Elon, North Carolina
Last week we began looking at the topic of the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is a very important topic. It is the topic of the Judgment Seat of Christ. We saw that this is a judgment that every single believe will one day face.
We saw five things about this judgment. It will be a judgment of believers (all believers). No one will be exempt. Christ will be the Judge. It will be perfectly fair. It will be a judgment by fire. The purpose of the judgment will not be to punish but to reward people. Not everyone will get the same rewards.
Last week, we saw that there will be a revealing, a reviewing and a rewarding at this judgment. It will be a judgment of fire but not the fire of Hell. Last week was all doctrinal.
This week will be all practical. It is good to know that one day we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ but how do we prepare for it? There are three completely different lessons I would like to share with you.
1. To get ready for the Judgment Seat of Christ, we need to obey God’s Word.
Would you want to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ if you lived a life of disobedience to Christ? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commands” (John 14:15, 21-24). Would you say that you love Jesus? Well then I have some questions for you?
Do we even KNOW what the commands are? If not, we need to read God’s Word every day to find out what they are. We need to be in the Word. We need to read it, study it, memorize it and meditate on it.
Do we KEEP them? It doesn’t do any good if we read the Word, know what it says but don’t do it (John 13:17; Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 11:28). James says that we are to be doers of the Word, not just hearers of the Word (James 1:22-25).
It does absolutely no good to come to church week after week, to never miss a small group, to hear the Word on a regular basis but to never apply any of it to your own life.
Do you come to church just to be a spectator? Do you come to church just to be entertained or to be transformed? For some people, going to a worship service is almost like going to a concert, especially with the kind of music we play. With a live band, it even sounds like a rock concert. It is just entertainment. It’s a performance.
There is nothing wrong the music by itself. Ezekiel preached to some people in his day and they loved it (Ezekiel 33:30-32). They enjoyed coming to hear it. They didn’t say church is boring. They raved about his sermons. They even talked about it all throughout the week but there was absolutely no change in their life. Even king Herod liked to hear John the Baptist preach but he never repented of his sins (Mark 6:20).
Do we keep ALL of them? Part of the great commission is that we are to teach people to observe ALL that Christ commanded (Matthew 28:20). Do we observe all or do we just observe some of his commands? Are there some commands of Scripture that we blatantly disregard? Some Christians say, “I know the Bible says that I shouldn’t do this but I am going to do it anyway”.
2. To get ready for the Judgment Seat of Christ, we need to use our gifts and talents for God’s glory.
Do you even know what your spiritual gifts are? Are you using them? Would you want to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ if you were a poor steward of the gifts and resources God gave you? We will learn more about this from the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30.
3. To get ready for the Judgment Seat of Christ, we need to avoid judging people.
Why? Jesus said that we were going to be judged based on how we judged others (Matthew 7:1-2). Even Paul said we should not judge others because we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ (cf. Romans 14:10-13; I Corinthians 4:5). What does this mean?
Does this mean that it is always wrong to judge people? Paul said “Judge NOTHING before the appointed time” and Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). So is judging always wrong? Jesus said not to judge people and Paul said to judge nothing.
One of the rules for interpreting the Bible is to read the context. One of the reasons that people misinterpret the Bible is that they do not read the context. They take a passage and pull it right out of its context People sometimes read “Thou shalt not kill” in Exodus 20 and conclude that capital punishment must be wrong.
If they would just read the next chapter, they would see that this has nothing to do with capital punishment, because Exodus 21 also mandates capital punishment. Did Jesus say that it was always wrong to judge?
No, later on in Matthew 7, he said to beware of false prophets. The only way to tell who is a true and a false prophet is to make a judgment. In fact, in John 7:24 Jesus tells people to judge people but to do so correctly.
Paul said in I Corinthians 4:5 for us to judge NOTHING. Does that mean that we are never ever to judge anyone? What do we learn from the context of I Corinthians? In chapter 2 Paul said that the spiritual man judges ALL THINGS. In chapter 5, he tells the Corinthians to judge a person in the church who was living an immoral life.
The Parable of the Talents
What is a parable? It is a story that illustrates a moral or spiritual truth. Jesus taught in parables. One way to teach truth is through stories. It was a Jewish way of teaching. Are the stories true? They are factitious. They are made up.
The Parable of the Talents is one of Jesus’ most famous parables. When most people hear the parable of the Talents, they immediately think of a special skill or ability, like playing the piano. Christians today think of spiritual gifts but there is a problem with this view.
If this parable is talking about spiritual gifts, then we have a problem, because the one who didn’t use his talents ended up in hell. In fact, the Greek word for “talent” (τάλαντον) doesn’t mean skill or ability.
It means money. A talent is a unit of money. Talents are not limited to spiritual gifts. In fact, they are not even limited to Christians. God gives talents to non-Christians. Jesus will be the judge of everyone. One day, he will hold everyone accountable and judge them based on their works.
On the other hand, it is NOT wrong to apply this parable to spiritual gifts. The stewardship principle is the same, whether it is gifts or money. This parable is literally dripping with applications. I want to share them with you but first let’s summarize the story.
Summary of the Parable of the Talents
1) The characters of the story are a wealthy a master who was getting ready to go on a long journey, and three of his servants.
2) Before he goes, he has a gift and an important job for his servants to do. He wants to make sure that his goods are cared for while he was gone, so he divided up his property among several servants who were to act as trustees for his property.
They were to trade with his property and get gain for him. He gives them all money to invest. They all know he is leaving and one day will return and would demand an accounting of them.
