All of Life Is Gift

Matthew 25:14–30

All of Life Is Gift

Steve Froehlich
May 07, 2017
Matthew 25:14-30
work, faith, stewardship
Faith & Work

Matthew 25:14-30

[The kingdom of heaven] is like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and
entrusted to them his property. 15To one he gave five talents, to another two, to
another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16He who had
received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents
more. 17So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18But he who had
received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts
with them. 20And 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.”

21His 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.”

22And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, “Master, you delivered
to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.”

23His 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.”

24He 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, 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here
you have what is yours.”

26But 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? 27Then you ought
to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received
what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him and give it to him who
has the ten talents. 29For 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.
30And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be
weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

This morning, and over the next few weeks, we’ll be acknowledging the graduates in our
church family. Many of them will soon be scattered to the 4 winds to begin the work for
which they have been preparing. Or, they will be pressing on for further education and
more preparation. But for all of us, it’s a good opportunity for us to think again about
the relationship between faith and work… to think again about God’s calling us to
himself and his sending us into the world and into every area of culture. Work
consumes the largest single part of our lives, yet too often it’s so big, so demanding, so
oppressive that we give up reflecting on it and how it is essential to the life of faith.
Work is more than our jobs, chores, or duties. Work is how we live out our calling –
our callings to singleness or marriage, our callings parents, aunts, and uncles. Our
calling to holiness. Our calling to vocation, to beauty and knowledge. Our calling to
worship, service, and love.
So today we’re going to consider the first of 3 ways God has called us to live as men
and women, boys and girls who have been created to work.
We are called to work as stewards – that’s our subject today
We are called to work as servants – that will be our subject in 2 weeks
We are called to work as sons – that will be our final subject

So, let’s begin: we are called to work as stewards.

Living as a steward is a way of seeing all the stuff in our lives.
Stewardships begins with how we see all the stuff in our lives.
A steward asks the question: How did all these things come to be in my life?
My home, my family, my job, my abilities, money, my friends… even my self
How did all these things come to make up me and my life?

In the words of Orthodox theologian, Alexander Schmeman, The answer is this:
All of life is gift.
Everything. All of life. Every element of life. All of life is gift.
Living as stewards is a way of seeing – it’s a posture of receiving, not a method of
explaining how things work.

Now you don’t have to think about that statement very long before you start asking
questions: All of life? Everything? The good stuff and the bad? Justice and injustice?
Evil and righteousness? Love and hate? Peace and chaos? Life and death?

In our text today, the 3rd fellow to whom was entrusted 1 talent, clearly doesn’t have a
clue what it means to be a steward. He didn’t get it, and too often we don’t either.
We looked at this text a couple of years ago in our series on the 7 deadly sins, one
of which is sloth. But it’s clear enough that this 3rd worker doesn’t understand some
very basic things about his life and his work that keep him from living as a steward:
a) he does not value what has been entrusted to him
b) he does not know the One he serves
c) he does not look to the future, but instead chooses to preserve the status quo

a) he does not value what has been entrusted to him

First, he does not value what has been entrusted to him.
Oh, I’m sure he knew the exchange rate for the talent at the local bank or stock
exchange. But the real value of the talent was far more than what it could buy.
The master had entrusted to him his fortune… his wealth… his treasure. This talent
was not merely a block of metal. It was the fruit of his master’s life and work. So close
is the connection between the master and his fortune, that how the servant treated the
talent was in fact how he was treating the master. But in the grip of self-absorption and
fear, the steward cannot see the talent for what it really is. He can see only himself,
and his world is very small. When we look at stewardship through the lens of the
gospel, we recognize that the greatest gift of all is Christ himself. This 3rd worker does
not value grace, and his fear and selfishness prompts us to reflect on how we value,
how we treasure Christ and the gospel.

b) he does not know the One he serves

he does not value what has been entrusted to him
he does not know the One he serves

Again, he is blinded and immobilized by his fear and selfishness.
Listen to what the 3rd worker says to his employer:
“Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and
gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent
in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”

What utter nonsense. He justifies his indolence, fear, and indifference by distorting the
master’s character by calling him overbearing and unreasonable. He basically calls him
Pharoah – you demand bricks from straw. You expect miracles – you expect an
abundant harvest in a field in which you did not plant any seed. All this terrifies me…
and I became immobilized in fear and just buried the talent.
But the very fact that he is holding in his hands the master’s fortune – the master
extended trust and honor to the steward… handed over his life’s work… and said, I’ll be
gone for while… and disappeared. He did not see that the trust of the master was the
first step in giving great blessing and honor to all of those who trusted the master’s
direction.

