By Rev. Dr. Brent Russett Asbury Free Methodist
January 15, 2022 – Matthew 25:14-30
We started our three-part series on generosity last week by talking about the generosity of time. This week we are going to look at the generosity of talent and skills. Next week we will look at the generosity of treasure.
If you are a generous person, you have simply developed the habit of giving. You may not have a large disposable income. How much money you have is unrelated to how generous you are. Generous people are the kind of people who lean into giving rather than away from giving of their time, talent, and treasure.
I am not a naturally generous person. My wife is. But generosity is something, by the grace of God, I am growing into. There are a number of reasons why I have chosen to work on becoming generous. First, I want to reflect my heavenly father, who is most generous. God so loved the world that he gave. I have also noticed that it is the people who have a generous spirit who make the biggest difference in the world, in the workplace and in the community.
Another reason why I aspire to be generous is that generous people seem to live richer lives. They have learned to take joy in other people’s joy. They have learned that life is much bigger than them and that life is richer when it isn’t all about you.
Now I get the fears around generosity. Am I going to be taken advantage of? – And I have been taken advantage of. But I have learned two things. Having a generous spirit does not mean having to say yes to everything. Living wisely, is good. The second thing I have learned is that I would sooner live with an open heart and occasionally be taken advantage of than live with a closed heart and live in fear that someone is going to get one over on me. I will not let the users of this world steal my joy
How about you? My guess is that you want to be the kind of person who is generous. You may have had some challenges in the past, but I want to invite you into this journey of generosity this morning by looking at the generosity of talent and skill.
Come with me to Matthew 25. You heard it read in the New Revised Standard Version. Let me read part of the passage to you in the New Living Translation.
Matthew 25:14–15 (NLT)
14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver* to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
Jesus often speaks in stories or parables. When he does so, he wants us to know what the culture of the Kingdom of God is like. He is trying to help us understand spiritual realities. In this parable, he is trying to help to understand the expectations of God.
The man who was going on a long trip is a reference to Jesus. His servants represent people like you and me who are followers of Jesus. The bags of silver represent our skills, our talents, and our spiritual gifts. (They could also represent our money.)
The actual Greek word that is being translated for bags of silver is talents. He gave one person 5 talents, one person 2 talents and one person one talent of silver. A talent was about 30 kg or 66 pounds. We are talking a substantial pile of silver.
The first thing you should notice is that it was not servants’ money; it was the man’s money. If we follow that through, your talents are not your own; they were lent to you by God.
Some of you are saying, what do you mean my talents aren’t mine? I am paying good money to go to school to develop my skills and talents. And it is true you have spent time developing what you have. That is part of all our calls to develop the tools we were given. But the basic building blocks of your talent were given to you by God. He gave you the smarts you need. He has given you the opportunities you have been given. He has given you the support system that you need to make it this far. He has given you the health you need to make it this far.
It always amazes me that we live on God’s green earth, drink God’s water, and breathe God’s air, and then we have the audacity to think that we are self-made people. What you have, you have because you have been given to you by God – your talents are his, but they are on loan to you.
You will also notice from our story that the wealth was not equally distributed. It was distributed according to their abilities. We are created equal in terms of value, but we do not have equal talent and abilities. There are the five-talent people who are smart and good-looking, and athletic and musical, and, and, and, and yeah – I hate them too. No, just kidding. There are some of you in this room who are 5 talent people. Some people have the full package.
Then there are other people who are the two or one-talent kind of people. I identify with these people. Everyone has something. Here is what you need to know. God values every person equally. But we are not all created equal in terms of talents and skills or even spiritual gifts. And that seems to be OK with God.
But here is the thing. It is not about what you don’t have. It is what you do with what you do have. God only judges you by what he has given you. You are responsible for what you have, not what you don’t have.
I see so many needs around, and I wish I could write a check and meet all the needs. It is easy to dream ourselves generous in what we wish we had. But generosity is not about what you don’t have; it is about what you are doing with what you have.
Some of you have enough money to get by on, but not more than enough. If that is you, you can still be generous. All of you have skills and talents, and gifts that you can be generous with – or not.
