Using What God Has Given

Matthew 25:14-30

May 5, 2002 | Brian Bill

A man from out east had always dreamed of owning a cattle ranch and had finally saved enough money to buy his dream spread in Wyoming.  His best friend flew out to visit and asked, “So, what’s the name of your ranch?”  His buddy told him that he had a really hard time coming up with a name that he liked.  He and his wife couldn’t agree on what to call it so they settled on, “The Double R Lazy L Triple Horseshoe Bar-7 Lucky Diamond Ranch.”

His friend was really impressed and then asked, “So where are all the cows?”  To which the new rancher replied, “We had quite a few…but none of them survived the branding!”

As we’ve been focusing on some ways that we can improve our serve, I want to suggest this morning that it’s possible to get so caught up in what we call our spiritual gifts that we might not survive servanthood.  The key is not so much to identify what we have but to use what we’ve been given.  1 Peter 4:10: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 25:14-30.  We started this series with the words of Jesus about servanthood and now we’re going to conclude with His teaching about our responsibility to use what He has given us.

Let’s set the context.  This parable comes in the section of Matthew’s gospel where Jesus is giving an answer to the disciples’ question about His Second Coming in Matthew 24:3: “…When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  Jesus warns them to be on guard so that no one will deceive them and helps them understand that once He leaves, He will come again.  He challenges them in Matthew 24:44 to be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when He is least expected.  

In chapter 25, Jesus compares His coming to the eastern custom of a bridegroom arriving in the middle of the night.  He concludes by saying in 25:13: “Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”  Chapter 25 ends with the separation of the sheep and the goats.  Sandwiched in-between is the parable of the talents.

Notice verse 14: “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey…”  The word “again” indicates that Jesus is using yet one more parable to explain future events.  The man going on a “journey” is Jesus.

As we walk through this powerful passage this morning, we’ll see Seven Stewardship Lessons.  

1. What we have is not ours. 

Verse 14 continues by saying that this man who was getting ready for a journey, “…called his servants and entrusted His property to them.”  It was common for wealthy men to take long journeys.  Before they would leave, they would arrange to have someone pick up their mail and feed their pets.  But even more than that, they would often delegate the control and multiplication of their wealth to trustworthy employees.  They were expected to bring a return on what had been handed over to them.  Given the uncertainties of transportation in those days, the time of return for even a well-planned trip was often open-ended.

There was no doubt in the minds of these servants that the property and money still belonged to the master.  They were the possessors, but not the owners.  Their job was to manage what they were given.  Likewise, we must remember that everything we have has been given to us and is not really ours anyway.  Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”  Haggai 2:8 adds, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the LORD Almighty.”  He has the rights, and I have the responsibility.  He is the Master and I am the manager.  I am the servant; He is the sovereign.

Everything belongs to the Lord

Have you allowed this basic principle to permeate your personhood?  You don’t really own anything.  Everything belongs to the Lord.  Until we recognize this truth, we will not be good managers of what has been entrusted to us.  Our days are in His hands.  Our gifts and abilities are on loan from Him.  Our money is an “advance” from the Almighty.  Our houses, cars, clothes, and every possession we have doesn’t belong to us.  We really don’t own anything.  

2. We’re given what we can handle. 

In verse 15 we see that the master gave some talents to three of his servants: “To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability.  Then he went on his journey.”  

We need to pause here in order to recognize that this word “talent” is different from our present-day understanding.  A talent was a measure of weight as used in Revelation 16:21: “From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men.”  A talent was also used to indicate a very large sum of money.  Its value varied depending on whether it was copper, silver, or gold.  While commentators differ on the exact amount, most agree that it would take an ordinary laborer almost twenty years to earn just one talent.  To put this into our economy, using a minimal hourly wage, a talent would be the equivalent of about $300,000. 

While we’re focusing this series on the discovering, developing, and deploying of spiritual gifts, this parable has first reference to how we invest our money.  It has a secondary application to how we use our God-given talents and supernatural abilities.  

That reminds me of two men who crashed their private plane on a South Pacific Island. 

One of the men brushed himself off and proceeded to run all over the island to see if they had any chance of survival.  When he returned, he rushed up to the other man and screamed, “This Island is uninhabited and there is no food or water.  We’re going to die!”

