc. in amazing ways.”
  • We’ve all had different opportunities educationally. Just this morning we prayed for some who have been given the “money bag” of a high school education while others have college degrees and graduate degrees.  Each one is another “bag/talent” of resources God has given those folks.
  • It might be health. Health determines a lot of what we can do in life. 
  • It could be wealth Some of us might have a much higher earning power than others depending on the job.  Others may have received an inheritance from a relative that God put in your care. 
  • Then there is the whole arena of spiritual giftings of things like administration or faith or healings or teaching or evangelism. We all are called to engage in all of those things to some degree.  But when God gives you a gifting in something, He clearly wants you to multiply it into the lives of others in an elevated capacity. 

Notice what verse 15 says about the different levels of wealth that were entrusted to various servants: “To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability.”  The wealthy master already knew the “ability” or “capacity” level of each of these servants.  He didn’t hand out responsibility for stewardship willy-nilly.  He knew that the first man was a million-dollar guy in capacity.  He knew the next one was a half-million dollar guy.  And he knew that other one was a quarter-million dollar guy.  He didn’t load them with more responsibility than he knew they could handle.

            Would it have done any of these servants any good to sit around and ask, “How come he got a million bucks when I only got a quarter-million?”  No.  That would have only led to jealousy and wasted time

It does no good to wish we were more like other people in ways we just haven’t been gifted to be.  Instead we should be grateful that God hasn’t placed that big of a responsibility on our plate.  God never asks more of us than He knows we can deliver.  He never promotes us beyond our level of competency.  He will always ask us to live by faith, beyond our own resources and abilities and into the miraculous and mighty person of Christ.  But when it comes to that final accounting for life that God will make of every one of us when He returns or calls us to himself, He recognizes that every single person has received a unique amount and level of resources that we will be uniquely accountable to steward. 

Notice also that it wasn’t about the particular amount that these servants were able to generate from what the master had given; it was about what they did or didn’t do with what they had received that mattered.        

16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

            What did the first two servants DO that the 3rd one didn’t?

  • Went to work immediately.
  • Put the master’s resources to work fully.
  • They kept at it for the whole time the master was gone and as a result they doubled the master’s investment before they had to return it all.

Putting each action into a word, we could say that the productive, good and faithful servants were possessed by a sense ofurgency, a dedication of totality, and a commitment to longevity in the stewardship of the master’s resources.

1.) Urgency:  This is the zeal with which we either do or don’t enter into kingdom stewardship. 

ILL:  Often people who are new to Mosaic come to me and ask, “I’d like to get involved in the ministry here.  Can I talk with you about what the opportunities are?”  I love that kind of zeal.  They’re not waiting to be recruited to a ministry.  They’re not sitting in a chair or just coming in and out week after week, wondering why 5 people aren’t talking with them every week…or waiting for someone to button hole them to lead a Bible study or serve the coffee or be part of the Safety Team.  They are proactive, zealous and anxious not to lose any time.  That is one of the marks of a servant of Christ who is headed to a “well done good and faithful servant” at the end of their days. 

            In addition, I’ve noticed through the years that people who are plugged in to what is their passion often do ministry at a level you will never see from someone who is just plugged into a slot.  People tend to be passionate about the things God has put on their hearts—the gifts He has given them, the needs they see through their particular lens of experience that are unmet, the people they feel drawn to evangelize or work with or mentor. 

            How’s your level of urgency right now about what God has given you to work at in His kingdom?  Notice that the third guy in this story had no real urgency to get out and put any of God’s gifts to him to work.  He was completely content to bury it in the ground.  That money did absolutely NO good to anyone the entire time he had it.  Sadly, that is too many people’s lives in too many churches today. 

            We are SO blessed here at Mosaic to be able to look around at dozens upon dozens of people who are spending the life God has entrusted to them, passionately for Christ, week after week without letting up.  It doesn’t really matter what field of ministry they are in—whether it is ensuring the safety of others when we have these doors open…or leading a home or building group that helps people find Jesus and grow in Him…or loaning interest-free $5K, 10K or 20K to the church to facilitate a building that ministers to 50 or 75 youth every weekday downstairs at YFC. 