There are great examples in this congregation of people giving their talents. Clint McCann is a great cook so he served in that capacity at Silver Lake. Kevin Normile is a great cook, so he serves here at Family Night. Mark Youth is great with computers, so he served here and on the Mercy Ships. Jack Porier is a great driver, so he drives seniors. There are so many examples of people using their gifts around here to serve others – I could go on and on.
Some of you are handy, some of you are great conversationalists, some of you are talented organizers, some of you are great singers and some are great sewers. Some of you give wise counsel. Some of you have good leadership or management skills. You all have a talent or multiple talents
My question is, what are your talents, skills, and gifts? What has God given you? How can you invest them for him?
Matthew 25:16–18 (NLT)
16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
The two servants began to invest the money.
Here is what you need to know. Investment of talent takes work. It is easier to watch Netflix than it is to be generous with our talent. Whenever you are being generous with talent, time and effort will always be involved. There is a cost to giving. That may seem self-evident to many of you. But sometimes, people are surprised that generosity costs them something. Generosity of talent will cost you time and effort.
To use what God has given you for his kingdom will cost you. Now I have found that when you are working in your sweet spot, that it often gives you something as well. But sometimes, being generous with your time and talent is just work.
So how generous should you be? Being generous does not mean over-extending yourself to the point of fatigue and burnout. It does, however, mean revisiting your priorities to ensure that you live in a way that life isn’t all about you. Generosity takes organization. Generosity takes intentionality. Generosity is also a habit that you form.
I believe that you should look for ways to be generous every day. It may mean getting a co-worker a cup of coffee. It may mean cleaning up a mess you didn’t make. It may mean going beyond what you had to do to make somebody else’s day a little better. Generosity is especially important in marriage and family life. Be generous with your smiles. Be generous with your encouragement. Cultivate the habit of generosity every day. Studies have shown that people who do an act of generosity every day are 40% happier than those who don’t.
They also show that if you were to 5 acts of generosity, one for every weekday, that you will be significantly happier than those who did five acts of generosity all in one day. That is why it is important to cultivate the habit of generosity.
In addition to your regular life, I believe that it is important to look for ways to serve the body of Christ with your talent. This is where intentionality comes in.
When people start to be intentional about giving their time, the question comes up, how much time should I give. People are at different stages of life. A retired person might have more time to give than a person with a young family. However, I suggest a good starting point is that you plan on serving the body of Christ for at least an hour a week. (Some of you will do that by serving a couple of hours twice a month, and others will do that once a week.
I know a lot of you do a lot more than an hour a week. I know that around here, on an average week, there are about 70 volunteer hours generously given to the Kingdom of God at Asbury. Sunday School teachers, sound people, property management people, worship team people, greeters, Keenagers, Family Night – a lot happens around in a week.
My question to you is are you giving at least an hour a week to the body of Christ. Some of you are intentionally being a representative of Jesus as you volunteer for other organizations. That counts. Awesome. Are you giving an hour a week? Are you being intentional about your generosity? Generosity of your time and talent matters.
Generosity is a habit that you need to practice daily. Generosity needs to be intentional in what you get involved with.
One of the things I struggle with in this passage is the fact that the servants who invested know that they had doubled their investment.
16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more
Using our talents in ministry is not like building a company where you can see on the balance sheet whether or not you have made money.
Investing in the lives of people is not nearly so cut and dry. How do you know when you have doubled your investment. How do you know when you invest your talent, whether you are making a difference.
If we work together here at Asbury and double our attendance, have we doubled our investment. Probably not. I don’t think it is measured like that.
If you are going to answer the question, is my investment gaining, The first thing that you need to ask yourself is where your investment is housed. Remember, Matthew 25 is all the Kingdom of Heaven. We are talking about spiritual realities that are affected by how we live on earth.
So, it would make sense that your investment his housed in heaven. That is what Jesus said.
Matthew 6:19–21 (NLT)
19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
But you just can’t go online and check your account balance in the kingdom of heaven. You can check your heart, though. The desires of your heart will reflect your treasures.
