During December, we are looking at what the Bible has to say about the Generous Heart. Last week we looked at Jesus’ parable about a man who builds bigger barns to hold his excess crops. The man in the parable did not trust God for his daily bread, as we should. The man in the parable was not generous to others, but greedy. He was building his kingdom and not God’s kingdom. The lesson is that we need to be spiritually-minded and not focused on gathering possessions in this world.
The man in last week’s parable was building his kingdom with his possessions. The man in this week’s parable is building his kingdom with his effort and work. The focus this week is not on what we own, but what we do with our lives. God gives each of us unique talents and abilities, and He expects us to use these gifts for the benefit of His kingdom. The question we need to ask is, am I greedy or generous with my life.
Our text comes to us today from a lengthy teaching by Jesus as He is sitting on the Mount of Olives with His disciples. It is near the very end of His ministry. The disciples come to Jesus privately and ask Him what will be the sign of His coming again and what will take place at the end of the age. (Matthew 24:3)
Jesus tells the disciples that at the end of the age, there will be false prophets and false Christs. There will be great turmoil on the earth with an increase in earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars. He explains that they need to understand the Abomination of Desolation in the book of Daniel.
Jesus describes a frightful day. The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. On that day, the Son of Man will come again on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.
Jesus warns His disciples that no one knows the day or the hour when He will return. The angels of heaven do not know. Jesus does not know. Only the Father knows. What we do know is that the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. People will be eating and drinking and carrying on like there is not a care in the world.
Let’s ask ourselves. What will we be doing on that day? Will we be like Noah and His family, living in obedience to God? Or will we be carrying on as though there is no day of judgment?
If you don’t know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, that day of Christ’s return will be a frightful, terrifying day. It will be the first day of the rest of eternity, living with weeping and gnashing of teeth.
But, if you do know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, the day of His return will be joyous and beautiful. It will be the first day of the rest of eternity, living in joyous bliss. Those who belong to Jesus will not be looking at the stars falling from the sky, but their eyes will be on their Bridegroom as He comes to fetch His bride and bring her to live with Him in His eternal kingdom.
Jesus warns His disciples and us that we need to be ready for His return. He says,
For this reason, you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. (Matthew 24:44-47)
Jesus is telling His disciples to be ready. He gives the example of a master and a slave. If the master tells the slave to take care of his house while he is gone, the master expects that when he gets back from being gone, that the slave will be busy doing what he asks. We all understand what Jesus is saying. If we own a company and we give our employer a job to complete, we expect the employee to do as we say. We shouldn’t have to stand over the shoulder of the employee to make sure they complete the work.
Here is the question we need to ask ourselves. Are we a slave doing what our Master has asked? When Jesus returns, will He find we are doing what He asked us to do while He is gone? Jesus says if we are that slave, we are blessed.
Jesus wants to bless us. The way we can receive the blessing of Jesus is to be found doing what He asks when He comes. In other words, the best way to prepare for the end of the age is to be a slave doing what His master desires when He comes.
I trust we all understand Jesus gives us a guiding principle. If we just so happen to be asleep or doing something else when Jesus appears in the sky, we are not judged for the actual split second moment, but for the generality of how we live our life. If anyone understands how to apply grace, it is Jesus!
To illustrate that we are to be ready, Jesus tells two parables.
It is helpful to know how to understand parables so we may apply them rightly. Here are four rules of thumb for looking at parables (rules of thumb are not hard and fast, but guides).
First, parables are a story designed to teach one main point about a kingdom principle. Jesus tells the parable so that it is easy to remember one thing.
Because the parable has one main point, we will find that not every detail of the parable has meaning. In other words, we don’t look at a parable as we might an allegory. With an allegory, there are multiple symbols, and we find more meaning in the details.
The context guides our understanding of the kingdom principle. For example, the upcoming parables in chapter 25 explain how to be ready for Jesus’ return.
Cultural knowledge is sometimes necessary to understand the teaching. There are specific customs which the original audience understand that guide the interpretation of the parable.
In chapter 25 of Matthew, Jesus continues to teach His disciples about the end of the age. Remember, He told them to major points. First, we don’t know when He will return. Second, blessed is the servant who is doing what the master says.
To illustrate these two points, Jesus tells His disciples two parables.
The first parable is in verses 1-13, and it is the parable of the ten virgins. This is an example of a parable that it is helpful to understand the culture and weddings in order to understand the meaning of the parable. It is also a great example of how we are not to find too much meaning in the details. The meaning of the parable is that we need to be always ready for Jesus return. We don’t know when He will return, so we need always to be ready. The disciples are men. They understood not to think too much about the story being about ten women — the fact that there are 12 disciples and ten virgins also doesn’t have meaning. It is simply a parable about always being ready for Jesus’ return.
The second parable also has only one meaning. It is a parable teaching the second point Jesus makes, which is that the blessed servant is the one who is doing what the master says while He is away. We need to be investing in Jesus kingdom.
How do we know that this is what the parable is about? We know because in just a little while after Jesus rises from the dead and He does go away, He gives instructions to His disciples.
Jesus begins the parable and says that the end of the age is like a master who is going away and will return. He entrusts to his slaves his possessions and the master expects the slaves to take care of what belongs to the master. The meaning is obvious. Slaves are expected to work for the master, not for themselves.
Some argue that this parable is about increasing money for Jesus. After all, Jesus tells the third slave that he should have at least put his money in the bank so that he can gain interest on the money. Those who think the parable is about money are making too much about the details of the parable.
To arrive at that interpretation, we’d have to ignore what Jesus disciples tells His disciples to do when He does go away in real life. In other words, to interpret the parable as being about money would have us ignore the instruction Jesus’ gives to His disciples before He departs.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (I am the Master, you are the slave) "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
The Great Commission is what Jesus expects His servants to do while He is away. A commission is a directive. It is a command which is to be obeyed. The Great Commission is not given to just those standing around when Jesus ascends into heaven. It is given to all believers for all times.
You may ask, does this interpretation of the parable, that Jesus expects us as servants to be busy with accomplishing the Great Commission line up with the rest of Scripture? In other words, do we see this is what the disciples do after Jesus leaves? Is this what Jesus expects of us?
To answer these questions, we may look at the Apostle Paul. It seems of all the disciples in the first century; Paul is a believer that the Scripture points to as an example. It’s as if the New Testament shines a giant spotlight on Paul. The post-resurrection words of Scripture center upon the Apostle Paul and his activity as a disciple of Jesus.
Most definitely, the Apostle Paul believes that Jesus expects His servants to be busy with the Great Commission. Paul believes it so much that he dedicates his life to the Great Commission. Listen to how Paul begins his letter to the Romans. He writes, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God (Romans 1:1)
Paul is a slave who believes that the servant of Jesus is to be doing the Great Commission.
We might ask, but is the calling to the work of the Great Commission for Paul, or is the calling for every believer?
What does Scripture say? Scripture says the calling is for all believers.
Jesus gives us the gospel. He trusts us with it as a possession.
1 Corinthians 4:1-2 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.
Later, in the same letter, he says:
1 Corinthians 9:16-17 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.
Paul says he doesn’t have a choice. He must preach the gospel because it is entrusted to him.
2 Corinthians 5:19 God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
Paul says, follow me, as I follow Christ. Without question, the primary work of those who are disciples of Jesus is to fulfill the Great Commission. We are to go into all the world and evangelize and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe Jesus’ commands.
This is the work the Master expects us to be doing when He returns.
The master expects we will be like to good servants who multiply His kingdom. We don’t invest in our own lives, but we invest in building up the kingdom of Jesus.
As we learned in last week’s parable when we do this, we are rich towards God, and we are laying up treasure in heaven. While Jesus is gone, He wants us to invest in His kingdom and not our own.
