For the month of October – as has become the tradition here at PB UMC – we will be engaging in Stewardship conversations. We will do so alongside concepts from Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christenson’s book How Will You Measure Your Life? (available online here for those who wish, though not required).
Note: Some of this series and supporting materials are sourced from sharechurch.com, a ministry of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.
This Sunday’s text focuses on giving, which is likely expected during a series on Stewardship. And while the parable focuses on money – and a great deal of money at that – we might understand more broadly that everything we receive is ultimately a gift from God. With this approach, we might learn from this parable that our faithfulness to God shows in our willingness to use whatever resources of energy, time, skills, money, or any other assets God has given to us for the purposes of blessing others and building God’s kingdom.
Matthew 25:14-19 (CEB)
14“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who was leaving on a trip. He called his servants and handed his possessions over to them. 15To one he gave five valuable coins, and to another he gave two, and to another he gave one. He gave to each servant according to that servant’s ability. Then he left on his journey.
16“After the man left, the servant who had five valuable coins took them and went to work doing business with them. He gained five more. 17In the same way, the one who had two valuable coins gained two more. 18But the servant who had received the one valuable coin dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.
19“Now after a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.”
Consider these questions:
- What resources has God placed in your life? How are you using these resources to serve the Kingdom of God and to bless others? Are there any resources you have buried in the proverbial ground? If so, how can you begin to use them actively for God’s purposes?
- Paul wrote that “what is expected of a manager is that they prove to be faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). To the Galatians, he wrote that living selfishly destroys our freedom, and that serving each other in love is the divine antidote for selfishness (see Galatians 5:13-14). In what ways have you seen the Spirit work through your commitments to God and others to grow the fruit of generosity in you?
Daily scripture readings:
Suggested scripture readings for each day of the week.
- Monday 10/22/18 – Matthew 20:1-15
- Tuesday 10/23/18 – Matthew 25:14-28
- Wednesday 10/24/18 – Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Proverbs 11:23-28
- Thursday 10/25/18 – Luke 16:10-15
- Friday 10/26/18 – Luke 12:13-21
- Saturday 10/27/18 – 1 Timothy 6:6-19
Post-Sermon Update on 10/23
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
If you are following the daily readings (above), you have returned today to the same text read on Sunday about the master who entrusted large sums of money to three servants. But this time you have the full parable!
Of the three servants in the parable, the added reading reminds us that the three servants are evaluated differently. Two were called “good and faithful,” and the third was fired for being “evil and lazy” (quotes from CEB translation).
A talanta was a lot of money. It could be as much as 20 years of a typical worker’s wages! But in Jesus’ story, the servant with two talantas was as faithful as the one with five. So it is not important to compare the resources we’ve been given to what others have been given. What’s important is that we nurture and grow these resources for the benefit of building God’s kingdom here and now (thy kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven).
In this way, our conversation is a little less about paying the church’s salaries and other bills, and it’s more about living a life of generosity. I believe that this is a spiritual change, and I invite you to be in prayerful conversation with God about how you can enter into this spirit of generosity.
Consider these questions:
- In Luke’s version of this parable (read Luke 16), the author adds that Jesus concludes the story by saying that we cannot serve both God and money. In response, nearby religious leaders “sneered at Jesus.” Theologian N.T. Wright wrote of this passage, “Money is not a possession, it’s a trust: God entrusts property to people and expects it to be used to his glory and the welfare of his children, not for private glory or glamour.” The Message paraphrase says the religious leaders thought Jesus was “hopelessly out of touch.” Does Jesus’ teaching about worldly wealth and true riches seem “out of touch” to you? Does it challenge you? Does it inspire you?
- Jesus didn’t say we “shouldn’t” serve both God and money; he said we “cannot” do that. Our hearts can only have one ultimate master. The Greek word translated “money” meant all types of material goods. When you face ethical choices or career decisions, what determines your course: God’s values, or the material and social payoffs you expect?
- With these challenges to move beyond the world’s way of assigning cultural value based on financial success, how do you think we should assign cultural value? And within your own life, how can you reach contentment in the way you are living and being?
- Using new units of measure, how rich (or poor) are you? If your authentic answer to this is not what you’d want it to be, what do you think Jesus may be calling you to do?