Sermon February 16/ Vicar James Preus/Mount Olive Lutheran Church/ Jesus Causes Our Talents to Grow/Matthew 25:14-30
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 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.’ 21 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.’ 22 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.’ 23 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.’ 24 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, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’26 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? 27 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. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 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. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Grace, peace, and mercy from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord! Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, a master went on a long journey and left his possessions to the care of his servants. He gave five talents to one servant, two talents to another and one talent to another… What is a talent? A talent is a unit of measurement, often used to measure the weight of precious metals like copper, silver, and gold. The weight of a talent varied from time and place from 58-130 pounds. At the time that Jesus spoke this parable, a talent was worth probably around 7,300 daily wages if measured in silver and much more if it were measured in gold. So we are talking about a lot of money for each talent!
Now Jesus uses this parable to explain the kingdom of heaven and Jesus’ return. Jesus is the master who goes on a long journey. We are the servants, who receive talents. Jesus uses talents as an illustration. But how do we apply the meaning of a talent today? The English word for talent is derived from the Greek word Jesus uses. But today we don’t use the word talent to describe a unit of monetary measurement. Instead, the word talent means a skill or ability. Our use of this word is probably because our text says that the master gave each servant talents according to his own ability or power. When people speak of talent today they speak of someone’s ability to sing well, play an instrument, play hockey or basketball, etc. (There is a lot of talk right now about talent at the Winter Olympics in Sochi). As a teenager, I even remember a recruiter for a Christian college use this parable to say that it was a sin for those of us who have skills in a particular sport to not join that sport in college. But Jesus did not intend such a legalistic interpretation to his parable.
And as you would suspect, this describes how God treats us. God entrusts us with ‘talents.’ His talents! When God entrusts us with talents, he expects the talents to bear fruit. Even more than that! He knows that they will bear fruit. He entrusts talents according to the power of the individual. And God is the one who gives that individual the power in the first place.
Understanding then, that the talents we have in this life are not ours, but they are God’s property, which he has entrusted to us, we treat these talents completely differently. But what are these talents? Talents are the vocations God gives to us. They can differ from individual.
To a young woman, her talent may come in her task to care for her baby, who grew in her very womb. God provides all sustenance for the child through the young woman. Yet, the woman, through pain and fatigue may not always cherish this talent from God.
To a young man, his talent may come in the form of a beautiful woman, who despite all his faults agrees to be his wife. While he may cherish his wife (at times) as if she were more than several thousand talents of gold, he finds it a burden to love her as Christ loves the Church. He forgets to cover her sins, as Christ covers the sins of his church. Instead, he seeks out her sins, to expose them, as if by doing so he will justify his own dishonorable actions.
To yet another, his talent may come in the form of a family with children. And while he knows that God says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” He is overwhelmed with this task. Instead of gladly teaching his children to pray to their heavenly father, teaching them God’s Word, and bringing them to Jesus in church, he is tempted like that slothful servant to bury his responsibility in a hole.
To another woman, her talent may come in the form of a husband, who resembles nothing of Christ, yet she knows that she ought to submit to him as to the Lord. 
To others their talents may be the task to care for their parents in old age, sickness, or loneliness.
To a pastor, his talent comes in the form of a flock of Jesus’ sheep. He did not purchase them with his blood and death, yet he has been entrusted with them. Jesus charges him to feed his sheep with a steady diet of his Word and Sacraments, yet the pastor out of weakness or insecurity neglects God’s Word for his own unsure words.
Workers, employers, parents, children, husbands, wives, youth, elderly, pastors, laity, everyone is given talents according to God’s infinite wisdom.
And because of our corrupted and sinful flesh, we are often times led to despise the talents God entrusts to us. The man, who buried his master’s talent, despised his master’s talent. He despised the task his master gave him. In fact, he despised his master. He showed his hatred for his master when he accused him of being an unjust man, who harvests and gathers where he did not sow or scatter seed.
And though we often times cherish the talents God entrusts to us, we like the man in the parable often succumb to our sinful flesh, we despise our talents, we forget that they are God’s talents, and we even despise God for entrusting us with such impossible tasks.
