Trophies for Everyone

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Trophies For Everyone

Matthew 25:14–30 ESV
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.’
I went for an eye exam recently. The doctor told me that everything was fine, I didn’t need to come back for a couple of years. The eye exam was one where they put the drops in your eyes and everything opens up… your pupils dilate and the doctor can examine everything closely. When she shined the brightest light into my eyes, she said, “People tell me this is like looking at the sun.” It was.
As I left her office, the receptionist asked if I wanted sunglasses.... I thought she wanted to sell me prescription lenses with sunglasses… I declined and headed out to my car. that’s when I realized what she was asking. Because my eyes were dilated, and because we have had exceptionally sunny days lately, I needed protection for my eyes. When I walked out of the building and got into my car it was like I was walking on the sun! Bright. Exceptionally bright. And I could see nothing clearly. If you’ve been involved in a hit and run recently, it may have been me. Joking.
That exam, it opened my eyes. Literally. It made me see everything, even more than I cared to see.
And that parallels how most of us look at this notion of the parable today. three servants, all given something to take care of for a while, and what did they do with it. The first two faired welll. they stewarded their something to parlay it into more than it originally was. But the third one, he didn’t fair so well.
And that’s how we view the parable, and I fear heaven and hell as well. We are taking an exam...
I took one. My eyes were good. I passed. But there was a lady in the office with me at the same time and she told me she had cataracts and was going to have surgery. I viewed it as a failure of her exam, and told her I was sorry she had to ahve surgery. She said no, it would be worth it to see. Her failed exam was going to lead her to see. My passed exam didn’t let me see the value in a failure. I needed my eyes opened.
So, with todays parable, it could easily lead us to understand that Jesus is preparing his disciples for a period during which he will not be present, and will leave them tasks to do, and they will be held responsible for those things when he returns… which is a very easy way for us to understand that Christianity is nothing more than passing a test, accomplishing a check off list… I went to church, I served a few ways, I’m a good person. Well, that’s not good- because that’s not at all how it works and we should be careful of believing that or worse yet- implying to others that it does work that way.
This parable is part of a larger section of scripture in Matthew, from chapters 23 to 25, that truly parallel the Sermon on the Mount in their importance. The parable we have read aligns closely with Matthew 23 where Jesus gives 7 Woes to the Scribes and pharisees. You could equate them with the servant who hid his masters money.
The scribes and Pharisees had the law of Moses, the Temple, God’s presence among them. they knew that God had not only blessed Israel, but would also bless the whole world through Israel. And they hid all of that away. When you understand that they hid it all, Matthew 5:14-16 becomes a little clearer for us.
Matthew 5:14–16 ESV
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
The scribes and pharisees had hidden it all away. the light they had to offer the world had been hidden under their robes, phylacteries, and pretense of being religious. They had a form of godliness, but denied the power there of by hiding it all.
And now, the master was coming for accounting. What would they do?
Well, they’d be held to account. Punished. That would look like being ordered to depart in the parable, but would realistically become the destruction of Jerusalem and their temple.
So, we have to ask the question, what about the other two? Who are they?
They appear to be those who hear the call of the master, Jesus, and develop what they have into something new.
Look at Matthew 13.31-32
Matthew 13:31–32 ESV
31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
These two other servants, they are markers that the kingdom of God is growing. And will grow more.
And so, the notiong that there will be an exam concerning our faithfulness probably deserves a context. And the context is simple. God is full of grace, love, and mercy in our every moment of living. He wants us to be faithful, to succeed at Kingdom level.
But part of the exam is how did we respond to that grace, love, and mercy amply showered upon us?
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:10-15
1 Corinthians 3:10–15 ESV
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
How about 2 Corinthians 5.10
2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
And in this context, we need to self examine ourselves.
Remember how the parable ends for the third servant. :
Matthew 25:30 ESV
30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Ouch. That doesn’t look like a participation trophy to me.
You see, God has a very complete portrait of himself painted in the pages of scripture. We would do well to study that portrait.
Our contemporary society has caricatured that portrait. Unfortunately, I fear the church has unintentionally as well.
Our efforts to be nice, to be palatable, to be acceptable- means we all get a participation trophy. And I don’t think God had that in mind at all.
In fact, the portrait pretty clearly shows us that God wants us not to do for our selves, whether little or much, but rather to taste freely from the extravagance he has already given us. His own son. Jesus. His death. For us. That’s what makes us acceptable and worthy of God’s grace. Not anything we do, but everything He has done.

It’s Not What You’ve Done But Who You Know

Matthew 25:30 does not make the Christian nervous. Being cast into outer darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth does not bother the Christian.
Because we know that Jesus already went there- for us. We’ve got nothing to worry about when we’ve accepted that fact- he took our failures our sins our sorrows and he went into the darkness on our behalf.
Remember Matthew 27.45-46
Matthew 27:45–46 ESV
45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
You see, the outer darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth hat belonged to me became His- because He loves me so.
I’m not looking for a trophy, or my name on a list-
Psalm 84:10 ESV
10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
The tent of wickedness is not a bar or a house of prostitution necessarily. It may be the simple decision to not accept the work of the one who loves us more than we love our selves. Jesus.
To not accept that love is a wicked notion, a real failure, a supreme loss.
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