Does your heart care about what God’s heart cares about? God cares about people. He cares about goodness. He cares about love. He cares about his church. God cares about beauty and kindness. He cares about the hurting and the oppressed. And whenever we invest our lives, whenever we are generous towards the things that God cares about, our treasures in heaven and our hearts will reflect that.
Being generous, investing our talents, has a way of creating treasure in heaven.
Matthew 25:19–21 (NLT)
19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’
21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!*’
An almost identical dialogue takes place with the person who was given two bags of silver.
A long time later, the man came back. The Bible teaches that we will all have to give an account of what we were given. It is appointed unto man once to die, and then comes judgment. And Jesus is going to come back again. We will all have to give an account for what we did and didn’t do. This is not about whether you get into heaven. That is dependent on what we do with Jesus. Do we receive him by faith and follow him? Jesus died that we might live. But we will all have to give account.
It seems that the servants who made good investments were given even more responsibility. I don’t know how the afterlife is going to work. I do know it isn’t going to be boring. And what we do here affects what we do there.
Matthew 25:24–30 (NLT)
24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’
26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’
The servant thought of the man as harsh. How you think of God matters. The man does not confirm this characterization of him. But the servant was right in that the man has his servant do the work that he wants done. But the man says something curious – , 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’
I am not sure what that means. I take it to mean just do something. You may not do something major, but you need to do more than just live for yourself.
This man also lived out of fear. He let fear deprive him of developing what he had been given. It didn’t end well for him. Don’t let fear drive you.
There are so many of you who use your talent for the kingdom of God. We are so blessed with so many people who use their talents for the glory of God around here.
For those of you who are still looking for ways to get involved, as I said last week, talk to the ministry leaders. Or choose to be intentional about other ministries that you can take on.
Here is what you need to know. You will never become the person God has made you to be, and you will never reflect God as you should without becoming generous in spirit. Being generous in spirit means cultivating a habit of generosity, where you do something generous every day. Serve a cup of coffee, or run an errand that you don’t have to do. Cultivate a generous spirit.
Generosity also needs to be intentional. If you are not serving the kingdom of God, at least an hour a week. Then I would encourage you to make this a matter of prayer. God, where can I serve?
If you start making it a matter of prayer, then when the right opportunity comes up, you will be ready to be involved.
Here is a special word for those of you who are seniors. You may not be able to serve in the same way that you could have when you were 40. But that doesn’t mean that there is no place left for you to serve.
We need seniors who will serve intentionally by praying regularly for our church and the needs of people in our church. We need people to pray regularly for the ministries that happen around here and also that many people will come to know the Lord.
We need seniors who will encourage. If you email or text, send an encouraging message. Pick up the telephone with the intention of encouraging one person each day. That is using your talents generously. You may not be able to do what you did before, but you can do something.
We started out today by asking if you are cultivating the habit of generosity. Are you? Can you imagine a church that was generous with their talent and time? Can you imagine a church that was generous with their encouragement and prayer? I can see Asbury being that kind of church. But it will take each person being intentionally generous. Are you willing to cultivate the habit of generosity?
Sermon Questions – Generosity of Talent and Skills
1. It is good to give thanks. What are you thankful for?
2. It is good to pray. What is one thing you are praying about?
3. Read Matthew 25:14-30. This is a parable. (A story that Jesus told) What are all parables about?
4. In this parable. Who does the man who went on a long trip represent? Who do the servants represent? What do the bags of silver (talents) represent?
5. Even though the bags of silver were given to the servants, they did not become the servant’s property. What does that say about us? Are you OK with that? Why/Why not?
6. You will notice that the bags of silver were not equally distributed. What does that say about us? Are you OK with that? Why/Why not?
7. Read verses 16-18. What does this say about what we should do with our talents? What could that look like?
8. In the sermon, we looked at how generosity takes intentionality. Why is that true?
9. Read Matthew 6:19-21. What do these verses tell us about treasure? How do you know where your treasure is?
10. Who are some people who are people that you know that are generous with their talent? What are some examples of generosity that anyone can do?