There’s a couple living in Phoenix, AZ. The husband calls his son in New York City the day before Thanksgiving and says, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.”
“Pop, what are you talking about?” the son screams. “Well, we can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the father says. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her.”
Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. “Like heck, they’re getting divorced?” she shouts, “No, I’ll take care of this!”
She calls Phoenix immediately and screams at her father, “You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” and hangs up.
The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “Okay, darling,” he says, “they’re coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way.”
You’ve learned a trick to get your family together for Thanksgiving. Are you ready for your Thanksgiving? As for me, Sophie and I have officially become empty-nesters this year since our youngest has graduated and found a job away from home. Thanksgiving gatherings have become less convenient as our three children live in three different states.
How about you? Are all your children coming home to celebrate? I hope so. A friend told me yesterday that they were expecting fifty family members this Thanksgiving. That’s becoming rare nowadays.
What do you do during Thanksgiving other than eating and shopping? What do you give thanks to? Some families have a tradition of going around the table with each person, sharing what they are thankful for. I thank for my mom; I thank for my home; I thank for my car; I thank for my jobs, etc.
I wonder why not many people talk about thanking God for God. It seems God is worthy of giving thanks only for the good things we get from God. Can we thank God for unanswered prayers? Can we thank God for just being God?
Some people cannot thank God for God because they have become cynical. If there’s a God, why is there so much suffering on earth? Why are there wars, injustice, and disasters around the world? Why do bad things happen to good people? Etc.
Can we believe that God is all good and evil happens apart from God? The truth is God is all good. Realizing God is all good can make a significant difference in your life. You will discover an attitude of gratitude beyond words. You will want to thank God for God, not just for what God has given you. Your life will be more fruitful as a result.
We will explore this subject based on Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, one of the last parables he told before he went to the cross. This parable is important because it teaches us how to cultivate a fruitful life through the attitude of gratitude. Let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Matthew 25:14-30. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter 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 replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.
28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” (Mt 25:14–30).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]
Let’s begin with the context. Jesus was in Jerusalem teaching, preaching, and healing for the last time before being crucified by the religious leaders. The religious leaders came to debate the scriptures with him, and they lost and went away, plotting to kill him.
Knowing he would soon be killed, he gave his disciples his last words by telling them four parables, teaching them how to live when he was gone. These parables are for us to practice because we live in the time between his departure and return. They teach us how to wait for him and make him proud when he returns.
The Parable of the Talents is the third parable. This parable reveals our attitude toward God will determine the way we function. If we believe God is all good, we will perform well and be fruitful; if we think God is unreasonable, we will perform poorly. Jesus said,
“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.” (Mt 25:14-15).
The man represents Jesus, who left shortly after the crucifixion and resurrection. This parable says he entrusted his property to us. All these last four parables are about stewardship. (Next week is our Stewardship Sunday.) In other words, Jesus wants us to care for the world while he is away.
God gave us a good earth. Our failure of stewardship destroys the earth—not just environmentally but also socially and relationally, which resulted in wars, injustice, and poverty. Then people turn around and blame God, just like the man with one talent.
In addition to entrusting the world to us, God also gives each of us unique gifts. Talent is a unit of money in first-century Israel, equivalent to about fifteen years of labor. We can roughly say it’s equivalent to nearly one million dollars, depending on where you live. I like that it’s called “talent” since “talent” in English also means gift. Jesus used money to symbolize our gifts, which can multiply as we use them.
So, the first servant gets five million dollars, the second two million, and the third one million. That means each of us has different gifts. You might think it’s unfair, “Why am I not as gifted as others?” But it’s not unfair because having more doesn’t mean easier. Jesus said,
“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” (Lk 12:48).
More talents come with more responsibility. From this perspective, the servant with one talent has the easiest job. Jesus said each servant was given according to his ability. The word “ability” is translated from Greek, δῠνᾰμαι (dúnamai), which also means “capacity or strength.”
That means God knows your ability, capacity, and strength. God doesn’t put a burden on you beyond what you can handle. Again, that proves God is good. God entrusts the world to you and expects you only to do what you can. As Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:30).
That’s why I would encourage you to consider thanking God for God on this Thanksgiving. Instead of thinking about what God hasn’t given you, think about God is enough for you. Having God is all good. The outcome is all goodness and a fruitful life. It allows us to see through the big paradigm, seeing goodness even in suffering. Jesu said,
The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. (Mt 25:16-18).
The difference between them is later revealed in their attitudes toward God. The first two believe God is good, and their actions show, even though not in words. They don’t question God’s motives. They faithfully serve as good stewards. Then Jesus said,
“After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.” (Mt 25:19).
Notice he says, “After a long time.” These parables have a repeated theme: Jesus will be gone for a long time. It has been two thousand years now. Many preachers on the Internet tell you that Jesus is coming on a certain day and time, but Jesus has told us not to believe them because no one knows.
I tracked down some of those end-time preachers because some of them seemed to have impressive interpretations and prophetic eloquence. They all turn out to be con artists. Remember, don’t believe anyone telling you Jesus is coming at a certain time or day. Jesus said that he himself didn’t know.
He doesn’t want us to focus on when he is coming. He wants us to be good stewards, as if he is coming any moment. He could show up today, tomorrow, or another two thousand years from now, but we have nothing to worry about if we are good stewards. As good stewards, we believe God is good all the time.
I love it when I go to the African-American churches, where one chants, “God is good,” and others respond, “all the time.” And then the one would say, “All the time,” and others respond, “God is good.” I find it very moving knowing African Americans went through a great deal of suffering, yet they still believe God is good unequivocally. Jesus continues,
“Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ (Mt 25:20-21).
Both the one with five talents and two talents end up with the same outcome and rewards. That shows what you are endowed with doesn’t matter. What you do with it matters. The reward is more responsibility and the joy of God’s presence, inheriting the kingdom. Now, the one with the least responsibility fails to fulfill his easy task.
Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ (Mt 25:24-25).
His failure was due to his attitude toward God. His concept of God is a harsh, greedy, and unreasonable God who doesn’t deserve his faithful service. Interestingly, it’s his own wickedness that makes him interpret God to be wicked. He created a god of his own image, and he reaps what he sows.
26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.” (Mt 25:26-27).
Here, God reveals that God is not expecting him to do beyond what he can handle. All he needed to do was to invest his money with the bankers. You might wonder what if he lost the money. The answer is that there is no failure. The only failure is not trying.
God is good to us. His yoke is easy, and his burden is light. He has given us this great green earth to take care of. Most importantly, he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will never perish but have eternal life.
Our attitude of gratitude will please God and bear much fruit. Let’s give thanks to God for God. Happy Thanksgiving!
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.