Pushing Past our Fears: Matthew 25:14-30

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After Jesus shared the parable of the ten bridesmaids, He follows up by sharing another fairly well known parable. This follow-up parable is our focus for this episode, and it is often called the parable of the three servants. Similar to the parable of the ten bridesmaids, we hear this parable so frequently shared out of the context of the end-times discussion that we think Jesus shared it at some point in the middle of His ministry.

However, we know from our journey through the week leading up to the cross that the real context of this parable is the end times, and it is part of Jesus’ long response to the disciples about what the end time will be like.

Let’s read this parable and discover what addition details Jesus wants to share with us regarding the Kingdom of Heaven during the end times. Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 25, and we will be reading from the New Living Translation. Starting in verse 14, Jesus continues by saying:

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

Let’s pause briefly here, because three big ideas are present in this opening that we may miss if we read through this parable too quickly.

The first big idea in this opening that we are tempted to miss is that the master strategically divided the silver, “it in proportion to [each of the servant’s] abilities”. This meant that the master paid attention to the servants and He knew that there were differences in each. Instead of giving each servant the same amount, the master strategically divided up 8 bags among the three servants.

This also tells us that while God might not give blessings equally, He is strategic with His gifts. He will not give us more than we are capable of handling.

The second big idea we see relates very closely to the first. While it might be easy to get caught up on the unfairness of each servant receiving a different amount, the truth is that every servant did receive something. It would be foolish for the servants to compare with each other and speculate why others got more or less than them. In the same way, it does us no good to compare our blessings or experiences with each other because all we will discover is that they are simply different.

While we might not understand why God has blessed someone else more or less than it seems He has blessed us with, our focus should instead be on using what He has blessed us with to help others, and not worry about playing the comparison game. The comparison “game” is really a trap to distract us from doing what is truly important.

The third big idea is in the last phrase we read in verse 15: “He then left on his trip.” When we read this statement, it is worth noting that there is no indication when the master will return. It could be days, months, years, or even decades later. There is no hint at the length of time, except to say that it probably was longer than a day or a week because the master expects the servants to have enough time to do something with the money.

This also tells us that Jesus’ return will likely be later than what we might think, plan for, or realize. This shouldn’t discourage us. Instead, we have been blessed with more time to grow the blessings God has given to us – even if the blessing we have only feels like one bag of silver.

Continuing reading in verse 16, Jesus then tells us:

16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The challenging part of this parable for me comes down to the comparison trap that we talked about earlier. All too often, it seems like I can look around and see people who appear much more blessed than me. I am also aware that other people might look at me the same way – as being more blessed than them.

However, while it is easy to look at those who appear to have more blessings, the only direction this really takes us is down. We feel blessed less when we focus on those who have been blessed more, and this makes us feel like the few blessings we have to admit to being given are only equivalent to one bag of silver, and that it would be better to hide these blessings rather than use them.

This is a huge trap. All three servants faced this trap, and it is a trap of fear. Hiding what God has given to us, or purposely sitting on the sidelines when we could be in the game, is falling to the trap of fear that the one-bag servant was guilty of. While this servant wasn’t the star performer of the servants, the master still gave him a chance, and he still received blessings – according to his ability – which meant that even if he didn’t believe he had anything special to offer, the master saw some potential there.

God sees potential for His Kingdom in each and every one of us. While we might not see ourselves as He sees us, God has placed us on this earth for a reason, and even if we don’t see or know His reasons for why we are here, we should move forward focused on serving Him with whatever He has given to us.

Don’t let fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, or fear of failure get in the way of moving forward along the path God has placed before you and I. Fear could have derailed any of the three servants, but it didn’t have to derail any of them either. So regardless of whether you feel as though you’ve been given an oversupply of blessings or if you struggle to even find one blessing from God, focus on serving Him and using what He has blessed you with for His glory and advancing His Kingdom!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and focus on serving Him ahead of being fearful, scared, or timid about using what He has blessed you with. While it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to someone else, that trap doesn’t lead anywhere positive. Instead, focus on what you can do for God and how you can live for Him today, and every day moving forward.

Also, be sure to always pray and study the Bible for yourself and focus on growing closer to God personally. When we grow close to God and lean on Him for help, support, and direction, He will lead us along the path He created us to walk, and He will bless us in ways we will only realize after His story is finished. But don’t take my word for it, pray and study the Bible for yourself to see for yourself how this is true for many of the Bible’s heroes of faith.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or move away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of the Cross – Episode 18: While it is easy to focus on the servant who only received one bag of silver in Jesus’ parable of the three servants, fear was something each of these servants faced. Discover what this parable teaches us about facing fear, and we can apply this truth into our lives.

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