David says that above all else he desires one thing – to know the Lord, to be captured
by his beauty, to value him as the great treasure of life and eternity.

c) he does not look to the future, but instead chooses to preserve the status
quo

he does not value what has been entrusted to him
he does not know the One he serves
he does look to the future and live with the animating hope of the gospel

To know God, is to know what he loves and what he is doing in the world and in history.
To know God is to see what is most certain in the world because of the
righteousness and resurrection of Jesus… the good news, the gospel

If we are not captured by the beauty of God and compelled by his virtures and glory, we
will not move toward him, and we will have no heart for what engages him in the world.
We will be bystanders… detached, indifferent. We will not be animated by the light of
heaven in our eyes.
Or, to put it another way. If we do not love him enough to pursue him, we will not
love our neighbors enough to pursue them and engage ourselves in their lives.

If we do not live with the light of heaven in our eyes and the hope of the world made
new in our hearts, we will have no energy to love our neighbors as ourselves, to seek
the welfare of the city, and to lay aside the old way of life and learn the new way of life
that is ours in Christ.

So, we don’t want to be like the 3rd worker in Jesus’ parable. How should we think
about and commit ourselves to stewardship?
To understand what it means to be a steward, we need to think of stewardship in 3
contexts:
Stewardship in creation
Stewardship in redemption
Stewardship in life

I. Stewardship in Creation

In the goodness of the unspoiled creation, God created humans… God tasked his
image bearers to be stewards. And if we don’t see the role and presence of
stewardship in the goodness of creation, then we will misunderstand what spoiled the
creation.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
God looked on all that he had made and he said, “It is good, it is good, it is very
good.” God worked, and then he rested.
Now rest is not idleness. Rest… the shalom of God is not doing nothing. It is in fact
a different kind of working, a different kind of activity. Shalom… the peace of God is
the ordered delight of God – it is God’s engaging with his work as it fulfills the purpose
for which he made it.
Augustine helps us understand this idea of purposeful shalom when he prays in his
Confessions, “you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until we find
our rest in you.”
You have made us for yourself – there is the premise, the explanation for our
existence. God has made us for his glory. He has made us to worship him.
This is the heart of the conflict in Gen 4 that we considered last week – the conflict
between Cain and Able was over what worship pleased God… the willingness of one
and the unwillingness of the other to be what God has created us to be, and do what he
has created us to do. The world is either our to consume, or it is the playground in
which live for the delight of the One who gave us the world.

So, it’s as we quote in our church logo, Paul quoting the pagan poet Epimenides, but
applying the poetry to Jesus, “in him we live and move and have our being.” Or, as
Paul says in Romans 11: for from him and through and to him are all things.
The center of our lives is not self, but God. God has created us… he has made
us… he has wired us to live with him, not self or anything else, at the animating and
defining center of our lives. This is where the world went wrong – when we believe that
things exist for us, we believe that we are God, the ones to be served.
The world exists as our home, but our home exists so that we might fulfill the
purpose for which God placed his image upon us.
Think for a moment about your physical home… your address, where you cut the
grass and shovel snow. If your home exists for you, then it will eventually become a
fortress. A walled an impenetrable prison. But if your home exists for others, it is an
oasis of hospitality in which guests are welcome to come and go and be refreshed.
CS Lewis expresses this same idea with respect to love and our hearts:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and
possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no
one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid
all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that
casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become
unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
For what purpose does your heart exist? To make you happy? To make you
secure?

