When you first read this parable, it sounds like a teaching about stewardship. We have two sets of servants: Faithful and unfaithful. The faithful servants use the gifts they have been given and are welcomed by their master. The unfaithful servant hides his gift and is condemned. The parable seems to say, “Work faithfully with what God has given you… or else.”

In a world where many people see the Church as an oppressive, money-grabbing institution, this parable only confirms their misconception: God is a demanding master and you had better obey… or else. For these people, the Church is a place that uses its power to get. It uses God’s judgment to inspire guilt and fear among people in order to get their money, their time, their brainwashed minds, and their unquestioning service. As a friend of mine once told me, “I already have enough guilt in my life. I don’t need the church to add any more.”

The ministry of Jesus, however, reveals a different kind of God. God did not come to get. He came to give. In His ministry, Jesus proclaimed and enacted the year of the Lord’s favor. He cleansed lepers, healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead.

God did not come to get. He came to give.

Unfortunately, the religious leaders of the day used their power… to get Jesus. Jesus died at the hands of a corrupt and abusive religious system. When God raised Jesus from the dead, however, He revealed the true nature of His rule: To bring forgiveness, life, and salvation to a fallen world.

The Church is the dwelling place of that God. He is a God who gives. It is not an institution that uses power to get from people, rather it is the place where God gives to His people who then give to others in self-sacrificial love.

If you read the parable more closely, you will see this vision of God and His Kingdom.

First, notice how Jesus is less interested in stewardship and more interested in the relationship people have with their God. The error of the unfaithful servant is not that he did not use his money. It is that he believed a lie about God. At the close of the parable, the unfaithful servant confesses his understanding of God. He says, “I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed” (verse 24). Can you hear his misconception? Instead of a God who gives, he believes in a god who demands and takes.

The tragedy of this parable is not the failure to serve. It is the failure to truly know your Savior. Because a servant did not know his master, he died in his own lie.

Second, who is this master Jesus desires us to know?

At the beginning of the parable, Jesus shows us a master who is personal and generous. The master is personal in how he gives to his servants. He calls each servant in and speaks to each one individually. In addition, the master knows each servant’s aptitude. He gives, “To each according to his ability” (verse 15). Not only is the master personal in how he gives, he is also personal in what he gives. The master gives them of, “…his property” (verse 14). This gift is gracious and generous. Years of wages are offered in an amazing act of grace and trust.

This gift is gracious and generous. Years of wages are offered in an amazing act of grace and trust.

The parable, thus, opens with a generous, personal, gracious master who calls, knows, equips, and commissions his servants.

This is the God Jesus came to reveal in a world full of misconceptions about God. God is the one who created you and made you the way you are. He is the one who forgives you and claims you in Christ and makes you a member of His Kingdom. He is the one who provides you with gifts of His own Spirit. He is the one who commissions you to serve where you can be productive. And, when Christ returns, He will reward you for doing what He has created, equipped, and commissioned you to do. God has an overflowing generosity which is personal and powerful in our lives. He will not abandon the lost or break the broken. Rather, He invites all people to come to know the wisdom of His love.

“Draw near to God,” James says, “and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

As we look at our lives and our service in the Kingdom, questions of stewardship come up. Before we begin talking about the service we render God, however, it is important to talk about the service God renders us. He is not our taskmaster. He is a Savior. Not only has He saved us from sin, but He has equipped us with gifts and given us talents according to our ability and promises to rejoice with us in those works when He returns.

Knowing God means we know ourselves as His children, forgiven of sin and equipped for service in the world. To know the joy of service in this world now is to know the joy of the Master both in this world and in the next.

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Matthew 25:1-13.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Matthew 25:14-30.

Lectionary Podcast-Dr. John Nordling of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Matthew 25:1-13.