Jesus uses a parable regarding a man entrusting to his servants talents to help us understand some important truths regarding the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus says, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received my own back with interest. Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” We can learn several important truths from this parable spoken by our Lord. God knows what we are capable of just as this lord knew how much each servant as able to handle (Matthew 25:15). God does not place upon us expectations which are greater than we are able to meet. If God tells us to do something, we know it is within our ability. God does not expect of us service which we are incapable of giving. In addition, not everyone has the same abilities but God does not hold that against a person. Someone may have more ability in one area (e.g. teaching, singing, etc.) than someone else. God expects us to use our abilities but does not require us to be as able as the next person might be. God has entrusted us with opportunities, abilities, and time as the lord entrusted these talents to his servants. We are expected to use the things God has given us in service to him as the servants were expected to use the talents entrusted to them in service to their master. God is not pleased when we fail to use the opportunities He has given to us. God is not pleased with our excuses just as the lord is not pleased with the excuses made by the one talent man (Matthew 25:24-30). People sometimes view God the same way the one talent man viewed his lord. There are people who think of God as a harsh, unrealistic master. As a result, some people fail to try to serve Him as they should. There are people who are afraid and as a result of their fear of failure never do anything in service to God. There are people who think God will be pleased with them doing nothing but God is not pleased with such people. God does not accept our excuses like the lord does not accept the excuses of the one talent man. The lord calls his servant “wicked and lazy.” What will God say of us if we fail to use the opportunities He has given us to serve Him? God will punish the person who fails to act in His service. There is a place of punishment where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” for those who fail to actively serve their God. The lord of these servants went away for a long time and it appears did not give them a warning about when he would return. When he returned, he expected to find his servants had been busy serving him. Jesus has left us and will return without any special signs He is about to come. When He comes, He will expect us to be serving Him? Will we be found pleasing like the five and two talent servants or will we incur our Lord’s wrath like the one talent servant?
Submission is not a popular topic with many people in our world today. Most Americans resent anyone telling them what to do. It is often thought submission indicates inferiority in some way or another. God’s word is filled with commands to submit and shows us what is involved in submission. God commands submission of many different classes of people. God’s word teaches, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1, 5). God expects children to be in submission to their parents. Among the qualifications given for a bishop is he should be, “one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence” (1 Timothy 3:4). God expects members of a congregation to be submissive to the elders who watch over them. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” God expects citizens to be submissive to the governing authorities. His word says, “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” (1 Peter 2:13). God says, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh” (1 Peter 2:18). All mankind needs to heed the admonition of Scripture, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). God expects everyone to be in submission to someone. Ephesians 5:21 speaks of us, “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” If we recognize our need to be in submission ultimately to God and also to those whom God has placed in positions of authority over us, we need to know what is involved in being in submission. Someone has said submission refers to ranking oneself under another. Submission is something we willingly offer as we are willing to place ourselves under the authority of another. Submission requires one to be obedient to those in positions of authority over us (Ephesians 5:24; Titus 2:5; Hebrews 13:17). Understanding these concepts is helpful but what are some practical illustrations of what is involved in submission. Submission does not mean one cannot appeal to one in a position of authority over them. Jesus has taken on a role of submission to the Father (1 Corinthians 11:3; Philippians 2:5-8). While Jesus is the perfect example of submission to His Father in heaven, Jesus made appeals to God. Jesus appealed to the Father in Gethsemane saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44). Jesus made known His request and petitioned the Father while being in submission to the Father. Prayer is a means by which we too can let our desires be known to the Father but prayer is not a lack of submission. Wives, citizens, children, etc. can make their desires and wishes known to those who are in positions of authority over them and still be submissive. Submission is demonstrated when we like Jesus are willing to place our desires under the will of the one in authority over us. Our submission is not an excuse to do something which is ungodly. Peter and the other apostles had been commanded not to teach in Jesus’ name by the governing authorities. We have already seen where God expects people to be submissive to government. Why do Peter and the other apostles continue to teach in the name of Jesus? Acts 5:29 tells us they replied, “We must obey God rather than men.” Our submission to God and His will must trump our loyalty and submission to any other human authority placed over us including parents, government, husband, etc. (Matthew 10:34-37; Luke 14:26). Ananias and Sapphira both agreed to sell a possession and deceptively keep back part of the price of the land for themselves (Acts 5:1-11). Sapphira could not justify her deceit by saying I was simply going along with my husband’s plan. Submission also does not mean we cannot attempt to correct the folly of others by taking certain actions. Abigail in 1 Samuel 25 took actions to avert the consequences of her husband’s folly. Submission does not mean we fail to correct those who are in sin. Timothy was taught to honor the elders (1 Timothy 5:17). Yet there may be a time when Timothy would have to rebuke an elder who was living in sin. Paul instructs him, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear” (1 Timothy 5:19-20). As a Christian, if I see a brother committing a sin, I have an obligation to warn them whether they are in a position of authority over me or not (Matthew 18:15-17). In correcting those who are in a position of authority over us, we would do well to heed the instruction given to Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2). We still need to show respect for the person and their position of authority over us when correcting them. Submission is a necessary attitude to adopt if we are going to be pleasing to God. Let’s learn to understand what submission is and what is not involved in submission. Let us ultimately remember our responsibility to submit to God who has authority over us all.