While we each have our own talents in this life according to our station in life, there is a talent that Jesus gives us all. This talent is very expensive. Jesus did not pay for it with a large sum of silver or gold. Instead, Jesus paid for this talent with his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. And this talent is not a talent that is temporarily entrusted to us. This talent is given to us permanently. This talent is our adoption as children of God. We are given this priceless talent through faith in our Baptism.
Here too, God intends that we put this talent to work. He intends that we care for this talent by frequently hearing the Good News that Jesus has washed away our sins. He intends us to ask him for everything we need in life. He intends for us to remember our Baptism every day by repenting of our sins and receiving Jesus’ free forgiveness. And God intends that we imitate Jesus by serving our neighbor in every way we can.
And this talent, this adoption as children of God is not our work. We didn’t do anything to get it. Jesus purchased this adoption for us with his precious blood and innocent suffering and death. He gave us this adoption as a gift, according to his love for us.
We can despise this talent as well. We can bury it. We can block our ears from hearing the Gospel. We can convince ourselves that God is unjust, intolerant, and just plain mean. We can hide our identity as children of God from the world, never confess our faith, and plan on digging it out of its hole if and when Jesus comes again. And if we do that we may also experience what the lazy servant in our text today did…
This servant was not cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, because his work wasn’t good enough. He was cast out, because he despised God’s Word. It is God’s Word, which declares that we are children of God. It is God’s Word that turns plain water into a life giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit. It is God’s Word that gives us the confidence that our sins are washed away in Jesus’ blood. It is God’s Word that forgives our sins over and over again. It is God’s Word that assigns us our other vocations in life as son, daughter, father, mother, husband, wife, pastor, employer, or employee.
And this ought not frighten us, but comfort us. Because on the last day, Jesus is not going to measure our talents the way regular humans do. He will not judge the boy by how well he shoveled the walk. He won’t scrutinize the husband and wife for how they loved each other. He won’t ridicule the woman for anything she lacked in motherhood or the man for how articulately he taught God’s Word to his children.
None of these will fall short in the measurement of their talent, because Jesus will measure these talents according to God’s Word. God’s Word says that the blood of Jesus has cleansed us from all unrighteousness. This means that the blood of Jesus also cleanses every talent God assigns us.
It is not how well we live our lives as Christians that grants us eternal life. The blood that Jesus shed on the cross grants us eternal life. The blood of Jesus grants us adoption as children of God. The blood of Jesus makes us certain that when God’s Word says our sins are forgiven, our sins are actually forgiven. The blood of Jesus makes even the tiniest works done by us into priceless treasures that no scale can measure. Our talents grow 100 fold, not because of our magnificent efforts, but because of the blood of Jesus.
This also gives us courage to put our talents to work in this life. There is no sense in putting our talent in a hole, because our talent cannot fail. Our talent has the power of God’s Word, with the guarantee of Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
Because of our adoption as children of God, which Jesus purchased with his precious blood and innocent death, every talent God entrusts to us is perfect. Because we are God’s children, our talents tip every scale. The boy’s shoveling is perfect, because it is shoveling done by a child of God. The mother’s nurturing is flawless, because the blood that purifies her soul purifies her efforts as mother. No matter how ineloquent he hears himself, the pastor speaks God’s Word, because God has placed his Word in his mouth. When we give offerings or tithes to the Lord, our heavenly Father cherishes them, not because of their monetary worth, but because they are given from one of his dear children.
Yet if we bury our adoption as children of God, it is impossible for us to work hard enough to cause our talents to grow or please God.
Let us with confidence put our talents to work, serve our neighbor, give generously, forgive richly, and work diligently. None of our works can fail to produce 100 fold. Jesus has already purchased for us the priceless talent, adoption as children of God. This talent gives priceless value to all our works.
Let us pray.
Lord of glory, You have bought us with Your lifeblood as the price, Never grudging for the lost ones that tremendous sacrifice; And with that have freely given blessings countless as the sand To the unthankful and the evil with Your own unsparing hand.