2.)  Totality:   And I don’t think this is limited to just what goes on around Mosaic.  The two servants who were commended both had to WORK hard.  The third wicked servant was judged a “lazy” man.  I’ve found that people who are diligent about working hard at their jobs, their marriages, their homes, their finances, their parenting and whatever else, tend to be diligent about their kingdom-work too.  Good stewardship is about whole-life stewardship.  These faithful servants put everything they had received into their stewardship.  They didn’t hold back 1 or 2 bags of gold.  And in addition to putting all of the master’s resources to work, they added their own time, effort, wisdom, relationships and a hundred other things to multiplying their master’s wealth.  They were “all-in” when it came to feeling responsible for what they had received. 

APP:  Where are we in the totality of our stewardship?  God isn’t asking for perfection in every area of life…or even any area of life.  But He does reward those who seek to put every area of their life into kingdom building. 

            We all have very similar “bags” of stewardship “gold”/ golden currency that we’re entrusted with. Most of us have….

  • Work life—the job that helps us care for our daily needs as well as have resources to share with others. What comes with a “job” that could be considered “resources” that God wants us to multiply?  (Relationships where we can witness of Jesus; income that we can invest in people & the Kingdom; experience and expertise that we can use to help bless ministries; etc.)  EX:  I was blessed to grow up in a home for half my at-home life where I saw both my parents take their careers and leverage them for the Kingdom.  I watched them be extremely generous with churches and ministries here in Spokane and around the world in terms of their time and money.  I watched them take their chosen careers, take early retirement and go invest those skills in the legal and educational arenas in Multnomah University in Portland as well as hundreds of students preparing for Christian ministry there over two more decades of their lives. 
  • What if you don’t have a job, are on SSI/disability or are retired? You’re not exempt in the Kingdom.  What do you still have to invest and multiply what you do have? 
    • Regular monthly income/$: it might just be the “widow’s mite” but God seems to look at percentages rather than amount when it comes to kingdom investments. 
    • More time than working people that you can invest in straight up ministry.
    • The people you live around: ministering to them in their needs, developing trusting relationships that allow you to share Jesus in word and deed.
    • The skills you’ve developed over a lifetime from various jobs or hobbies you’ve had that can be applied to blessing others now.
  • We could go on and talk about skills we each have, relationships of friends & family that are unique to us, health that differs and determines what we can do, home/apartment where we can host and serve others, savings & retirement that we can choose to dispense where we want, spiritual gifting that differs from each other but opens up unique ministries, opportunities and abilities of all kinds. We’ve all been given differing amounts of “Kingdom gold” to invest where we choose. 

3.) Lastly is LONGEVITY: this is the amount of time on this earth that God grants to each of us.  It isn’t going to be equal.  Some of us will die young while some of us will live into old age.  But just like it isn’t about the amount of “kingdom gold” God may entrust to us but is rather the percentage return on God’s investment that counts, so with the length of our lives.  The important thing is that we use whatever amount of life God gives us to bring the biggest “return on investment” the good Lord has placed in our care.

STORIES:

  • Little girl about 5 or 6 who was one of the first AIDS cases in Spokane. Her parents had contracted AIDS doing drugs and she had contracted it from her mother.  We held the funeral at 4th Memorial and nearly 1,000 people were there to hear her story and how Christ had redeemed and changed their entire family. 
  • Dick Shanks, who touched more people with the Gospel than anyone I’ve ever known from Spokane. He had a divine encounter with God in his late 50s and spend the next 35 years sharing Christ with as many people as he could. 
    • Good News Shops in Spokane (Valley and STA Bld downtown) and in Africa (6 million decisions for Christ).
    • Tracts and cookies by the thousands.
    • Helped more ministries get started and sustained: Mosaic (initial $25k for our building when he sold his business—Able Label), Mending Fences (Kevin Chen), City Gate, E.E., etc.
    • Cabin at Lake Chatcolet for pastors, families and ministry team retreats.