It is football season. Although progressivism and political correctness say we’re not supposed to enjoy football anymore, I still like it.
Like most fans, I am thrilled when a quarterback throws “deep,” attempting a pass to a receiver far downfield, often under heavy coverage by defenders. Even if the pass is not caught, the attempt to do something unexpectedly bold is exciting. I believe it is also admirable.
On January 2, 1967, I got to sit in the old Tulane Stadium in New Orleans while Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide played the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Sugar Bowl that year. On the very first play from scrimmage, Kenny Stabler, Alabama’s left-handed magician of a quarterback, hit Ray Perkins with a 45-yard bomb that stunned the Nebraska defense and their fans. They never recovered, as Stabler kept throwing one deep, devastating pass after another. Alabama won the game 34-7 — and they didn’t do it by avoiding risk and playing it safe.
In my life, I’ve often “thrown deep, into heavy coverage” — sometimes with disastrous results. But although I’ve gained wisdom from each of my big mistakes (and the biggest ones have done tragic damage), I hope those bad experiences haven’t made me so conservative that I won’t take any more chances. I would rather fail trying to achieve a bold, disruptive vision than to succeed in doing something that was merely “safe.” Despite the mistakes, I hope to keep throwing deep.
Yes, we do need to be careful. Prudence is a virtue (Proverbs 22:3). But in life as in sports, our objective must be more than simply the avoidance of mistakes. A quarterback too “prudent” to throw deep will not help his team very much, and a human being who won’t do anything “unsafe” is not going to be of much help to anybody either.
Many examples come to mind, but here’s just one. Many of us who preach are playing it safe. Like an athlete who plays only to “keep from losing,” we seem to have no higher objective than to keep from offending anybody (at least those who provide our paycheck). When we have something to say that might truly be challenging and provoke some real change, we pull our punches. Lest anyone think we’re suggesting there’s any change they need to make, we soften our statements with so many qualifications, exceptions, yes-buts, and fine print, by the time we get done, we haven’t really said anything at all. Whether in the pulpit or in print, we make our points so “safely,” we seem to be apologizing for having made the points in the first place. This was not the way Jesus taught, of course. He was willing to “throw deep, into heavy coverage.”
So preachers, many others will tell you to be careful, and you should listen to them. But I say, if you’ve counted the cost, be willing to pay it. Run some risks. Stick your neck out. Rock the boat. If you’re not willing to do that, don’t be so foolish as to say you’re emulating Jesus.
Gary Henry – WordPoints.com
things before assembling with other Christians to build them up and strengthen them, it is an indication God is not being put first in our life. If we allow family activities, work
responsibilities, recreational pursuits, etc. to stand in our way of assembling with the saints, we are not putting God first. God instructs us to partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), give of our means (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), sing to one another (Colossians 3:16), pray collectively (1 Corinthians 14:15-16), and hear His word be taught (Acts 2:42). If we decide something is more important than obeying these commands of God, then we have decided not to put God first.
Sometimes, I guess, doing the “same old thing” is not enough. In California recently, I noticed that CVS Pharmacy has opened a new group of stores branded “CVS Pharmacy y Más.” In Spanish, of course, y más means “and more.” The new stores are doing well, apparently.
It occurs to me that churches are also doing the y más thing. In fact, I know very few that aren’t doing it. In the world today, consumerism has gained a nearly total dominance in our minds, and it is difficult for us even to think outside the box of this mindset. In religious and spiritual matters, areas where you would think consumerism has no relevance, churches not only think in terms of marketing but even outdo businesses at their own game. And I am not talking about denominational churches that have joined the “church growth” movement. In this post, I’m concerned with the number of “our” congregations that cater to members who would not worship there if there wasn’t a good bit of y más going on. It’s time to admit it: the gospel is no longer enough. What used to be extras have become essentials, if a church expects to grow.
The gospel has become a generic “commodity” (ordinary, uninteresting, and of low perceived value). Offering the gospel is not nearly enough anymore to make a church a place that people would want to go to. Today, it’s all about the extras . . . the y más. Acting like consumers, people typically go to church where they find the extras they want. “The gospel? Well, yes, you can get that in several churches near us. But we’re looking for a church where they also have __________ .”
Some will say they despise this kind of thinking, and they have in mind mega-churches that draw crowds with rock-band music, rock-star preaching, and rock-arena church buildings. But that doesn’t worry me as much as my brothers and sisters who will often drive right past a sound congregation that desperately needs their help in the Lord’s work in order to worship with a group that offers “more” — more youthfulness, more friendliness, more married couples with children, more enthusiastic singing, more interesting preaching. Worship . . . y más. In short, a nicer “experience.” After all, in a consumer society, it’s the “experience” that counts. Starbucks succeeds by brewing up an experience, not just coffee. The NFL succeeds by putting on an experience, not just an athletic competition. And churches succeed by providing an experience, not just the gospel. It would be comical if it weren’t so sad.
And what about us as individuals? Are we content with salvation or do we require salvation y más? How honest are we about what really attracts us? Is it the gospel itself, or is it the extras? In a day when so many interesting temporal things often accompany the Christian’s hope of heaven, how many of us would continue to do what we do (and worship where we worship) if the extras were taken away?
Gary Henry – WordPoints.com
While speaking in Newark, Ohio recently, the brother who led our thoughts at the Lord’s Table on Sunday morning made some points that have stuck with me. He talked about the need for us, while observing the Lord’s Supper, to “shut out the noise.” In an increasingly “noisy” world, this is an important bit of advice.
The most obvious noise comes from our digital devices and their incessant barrage. The mass of “things to know” and “things to do” is beyond comprehension. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Just life itself, whether digital or not, is complicated. No aspect of it is simple these days. And the cumulative effect of the whole thing is that our minds are rarely free from the demands placed upon us by information, activities, and relationships. To repeat, it’s a very “noisy” world that we live in.
There is no changing the way the world is, of course. The clock can’t be turned back, and it is foolish to try. So what are we to do?
One thing we can do, as the brother indicated at the Lord’s Table, is consciously “shut out the noise” when we need to. We can deliberately reject every thought except the one we wish to be thinking about, focusing our complete (and restful) attention on that single truth or principle. I don’t say this is easy, but I say it can be done. At least it can be learned. Even if our minds are not used to being disciplined, we can start training them today. Little by little, we can acquire the ability to meditate on just one thing — and really let that one thing sink in.
Learning to “shut out the noise” takes practice and training, especially if we’ve not been making any effort to do this lately. As with any skill, we learn it gradually, starting small and then learning to take bigger steps. The growth is not immediate; it is incremental. If we can quiet our minds today for only a few seconds, the day will come — if we keep working at it — when we can do it for a few seconds longer.
But here is my point: we won’t be able to “shut out the noise” at special times (like the Lord’s Supper) if we haven’t been practicing the discipline at other times. So I recommend having a “quiet time” each day, if nothing else just for the “training” effect of it. It’s an old idea, but it’s valuable.
Granted, there is nothing specifically “Christian” about this. Buddhists and Hindus have long known the value of “mindfulness” and “meditation.” Nobody owns the exclusive rights to this discipline; it is the common property of the human race. But if it has been a tool that people in general have found helpful in their various pursuits, how much more valuable would it be for a Christian to use in pursuit of the highest of all goals. If tools take their character from those who use them and from the use to which they are put, the practice of “shutting out the noise” can be an honorable tool when used to bring us quietly before God’s throne for a few moments of rest and reflection each day.
Gary Henry – WordPoints.com