Your Talent Matters; Your Gift Counts:
The Story of Credita, Spike, and Trench
November 16, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
14"For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents.
17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.
19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.' 21His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, 'Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.' 23His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.'26But his master replied, 'You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our topic and our title for today is “Your Talent Matters; Your Gift Counts.” And the subtitle is “The Story of Credita, Spike, and Trench.”
My dear friend in Christ, each and every one of us, each and every person, has talent and gifts and abilities that are unlike anyone else’s. I have one purpose in the sermon this morning, and that is to shine the light on that, to remind you that your talents and your gifts and your abilities are special gifts from God. They need to be uplifted and celebrated and used. That’s what makes lift exciting; that’s what makes life interesting; that’s what makes life an adventure.
Let’s start by taking a look at the wonderful scripture before us this morning. I want to talk with you about this exciting gospel this morning. It begins with the first sentence. Now that first sentence can slip right by us if we don’t watch carefully for it. There’s something exciting in that sentence. Why? Because Jesus is telling us just in the first sentence about our relationship with God and our responsibility to God. Let’s take a look: “For it…” Stop right there! What is ‘it’? It is the kingdom of God. It is our relationship with God.
“For it [our relationship with God] is as if a man going on a journey…” Who’s going on a journey? Jesus is telling us about God, about the heavenly Father. The heavenly Father is like a man going on a journey.
Isn’t it interesting that God never intrudes? God does not intrude on our lives. He created us; He put us in the beautiful garden. But He does not intrude. But when we call upon Him, He is there.
So, Jesus is saying that God is like a man going on a journey, and he summoned his slaves – let’s use the word servants, okay?—he summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. There it is. There is Jesus’s whole theory of stewardship. God is the owner; we are the managers. There, in one sentence, Jesus summarizes the whole thing. “For it [our relationship with God] is as if a man [God] going on a journey summoned [all of us] and entrusted his property to [us].” We are all stewards; we are all managers of that which belongs to God. Jesus sets forth that idea right in that first sentence.
Now, to one he gave five talents. What is a talent? In Jesus’s day, a talent was a weight of precious metal, such as gold or silver. One talent was worth about five hundred dollars. But isn’t it interesting that talent in this sense speaks to our talents and our gifts and our abilities. I’ll bet you have the ability to do something that nobody else does. Some people have five or more, some people one or two; it doesn’t matter. Each talent is yours uniquely.
So, to one he gave five talents. Let’s name that person. There’s a certain governor of Alaska whose name I won’t mention but who gave us permission to be very, very creative with names, don’t you think? So let’s name this one Credita, a woman given five talents. The one who was given five talents went off at once and traded them and made five more talents. Fantastic! She’s a credit wherever she goes.
In the same way, the one who had two talents made two more talents. Let’s call this one Spike, because there’s a spike in the investments that this man is able to achieve.
And the one who received one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Well, let’s call that one Trench.
“After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy servant. You have been trustworthy in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’”
Jesus tells us, when we use our talents thoroughly, when we’re adventurous, when we use the things God has given us, He gives us two rewards. When we do good work, the Lord gives us more good work to do. Now, I wish it were different, I really do. I wish the Lord would say, “Well done now, good and faithful servant. Take a little nap.” Or “Well done, now, good and faithful servant. Take a little rest in a rocking chair.” That’s important, too, but what the Lord says is “Well done, good and faithful servant. You’ve been trustworthy in a little; I’m going to make you manage much more.” God gives us more work to do. And you know what? That’s really more fun. That’s an opportunity to really feel needed and useful.
And Jesus said there’s another reward that links on to that – “Enter into your master’s joy.” Wow! Not just any joy, not just some joy, but into the very joy of God. What does that feel like? What does the joy of God’s heart feel like? The joy of being creative, the joy of being loving and kind – that’s the kind of joy that God promises to us who use our talents well, more good things to do, and the joy of God.
Can I tell you a story about the joy of God? I was a student at Westminster Choir College in Princeton. One morning, I was traveling to Princeton from my home in Linden, down Route 1 and onto Harrison Street, over the bridge. It was dawn’s early light, and it was so beautiful. I traveled through that wooded area toward Lake Carnegie and the wisteria were in bloom. The sky was a mix of orange and grape colors. It was magnificent! And as I looked at it, it was as if I heard a voice saying “How do you like it?” And I thought, “Dear Lord in heaven, I like it right well. Thank you for being the artist without rival. It is so beautiful.”
There is joy in God’s heart, and we share that joy when we use our talents well.
But there’s one more person to consider in this gospel. In verse 24, “Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid. And I went, and I hid your talent in the ground. Here, have it. It’s what you gave me.’ But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave, you knew that, did you, that I reap where I did not sow and gather what I did not scatter. Then you should have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’”
Well, that’s a hard saying, and I know folks have had trouble with that over the years. What ‘not having’ or being poor means is that you think you are poor. Jesus was talking about the intention of the heart. If you know you are blessed, even if it’s just one talent inside, and you use that talent, it will be blessed and multiplied. That’s what the Lord is calling for, faith in this regard.
So, Trench didn’t do too well. But we don’t have to be like Trench. We can be like the other two, investing our talents well. Friends, here’s what I want to ask you to do: avoid what Trench did. Why did he do what he did? He was afraid! He was scared. He had fear in his heart. Perfect love drives out fear. May I pray for you? May I pray for each and every one of you that in this week you will be able to throw some fear off your back? May I pray for each and every one of you that you will be able to take some of that heavy burden of fear off your shoulders and walk in the light of confidence and love?
I was talking to a woman who is a member of the Christian Science church. That’s a very interesting denomination. She said to me, “I think that fear is the basis of all illness.” That’s a pretty startling generalization. But can we think about it a little bit? What is it about our fears that makes us ill? And what is it about love that can help throw that illness out, that dis-ease, that appearance of disorder? Perfect love drives out all fear. I pray that you would be able to throw the fearful thoughts off your back this week.
Why else did he bury the gift? Maybe he thought “if only.” If only I had that person’s wherewithal; if only I had some more, if only I had this or that. Oh, my dear friends, work with what you have. Develop the talents that God has given you. Let God’s light shine on your talents.
There was a 38-year-old woman who was a cleaning lady in the theatre. She always used to say, “If only I was pretty like her, if only I could sing like she does, then I’d really be something.” But then one day she realized that she could do something—she could make people laugh. And she decided to use that talent. She developed her talent, and she became quite successful at the talent God gave her. Her name is Phyllis Diller, and she was making a million dollars a year back in 1960. [With a wink] That was a lot of money back then.
Put aside the “if only’s”. Put aside the fear thoughts. And know that your individual gift, your individual talent, is important. Let the light of God shine on you and shine on what He has given you every day.
Now friends, I’ve been asked to say a few words as pastor about Consecration Sunday, next week. It’s going to be a wonderful time, a time when we can make our estimate of giving for the coming year to the Lord. The first thing I want to say is that I recognize, everybody recognizes, that these are challenging economic times. There may be folks in our congregation that just cannot take a step up, the step up that we are asking folks to do. They may be saying, “I just cannot do that.” If that is the case, I want to say one thing: Your talent counts. Your gift is important. Prayerfully and thankfully offer what you can to the Lord. And to those of us who can take a step up in our giving for the year, may the Lord’s blessing be upon you and may you know that there is strength in our togetherness. Together we can bless our church, so that it can be solid in its ministry for the year to come. All we ask is that everyone do their best, and we know that God will bless you.
Your talent counts. Your gift matters. God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski