Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Stewardship and Service Series - Session 1: Introduction

The Parable of the Talents (Mat 25:14-29)

To give an overview to the series on of stewardship God's gifts in service and ministry.

The Parable of the Talents is found in Matthew chapter 25, right after chapter 24 where Jesus predicts the signs of His coming. Matthew 24 begins with the disciples asking Jesus about the signs of the end of the age. Jesus then begins to give a description of the things that will happen in the world leading to His coming. He emphasizes that His coming is imminent, and warns us to be prepared for that day.

Matthew 25 begins with the Parable of the 10 Virgins. In this parable, Jesus paints a picture of the necessity to be prepared for His coming. The 5 wise virgins prepared themselves by bringing extra oil for their lamps. They were ready to wait for the bridegroom's coming, and were prepared to meet him immediately when he came. They would not be caught unawares.

The Parable of the Talents follows the Parable of the 10 Virgins. It is a parable that teaches us the principle of stewardship. It tells us that God has given us resources to be used till His coming, and there will be a day of accounting when He returns. It is also a parable that teaches the principle of rewards. God rewards the faithful.

Following the Parable of the Talents and its warning of the Day of Accounting comes Jesus' description of the Day of Judgment. In it He highlights some aspects of service and ministry that we can learn and apply in our own lives.

Activity: Ask the group to read through Matthew 25 and split it into its major sections.

1) God has gifted us abundantly
The word "talent" has often been used wrongly to refer to our talents or abilities. However the word "talent" in the Bible refers to a sum of money. One talent is equivalent to 15-20 years' wages of a labourer. If we put it in today's terms using an annual income of S$20,000, we get the following:

1 talent = 15 x $20,000 = $300,000

2 talents therefore is equivalent to at least $600,000
and 5 talents is at least $1,500,000 or 1.5 million dollars.

The first servant received $1.5 million. The second received $600,000. The third received $300,000. All 3 received different amounts. But even the least had very much.

1) God entrusts different amounts to different people according to their ability
2) The least gifted is still gifted abundantly.

1) Before the study, ask each person what they would do if they won a lucky draw prize of $300,000
2) Before the study, ask each person which one of the 3 they think they are and why
3) Ask the group to make their own calculations of the money
4) Ask the group how much did each person get, and why they got different amounts
5) Ask the group how much did the 3rd servant get, and what they can learn from it

2) God expects us to use our gifts faithfully
The servant with 5 talents was obviously a good steward as his master assessed. He took action immediately. The servant with 2 talents likewise put the money to work. But the servant with 1 talent was not as reliable. However his master still gave him a huge opportunity and risked putting 20 years' wages in his care.

We are not told how long it took for the returns to start rolling in, but they did. The Bible tells us not to despise the day of little things, and that we will enjoy the fruit of our labour if we remain faithful.

The word used to describe putting the talents to good use is "traded". It is a word that describes work and investment. It involves risk as business always involves risk.

The 3rd servant chose to hide his master's money in the ground. His excuse was that he was afraid of his master, and he was afraid he would have lost what was entrusted to him. But his master saw right through him. The fact was that he was lazy. He was too lazy even to think of putting the money into the bank. He was not willing to take risks, and he failed to see the great opportunity that his master gave to him. He wasted opportunities and potential gain. His master called him "wicked".

1) God takes the risk by entrusting His resources to us
2) Risk must be taken to invest our God-given resources
3) Effort must be put in to use God's resources
4) Fear is an excuse for laziness
5) Laziness results in wasted opportunities which God takes very seriously

1) Ask the group to list down their individual resources and spiritual gifts
2) Ask the group what "traded" means to them
3) Ask the group what are some hindrances to "trading" God's gifts, talents and resources (in ministry or otherwise). What are some of the excuses we have given before?
4) Ask the group what the excuses of the 3rd servant were, and what his master's assessment of the root of the problem was
5) Ask the group what are some of the risks they need to take to use their gifts and resources

3) God wants to reward us exceedingly
The master rewarded the first 2 servants similarly. He said the exact same words to them:

His 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.'

They both were entrusted different amounts, and made different gross profits, but the master gave them the same rewards.

God's fairness is not based on amounts. God's fairness takes into consideration our stewardship abilities and resources. He does not give us too much to handle, and does not reward us less if we get less gross returns while doing our best. God does not reward us based on the profits we gain, but our faithfulness.

Our faithfulness in little proves that we would be faithful in much. If we are faithful in what God gives us at first, He will give us more to manage. That could take the form of greater responsibilities and ministries, and also greater opportunities to bring Him glory and receive greater blessings from Him.

The Bible tells us that if we are faithful in what is entrusted to us by others, we will be given what is truly ours to enjoy.

2) God has given us every spiritual blessing, and He wants to give us more!
3) Our God-given resources are an opportunity to bring God glory and receive greater blessings
4) Those who are faithful with little will be entrusted much
5) God wants to share His joy with us
6) Today God entrusts us what is His so that we may earn rewards that will one day be ours

1) Ask the group how much each of the first 2 servants earned with the money entrusted to them
2) Ask the group how much the master rewarded the first 2 servants and if the rewards were different. Was it fair or not?
3) Ask the group what they think Matthew 25:29 means
4) Split the group to discuss what are some ways they can use their God-given resources, and how they would like to take action

Action steps:
1. Spiritual Gifts Survey (do on the spot and hand up if there’s time)
2. Personal Commitment (split to groups of 3-4)

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