3) Two of the servants did what they were supposed to do and one did not. Two were good and one was bad.
4) The good servants were rewarded. The bad servant was punished. The first two were commended (“well done”) by their master. The last one was condemned and sent to outer darkness .
What lessons can we learn from this parable? There are all kinds of lessons that we can learn from this parable. I want to share five of them with you.
Lessons from the Parable of the Talents
1. God gives everyone SOME gift or talent.
A talent was a large sum of money. Think of it as a bag of gold (NLT). Everyone received something. All of the servants received at least one talent. No servant was passed over or left out. None of them had zero talents.
Every Christian has a spiritual gift (cf. I Corinthians 12:7). Every believer has at least one spiritual gift. Paul does not say that the manifestation of the Spirit is given to SOME believers for the common good but to EVERY believer for the common good.
In the context, he is talking about spiritual gifts. What is your spiritual gift? What has God given you? What has he entrusted you with?
2. No one has exactly THE SAME gift or talent.
That requires a slightly different gift. God didn’t give everyone the same number of talents in this parable. The talents were distributed unevenly (five, two, one).
The master gave MORE talents to some and LESS to others. One got five bags of gold and one got one bag of gold. He could have given everyone five talents to see what each one of them did with them. He could have made it a contest and rewarded the person who did the most with what he gave them but that would just be setting up some people to fail.
They all started with different amounts. The master gave one servant five talents, another servant three talents and another got only one talent. The one with one talent had a limited capacity.
The talents were all given based on ABILITY (25:12). He gave each one something that they were capable of handling. Some were capable of handling more than others. No one has exactly the same spiritual gift. Two people have the exact same spiritual gift but God gives it to people in different measure.
One may be a pastor of a church with thirty people and be faithful. Another may be a pastor of ten thousand people. We see this in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:23).
We all have different spiritual gifts. Some of us may both have the gift of evangelism or teaching but it is given to one in one measure and to another in another measure. In fact, some have more than others (Romans 12:6). Some Christians have five talents and some have one talent.
3. God expects us TO DO something with the talents He gave us.
The point of the first parable in Matthew 25 is that we are to WAIT for the return of Christ. The point of the second parable in Matthew 25 is that we are to WORK for Christ until he returns. We are to use the talents God gave us. The servants with two and five talents, not only did that, they did it IMMEDIATELY (25:16).
They went to work right away. In fact, there is an economic lesson from this parable. The master went on his journey leaving behind a total of eight talents; upon his return it has become fifteen.
This is a free enterprise parable. One of the things that it shows is that it is not wrong for businessmen or entrepreneurs to make a profit. The two servants made not only made a profit but probably had to take some risks to do so and they were rewarded.
The one with one talent was criticized for not investing the money and making more from it. The servant with one talent did nothing with it. He just buried it in the ground.
He didn’t lose the money. He hid it. He didn’t waste the money or blow it, like the prodigal son did with his inheritance (Luke 15:13; cf. 16:1). He just never used it or did anything with it.
He started with one talent and ended with one talent. He did the safe thing and kept his talent. He didn’t take any risk but he also did nothing with his talent in the process and ended up losing it (25:28).
What are you doing with the talents God gave you? Are you using the spiritual gift God gave you? Are you hiding your talent? Cf. II Timothy 1:6. The tragedy of the church today is the missing gifts (a title of a book by A.W. Tozer).
Most of the work in the church is done by a small number of people. In fact, a lot of the work in the church is done by ungifted members. People are doing something that is not even their gift to fill a slot because no one else is doing it. What would happen if everyone in the church actually used their spiritual gift?
4. One day God will hold us ACCOUNTABLE for the talents He gave us.
Even the servants with one or two talents had to given an account of what they did with their one or two talents. Why does God hold us accountable for our talents? In the parable, the master gave the servant some talents but it was still the master’s money. They did not own the money. It was just loaned to the servants for a purpose.
Matthew 25:14 says, “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted HIS PROPERTY”. Matthew 25:16 says, “But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid HIS MASTER’S MONEY.”
If it was HIS money, he could do whatever he wanted with it. He could throw it away or bury it in the ground but it was not his. Both the good and bad servants were held accountable for what they did with their master’s money. What applications can we take form this?
Those who are faithful stewards in this life will be RICHLY REWARDED in the next life.
If you notice the two servants who did what they were supposed to do were commended by their master. Some masters would never say anything good to their servants, even when they do something good. They are all negative. This master praised the good servants. He commends them and rewards them and gives them a promotion.
But notice how they are judged. They were not judged based on what they had but based on what they did with what we had. They were not judged based on their outcome but on their effort and ability. God rewards us for how faithful we are with what he gives us.
God expected MORE from the servant with five talents than he did from the servant with two or one talents (Luke 12:28) but He did NOT expect the two talent servant to be as productive as the five talent servant.
Remember that Paul said that God is going to judge the QUALITY of our work, not just the QUANTITY (I Corinthians 3:13).
One servant started with five and ended with ten; the other started with two and ended with four. Both servants received a one hundred percent return on their investment. Both double their investment and both were rewarded equally.
God said the exact same thing to the servant with two talents as he said to the servant with five talents. What are the applications from this?
1) Rewards are based on faithfulness, not brilliance or genius or success (25:23a).
You may get the same reward as someone else who outperformed you, if you were just as faithful to what God gave you and called you to do.
2) Faithfulness in small things is rewarded (25:23b).
3) With greater privilege comes greater responsibility (Luke 12:48).
God expected more from the one with five talents than he did from the one with one talent.