Those who do not belong to Jesus, do just the opposite. They are like the slave who receives the talent and digs a hole in the ground and hides the master’s money (Matthew 25:18). What does this slave do while the master is gone? He does whatever he wishes. He does everything except invest in the Master’s work. He doesn’t care about obeying the master’s command.
Why does the slave bury the master’s money? It is because the wicked slave does not know the master. It is his view of the master that he uses as an excuse to do nothing with the money.
He says the master is a hard man. He accuses the master of making money he does not deserve. He accuses the master of being someone who will reap in a field where he doesn’t sow any seed. He says the master is someone who brings fear. (Matthew 25:24-25)
This man gets what he deserves. The master calls him wicked, lazy and worthless. What he has is given to another. The master says that he is to be cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The lesson is clear. Those who do nothing while the master is away are those who do not know Jesus. They do not obey Him while He is away. They live lives of disobedience, and they do nothing to invest in His kingdom.
This parable ought to strike fear in the heart of anyone who is busy building their kingdom and doing nothing about the Great Commission.
We are not to be like the wicked, lazy, worthless servant. We know the Master, and He knows us.
Before the Master left, He proves Himself to be good. We know the Master is not a hard man. He is known for being kind and gentle. He cares for the widows and the orphans. He calls children to Himself. He heals the sick and feeds the hungry.
The Master never reaps where He does not sow. He is just the opposite. He sows and invites everyone else to enter into His field and eat of His harvest. He offers mercy and forgiveness to those who are in His debt.
The Master looked at our sorry estate and saw our great need. He saw us as defeated people in the clutches of our enemy. There was no escape for us. We were slaves being held captive by our enemy in the kingdom of darkness. Our Master did the unthinkable. He selflessly laid down His life to rescue us. He gave His life as a ransom on our behalf. We did nothing to deserve such kindness. Never have we experienced such a depth of love.
Our Master is the epitome of good. He is all that is right with this world. He is not selfish but gives us everything that He has. His riches are vast and immense, and He tells us that we share in all of His riches. There is nothing that He withholds.
He has done so much for us that we may never repay Him! Of course, we will do what He wants. Of course, we will obey Him. All He asks is that we tell others about Him. We are to tell everyone that He is a good Master. He is coming again to bring us to live with Him forever in a kingdom of perfection. Our Master wants us to tell all people in every nation of the Gospel, the Good News, that He brings peace, protection, comfort, and joy. Our Master meets our every need.
At this point, we need to ask ourselves, what does this parable of the master and the slaves have to do with a Generous Heart. This parable teaches us a few things about having a generous heart.
The parable teaches us is that when we work to invest our kingdom, we are disobedient servants. It is our duty as servants to work and please the master.
If we know the master, we know He is good. His work is not difficult. He doesn’t give us more than we may handle.
To live for ourselves is greedy. Greediness is the opposite of generosity. We cannot take what does not belong to us. Our lives do not belong to us. We are bought with the blood of Christ. The life we now live we live for the Son of God who gave His life for us.
Our master gives us time, energy, emotions, and intellect. We can invest all these into ourselves and our kingdom, or we can give our time and energy toward the kingdom of Jesus, our Master.
We need to realize is that being rich toward God’s kingdom is a wise, future-minded investment. When we invest in an earthly kingdom, we invest in what will eventually rust, decay, and burn. This earth has an expiration date. One day, there will be nothing left. When we invest in the kingdom of Christ, we are storing up an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys
Most importantly, we all know that sharing the gospel requires denying ourselves. We have to deny free-time, comfort, and convenience. We run the risk of losing friends. We sometimes lose our reputation. We have little to gain in becoming a missionary and leaving behind friends and family. We have little to gain when people scorn us when we talk about Jesus.
But, let’s ask ourselves, in this season of giving, is there a better gift we may give? The proclamation of the gospel is a generous gift to share. There is no greater gift we may give than the good news of the gospel.
Be a good servant of the Lord by multiplying the gifts of His salvation. In doing this, we are generous by giving to others the salvation we receive.