Lots of people start their walk with Christ well.  Quite a bit fewer finish well.  Are we living today as if tomorrow is our last day to serve Christ in this world?  Are we committed to track passionately, totally, urgently with Jesus in this life “as long as we both shall live”??? 

            There is no retirement in the Kingdom of God, just retooling.

            There is no “aging-out” of the system, no “unemployment” payments because there never will be any shortage of work to be done as “good and faithful” servants of the Lord Jesus.

We must never forget that THIS story is OUR story

Listen to Jesus’ words in vs. 19 of Matt. 25:

19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.”

Do not be fooled: there will be a “settling of accounts” before God for every one of us sitting in this room and every persona ever having lived in this world. 

God will test the nature and quality of our works as believers in Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:10—“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 

And God will judge the unrepentant unbelievers by their works as well.  Rev. 20:12-13—“…the dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books…each person was judged according to what they had done.”

In some way, our very futures and the nature of the future every one of us will experience is tied to our stewardship of the life God is giving us right now! 

To the servant who had received 5 bags of gold and leveraged it into a 100% gain, Jesus said,

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

            I firmly believe that in some capacity, some way, both what God is able to give us in eternity (or at least the next “assignment” from him in eternity) will be largely dependent upon what we have done with what He has given us in this life and what we are doing with it NOW!  Notice that the rich master considered those 5 bags of gold worth nearly $1 million to be just “a few things.”  If that be true, what must be the nature of the “many things” He will entrust to those who have invested well in this life what He has given us? 

            Paul wrote about this in 1st Corinthians 2:9 when he quoted from Isaiah 64:4 saying,

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
    and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
    for those who love him.””

It matters not how rich or poor, how gifted or plain, how healthy or unhealthy we are in this life.  It matters what we DO with what we’re given to invest for our Master Jesus Christ.  It matters most whether you are a “lover of God” or a “lover of self.” 

APP:  So as we end this parable, I have a few questions I’d like each of us to talk over with God before we leave here:

1.)  What have you decided to do with the life God has given you?  Are you “burying in the ground” what God has given you because you want to be Lord of your own life?  Or maybe you refuse to trust God with your life because of misconceptions you have about God?  Maybe you’re afraid of God…or angry against Him for some perceived slight or wrong?  May I plead with you today:  don’t waste your life!  Don’t bury what God has given you to be invested in other people’s lives so that when life is over and you face our Divine Judge, He will say to you, “Well done good and faithful servant.”  Put your faith and life in Him right now!  Receive Jesus today as your Lord and Savior…and start living the life God created you to live.  [Prayer of surrender.]

2.)  If you are already a follower of Jesus, what is God asking you to steward better right now in your life?  What has He given you to invest in this life for His Kingdom that needs better stewardship right now?  Remember:  ALL of what we have as His servants belongs to Him and is “on-loan” to us. 

  • “Your” money is really “His money”: your monthly check, investments, savings, retirement funds, Social Security, etc.
  • “Your” health is really “his body”: are you stewarding it well by good diet, exercise, care of your body, the physical weaknesses you must contend with?
  • “Your” living situation has been gifted to you by God to multiply: house, apartment, neighborhood, building?
  • “Your” friendships: neighbors, work associates, fellow students, etc.
  • “Your” family: relationship with your spouse, your parents, your children, grandchildren, your extended family?
  • “Your” energies: be they mental capacity, spiritual drive or physical strength, God has given us all energy to live out and multiply for Him.  How are you and I stewarding those energies?  Is God asking you to do something different, something less here so you can do something more there for Christ? 

Let’s take a few moments of silence and ask God to speak to us about any of the “wealth of life” he has given us that He wants us to steward better or multiply more. 

PRAYER