The other man leaned back against the fuselage of the wrecked plane, folded his arms and responded, “No we’re not.  I make over $100,000 a week.”  The first man grabbed his friend and shook him. “Listen, we’re on a deserted island.  We’re doomed!”

The other man, unruffled, again responded. “It’s OK, I make over $100,000 a week.”  Mystified, the first man, taken aback with such an answer again repeated, “For the last time, I’m telling you that we are lost.  It doesn’t matter how much money you make because there’s no one around to help us.”  Still unfazed, the first man looked the other guy in the eye and said, “Don’t make me say this again.  I make over $100,000 per week and I tithe 10%!  My pastor will find us!”

Let me put you at ease this morning.  I’m not going to preach about tithing except to say that if you make that many shekels a week, I’ll track you down somehow!

Let’s go back to the story.  The Master gave the first servant five talents, which was about $1.5 million.  The second guy received two talents, or approximately $600,000.  And the third steward got one talent, or $300,000.  Even though there’s a big difference between five talents and one talent, the guy who received one talent still had a lot of money.  That reminds us that God gives out of His abundance to us!

I want you to notice that each servant received talents “according to his ability.”  Your responsibility is tied to your ability.  This is very interesting.  God’s kingdom purposes do not operate according to what is “fair” but according to what is best.  In 1 Corinthians 3:5, after challenging believers to be united by not breaking into subgroups who follow different leaders, Paul writes, “What, after all, is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe-as the Lord has assigned to each his task.”  Did you catch that?  Each of us has been assigned a task.  It’s our job to be faithful to what He has given us to do.

You have what you have because God gave it to you.  And He expects you to manage His gifts within the boundaries of ability that He has wired into you.  As we learned last week from 1 Corinthians 12, there are different kinds of gifts, service, and workings, and the Holy Spirit distributes these responsibilities “to each one, just as He determines.”  God entrusts different stuff to different people according to His sovereign purposes.  In other words, He knows what we can handle.  Our job is to be faithful with whatever amount we have to work with.  Do we trust that God knows more about us than we even know about ourselves?

3. We must invest what we’ve been given. 

Verse 16 tells us that the man who received five talents went “at once and put his money to work and gained five more.”  He didn’t waste any time but immediately went to work on his investment strategy and doubled his master’s portfolio.  The guy who got two talents did the same thing; only the text doesn’t say he went to work “at once” like the first guy did.  We do know that he worked hard however, because he also doubled his master’s money, ending up with four talents.  

Verse 18 describes the different approach of the third servant: “But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”  Even though we don’t read about any specific instructions for what to do with the money, the first two guys went to work and multiplied their investment.  The one-talent guy was a slacker who went off and buried his blessing.  The practice of hiding valuables in the ground was quite common back then.  It was one of the safest—and least profitable—ways of protecting possessions.

Because Antonio’s voice was high and squeaky, he did not make the tryouts for the Cremona Boy’s Choir.  When he took violin lessons, the neighbors persuaded his parents to make him stop.  Yet Antonio still wanted to make music.  

His friends gave him a hard time because his only talent was whittling.  When Antonio was older he served as an apprentice to a violinmaker.  His knack for whittling grew into a skill of carving and his hobby became his craft.  He worked patiently and faithfully.  By the time he died, he left over 1,500 violins, each one bearing a label that read, “Antonio Stradivarius.”  They are the most sought-after violins in the world and sell for more than $100,000 each.  Antonio couldn’t sing or play or preach or teach but his responsibility was to use his ability, and his violins are still making beautiful music today.

Our potential is God’s gift to us. What we do with it is our gift to Him.  Zig Ziglar has said, “You are the only person on earth who can use your ability.”  Are you investing what you’ve been given, regardless of how much it is?  Or, have you buried your blessing and kept it hidden from others?

4. A day of accountability is coming. 

None of us want to be audited by the IRS, but we’ll all be audited by the Almighty.  We’ll have to give an account for how we’ve used what we’ve been given.  Look at verse 19: “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.”  Jesus is coming again and there will be a day of reckoning.  While most of us believe this in our heads, we don’t always live with eternity in our hearts.  If we would think more about His return, we’d be more focused on making an eternal return on our investments.  Romans 14:12: “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”  It was the duty of servants to always bear in mind that the master would be returning and would settle his accounts with them.

Friends, Jesus is coming again!   Let’s be faithful in doing whatever He gives us to do.  He’s invested something in you, and one day He’s coming back to claim it.  Your job may be big or small, but whatever it is, do it to the best of your ability and you’ll be ready for your audit.   Wouldn’t it be terrible to be ashamed and unprepared when Jesus comes back?  1 John 2:28: “And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.”  Serve in light of a future reckoning.

It would help us to get in the habit of asking the question, “How will my money management, or this decision to serve or not serve look on the day of accountability?”  

5. What we do with what we have reveals our view of God. 

As we come to verses 20-25, we see that the man who had been given five talents brought five more with him.  The language is insightful here.  He says, “See, I have gained five more.”  The word “see” means, “Behold” or “Look!”  He was eager to invest what he had been given and now he’s excited to show the master what He had done.  He’s bubbling with enthusiasm and thoroughly thrilled.  He couldn’t wait to present what he had done because he wanted to please the owner.  

The man with the two talents approached this time of reckoning with the same anticipation and excitement.  The master is thrilled with both of them because they demonstrated responsibility for their ability.  He says the exact same thing to both of them: “Well done, good and faithful servants!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!”  The master increased their resources after they had proven themselves faithful.  Jesus said a similar thing in Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you.”

These two faithful servants received:

  • Affirmation: “Great job!  Well done.  I appreciate your good work and your faithfulness.”
  • Promotion: “Since you’ve done so well with what I’ve given you, I’m going to give you even more responsibility and opportunity for growth.”
  • Celebration: “You’ve made me very happy.  Let’s celebrate together!”

The phrase, “well done” can be translated, “excellent,” or “wonderful.”  They were faithful and were called good because they had a right view of the master.  Likewise, when we see God for who He is, we will want to be faithful and we’ll focus on doing good things.  God is looking for faithful people, for those who properly manage their resources for kingdom purposes.  And, when we’re responsible for what we’ve been given, we’ll be given even more responsibilities.  I picture a smile on Jesus’ face when He says, “Come and share your master’s happiness!”

The one-talent guy came a bit more reluctantly to the master and said in verse 24: “…I knew that you were a hard man…”  Notice that the first words out of his mouth were about himself: I knew.”  We could translate this as, “I always knew.”  The other two guys kept the focus on the master when he returned: “Master, you entrusted me.”  

This third guy had a wrong view of the master and had his mind made up even before he received his talent.  He looked at him as someone who was hard and harsh, instead of loving and gracious.  A.W. Tozer was right when he said that what we think about God is the most important thing about us.  If we view God as a tyrant then we’ll filter everything through this lens.  Some of you may be secretly angry with God because you think He did something, or didn’t do something that you think He should have.  As a result, your view of Him is skewed.  Your preconceived notions prevent you from seeing Him as a God of grace, and as a result you refuse to serve Him with what He’s given you.  When we blame God we end up burying our blessings.

A faulty view of God can also lead to excuses.  In verse 25 this man declares that the reason he didn’t do anything with what he had been given was because he was afraid.  His fear paralyzed him and so he decided to play it safe.  He hid the money to make sure it wouldn’t be lost.  And he accomplished exactly what he set out to achieve: nothing.  Like the saying goes, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”

A wrong view of God always leads to fear: “So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground…”  A right view of God always leads to faith.  If you’re struggling with fear today, the best antidote is to further your understanding of the character of God and ask Him to grow your faith.  Courage is not the absence of fear.  Courage is moving ahead in spite of your fears.  I think the first two guys were probably a little afraid as well, but because they knew the master’s character, instead of being frozen by fear, they stepped out in faith.

Let’s look at the differences between the two servants who served and the one who took a dive.

  • The first two were determined to make a profit; the third was determined to not take a loss.
  • The first two were willing to work hard and take risks; the third took no risks.
  • The first two received the gift; the third refused the gift.
  • The first two wanted to advance the master’s domain; the third had no interest in what mattered to the master.
  • The first two viewed the money as an opportunity; the third guy saw it as a problem.
  • The first two allowed the master’s gift to change their lives; the third refused to let the gift touch his life.
  • The first two invested; the other one wasted.
  • The first two saw a blessing; the third guy saw a burden.
  • The first two knew the master; the third guy had no clue.

6. What we have we must use or what we have we will lose. 

God will judge not merely for doing wrong, but for not doing right!