If you are a steward you know that your heart has been given to you to give it away.
If you are a steward you know that all of life is gift.
So, in Gen 2, God charges his image bears to fill the earth, to be culture makers, to
create civilzation… to continue the creative dominion of God to the end of the world.
And God qualifies that culture-making dominion with 2 additional commands:
Work and Keep
Work speaks to the kaleidoscope of creativity. Let your imagination run wild… make
music, art… study and explore… build and invent.
But Keep speaks to stewardship. As you create, remember: The earth is the Lord’s
and the fullness thereof, the world and all who dwell in it because he is the one who
founded it and established it – he is the creator. (Ps 24:1-2) In all of your magical
imaginative art and industry, remember… every inch of ground on which you walk, and
every thing you hold in your hand… every idea that pops into your brain… every person
you love… everything is holy. It belongs to the Lord. All of life is gift!

In our work, we live by faith. We live as those who have been made righteous.
And we work by faith – our work is our worship, and we work to declare and reveal the
glory of God and the shalom of his kingdom.

II. Stewardship in Redemption

We think first of stewardship in creation
We think second of stewardship in redemption.

The NT opens with a rich and humbling display of stewardship – men and women who
look at shame and sacrifice as gift, as opportunities for worship because they know
they are a part of the mission of God in the world, a greater work to which they commit
the whole of their lives.
Joseph, says the angel, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. Take courage –
come alongside her in her shame. You will never be able to explain to anyone how she
has not sinned in being pregnant – no one will believe you. But do this for the sake of
the child she is carrying – Jesus, the Messiah.
Mary, says Simeon, a sword will pierce your soul. You will know sorrow and death
so that this little one may be delivered to the world as the promised light of revelation to
the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel. (Lk. 2:32)
Then as Jesus steps on the scene at the beginning of his public work, John says of
him, “Jesus must increase, and I must decrease – he is the lamb of God who takes
away the sin of the world.”

The NT begins with faith-filled men and women looking at the stuff of life… the children
given to them, the marriages given to them, the work given to them… and they take up
all those relationships and responsibilities because it is the work of redemption… That
has become the animating mission of their lives. It is part of the fabric of all that Christ
has come to do… and all he continues to do in the world by his Spirit. The NT begins
with the call for us to give ourselves to that mission. It begins and speaks to us from
the Gospels to Revelation as stewards of redemption.
Paul says, “we have this great treasure of grace… we hold this invaluable gift of
eternal life, the presence of God… in dirt jars.
Why? Because the mission is not about us. It’s about Christ’s reclaiming us. It’s
about Christ redeeming the world. It’s about him and his glory, and how we think of
ourselves in relationship to that mission makes all the difference in how we put our feet
on the floor every day and how we navigate the joys and sorrow of life.
As the Gospels begin with examples of stewardship, they conclude with Jesus call to
stewardship. It’s the 2nd commission we read in Scripture — what we call the Great
Commission. But it’s no less expansive than the Creation Commission in Genesis at
the beginning of human history. The scope is the same – fill the earth. Go. Go into
every part of the world, into every area of culture. Be present there knowing that where
ever you are, I am present with you, Jesus says, and my omnipotent power is at work
in all things to accomplish my mission… to bring creation to completion, to bring
salvation to the world, to redeem heaven and earth.
And the great commission is no less vocational. Go… go in your music, your
science, your education, your philosophy, your parenting, your art, your administrating,
your preaching, your agriculture, your cooking, your research, your play, your
exploration, your cycling and your ultimate frisbee… Whatever you do, whether you eat
or drink or whether you go to the moon… whether you live in solitude and poverty, do all
to the glory of God. Do all to make the kingdom of God, the shalom of Christ’s
kingdom visible. Be disciple-makers… from baptism, from the beginning of life until
Christ is formed in us.

The steward understands that the mission of life for a follower of Christ is Christ’s
mission. We have been called to Christ that we might advance his work in the world.
And here is the good news – it is a mission that cannot fail. Christ is risen, and there is
nothing that stands in his way. Our significance in life as followers of Jesus is not
measured by whether we think we have succeeded or failed.
As Paul wrote to the Philippians: I want always to be full of courage so that Christ
will always be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. (Phil. 1:20)
The measure of our success and significance in life, if we live as stewards, is not
whether we live or die. Rather in all the circumstances of life whatever they are we
know that all that has been entrusted to us is being used by the Spirit to advance the
mission of Christ. I may be lonely or have an abundance of friends, I may be rich or
poor, I may live or die, I may be healthy or sick, I may be clumsy or coordinated. I may
be single or married.
As stewards we say to the Lord who has called us to himself and joined us to his
mission… I rejoice in all things because I trust you that you are using even my shame
and sorrow, even my sin and failure… you are at work in all things to bring good news,
grace, shalom, hope to the world. You may place me in a situation of great honor and
success or you may take all of that away from me. I am learning to be content no
matter the circumstance… because as a steward I am serving the mission of Christ,
and I will rejoice even if I am asked to give my life away to that end. My life is secure in
Christ, and I will lose nothing he has promised me. May your will be done not mine
All of life is gift. All that I hold in my hand… as Yahweh asked Moses at the burning
bush, “What is in your hand,” so the Spirit asks today, “What is in your hand. Do you
look at the stuff of life and recognize that it is present in your life for the purpose of
Christ, for the advancement of his mission, for the discipleship of the nations. That
mere stick in your hand is a weapon against the forces of darkness, and God will use it
to set his people free.

III. Stewardship in Life

We think first of stewardship in creation
We think second of stewardship in redemption.
Thirdly we think of stewardship in life.

To live selfishly is to demand that people love me because my life is all about me, my
happiness and my success in terms that satisfy me.

But, to live as a steward is to love. What does the stewardship of love look like? As CS
Lewis reminds us, to live as a steward is to open your heart and allow it to be broken.

When Paul tells us how to live with one another as husbands and wives, parents and
children, employers and employees, citizens and governors… he tells us in Eph 5 that
we must be filled with the Spirit. That filling comes surprisingly through music… through
gratitude… and through submission. We are to submit to one another. We are to
serve one another. We are to honor one another both as image bearers and as
brothers and sisters who have been set apart for holiness and glory by God’s grace.
Paul is most explicit in speaking to husbands. Husbands, you are to lay your lives
down so that your wife will be glorious… you are to love your wives not for your own
selfish gratification, as someone to wait on you and please you, but you are to love your
wives as a gift given to be given to the Father… just as Christ has given away his life in
order to give his bride to the Father, glorious, radiant, the reason that heaven will sing
and shake the foundations of the world with joy.

To live as a steward is to love where we live. As the Lord spoke through Jeremiah to
his people in Babylon, “Seek the welfare of the city. Devote yourself to its flourishing,
for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jer 29:7)

To live as a steward means that in our work, the goal is not our advancement and
recognition. But the steward in love constantly asks of the people in his or her life,
“How can I help you flourish? How can I honor you? How can I serve you? How can I
demonstrate to you the immense, immeasurable, and unconditional love of Jesus… a
love that promises to forgive you of your sins, to accept you into the family of God, and
to complete you and honor you as his beloved.

All of life is gift. All of life is grace, that we might be the most generous of all people in
the world, the most eager to give away what has been entrusted to us, even our lives.
To comfort others with the comfort with which we have been comforted.
We are not people consumed with ourselves, but we are men and women, boys and
girls who are captured by the love of Christ and who live all of life for his glory.
We are stewards of creation
We are stewards of redemption
We are stewards in every area of life
If I do not own my life, I am free to give it away. I will not clutch and grasp. Paul
tells us that when Jesus joined himself to our lives in the Incarnation, he did not clutch
and grasp at his privileges as the eternal Son of God. Rather, he humbled himself even
to the point of death. He is the ultimate steward – he has laid down his life that you and
I might receive the gift of grace, forgiveness, acceptance, purpose and hope in him.

New Life Presbyterian Church (c) 2017 – Ithaca, NY Faith & Work.01 – Stewardship

Sunday Service 9:30am