Verse 26 reveals that the master saw right through the flimsy excuses of the servant when he said, “You wicked, lazy servant!”  The word “wicked” means “evil, hurtful, and malicious.”  In other words, the master is saying, “You’re lying.  In your heart, you are a selfish and lazy bum.  If you really wanted to do something, you would have put my money in the bank.  I see right through you.”  These are pretty strong words.  God will judge not merely for doing wrong, but for not doing right!

The man was wicked because he deliberately misrepresented both his master and himself.  He falsely accused the master of being harsh and he lied when he said in verse 25: “See, here is what belongs to you.”  He actually owed his employer not only one talent but also whatever it would have earned had he been faithful.  Amazingly, instead of owning his guilt, he behaves as if the master should have given him credit for having been so cautious.

Wickedness and laziness partner together to keep many people from full surrender and service.  In the original, this combination of terms is unforgettable because they rhyme.  While the other two servants were busy and working hard, this selfish sluggard dug a hole, little realizing that he was digging it for himself!  A selfish heart coupled with an unwillingness to do anything about it, will take many people on the path of destruction that can lead to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We all have an element of laziness in us.  And, our culture seems to be set on slothfulness as well.  Just this week I read that Nintendo is looking to hire 50 people this summer at a wage of $100 a day to play computer games all summer long.  

I’m convinced that laziness is extremely dangerous to our spiritual lives.  When we think we can put something off until later, we will eventually discover that it will one day be too late.  

Proverbs 6:9: “How long will you lie there, you sluggard?  When will you get up from your sleep?”

Proverbs 10:5: He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.”

Proverbs 13:4: “The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.”

Hebrews 6:11-12: “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.  We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” 

Because this third guy did not use what He had been given, He lost it according to verse 28: “Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.”  It’s the “use it or lose it” principle.  Friend, don’t hold what you have.  Develop it, compound it, and multiply it by using what you’ve been given.

7. Who you know  and what you do will lead to either abundance or agony in the next life. 

In verse 29, we learn that those who are faithful with the little things will have an abundance, or excess: “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.”  Those who have given themselves in full surrender and selfless service will be given even more opportunities.

On the other hand, those who bury their blessings will face agony.  Jesus concludes this parable by saying that the worthless servant will be thrown “outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  This description is used elsewhere to refer to hell.  Those who don’t know God don’t serve Him.  A lack of serving may indicate that a person has never been truly converted.  That’s why Jesus referred to him as “worthless.”  A believer has worth because of his faith in Christ.  This servant lived in the house of the Master but didn’t know and love the owner.

A distinguishing mark of a true Christian is service and giving.  A lack of service betrays a heart where Jesus doesn’t really live.  

A Christian who is not using what God has given is a contradiction in terms.  As you survey your servanthood quotient, and you conclude that you’ve buried your blessings, maybe you haven’t yet been saved.  Do you want abundance or agony in the next life?  Determine to know the Master and serve Him wholeheartedly.  

Don’t hide the truth.  Don’t bury it.  Allow the greatest treasure of all – Jesus Christ Himself to radically reform your life.


Stewardship is best defined as the use of God-given resources for the accomplishment of God-given goals.  How do you line up with these seven principles?

  • What we have is not ours.  
  • We’re given what we can handle.
  • We must invest what we’ve been given.
  • A day of accountability is coming.
  • What we do with what we have reveals our view of God.
  • What we have we must use or what we have we will lose.
  • Who you know will lead to either abundance or agony in the next life.

Have you ever seen the “Antique Road Show” on TV?  I like watching how people bring their stuff to the appraisers to find out how much it’s worth.  Many times those who have lavish items come on the show thinking that they have a huge treasure.  More often than not, they find out their treasure is a forgery or a duplicate and worth very little.

Then there are those who come with a small trinket or a painting that was up in their dusty attic.  They’re just happy to be on the show.  And, many times, these people discover that their item is worth far more than they thought.

The people who are hoping to hit it big with their extravagant item are a bit like we are when we think we can impress God with what we have.  On the other hand, some of us think that we don’t have much to offer, but what we have is really a treasure from God himself.  Our responsibility is to use our ability to invest in God’s kingdom purposes.

Jesus has placed His business into our hands and will return someday to judge our faithfulness.  Are you partnering with Him or are you making excuses?

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?