“What Really Matters Is Knowing the Master” (October 13, 2019)

Sermon Text: Matthew 25:14-30

Pastor Philip Bigelow

It’s not what you know, but who you know.  You might be familiar with that statement.  What does that mean?  As is the case with most pithy statements this one is no exception with communicating a message.  That statement is often repeated in the business world.  Basically, the heartbeat of the statement means that it doesn’t always matter how much knowledge, expertise, or skill you have, but instead it’s the connections you have or don’t have that matters in how you can have the opportunity to make use of the vast amounts of knowledge, expertise, and skills.  Unfortunately, Sam Fiorella learned that lesson the hard way.  Sam Fiorella worked hard at perfecting his craft in the marketing industry and one day a large marketing agency from Canada came ringing to ask if he would be interested in the vice president position they were seeking to fill.  He jumped at the chance thinking he was well qualified for the position.  Did you know that there is a company that uses complicated algorithms to score your influence and connectedness on social media?  It’s called your Klout score.  It measures how many likes, shares, retweets, friends, followers, and so on that you have and gives you a score.  Yeah, Sam Fiorella didn’t know this existed either.  If you are keeping score at home the perfect score of 100 comes in from the incomparable Justin Bieber, boosted by all of his “Belieber” followers while the Aflac Duck registers around the midpoint of 50, and unfortunately Sam Fiorella’s score couldn’t even match a duck mascot in the measly mid thirties range.  He later learned that was one of the large factors on why he wasn’t offered the position at the marketing firm.  He stated later in an interview that a career’s worth of hard work and expertise didn’t matter as much as his Klout score.  Another way to say it is that it didn’t matter what Sam Fiorella knew, but what mattered was that he didn’t know enough people.  It didn’t matter what he knew, but who he knew, and he didn’t know enough people, at least in social media.[1]

The idea of who we know making a difference doesn’t just apply in the highly competitive marketing world, but it applies in our spiritual life as Jesus points that out to us in a not-so-subtle way today because he’s about as subtle as a bee sting today.  Jesus teaches in a way that he uses so often, and this is by telling a parable, or a story, to make his point.  There is a man that packed up what was need and he’s going on a journey.  Before he leaves, he calls a meeting with his three servants and entrusts what he has to them.  He’s giving them a lot of responsibility.  The first servant he gives five talents to, the next he gives two talents, and the last he gives one.  What was a talent?  A talent was worth approximately 6,000 days wages.  Let’s just try to grasp that with today’s equivalency because even to say 6,000 days wages sounds like a lot, but what is that?  The median household income for Oconomowoc is $70,204.  That works out to be about $270/day per household, therefore, 6,000 days wages would mean a talent would be about $1.6 million, if we were to speak about it using numbers that we can understand today.[2]  If we speak about it in those terms the first servant was given over $8 million, the second about $3.2 million, and the last $1.6 million.  Then the master waves good-bye and is off on his journey.  Here’s what happened, “The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more.  So also, the one with the two talents gained two more.  But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money” (Matthew 25:16-18).

Here’s the question for us to think about today: What made such a big difference in the actions of the three servants?  There’s no indication that it was the amount.  It wasn’t that the first and second servants received more than the last servant.  He wasn’t filled with mumbling and moping jealousy saying, “If only my master gave me more…”  They all were entrusted with talents from the master.  And we dare not overlook that.  It says, “…and entrusted his property to them” (Matthew 25:14b).  Let’s take a moment to ponder in the pew today: What has God entrusted to you?  The physical inventory quickly comes to mind; the things we can see, taste, and touch.  Our house for warmth and shelter, our phone to keep us connected, our car to zoom to the places we need to be to live life, our food to sustain and nourish, our bank accounts and assets to be financially secure.  Now let’s take inventory of the things that aren’t so quick to come to mind when we speak about the talents God gives us.  Our empathy so we can help others in their burdens and feel what it’s like to be in their situation, our compassion to be a shoulder to cry on when someone needs it, our friendship to share laughter and love with others, our encouraging spirit to pick someone up when they are down, our ability to work with our hands and fix anything that needs fixing and if we keep on taking an inventory of all that God has given us this sermon would go well into not just the Vikings game, they play at noon, or the Packers vs. Lions game, they play on Monday night, but all the way into and through the Bears game, they have the bye week and play next Sunday.  You get the point.  God has entrusted us with much!  Not all in the same ways or even the same amounts.  To some he’s given five talents, and to some two talents, and to some one.  The amount isn’t the point.  God has entrusted you with his gifts and he wants to know are you using what he has entrusted to you to his glory and honor?  How have you and I used the gifts he has given in proportion to how he has blessed us?

When the master returned from the journey how did he respond to each servant?  The first servant said, “I took what you gave me and gained five more talents.”  The second servant said, “I gained two more.”  The response was the exact same to those servants, “Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25: 21, 23).  But to the servant that said, “Here is your talent back, I was afraid, so I buried it in the ground, I knew you were a hard master,” to that servant he said, “You wicked, lazy servant!”  “Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents” (Matthew 25:26, 28).  Did this question strike you: What was the wicked servant guilty of?  His rebellion against the master wasn’t beating up the other servants and taking what they were given.  His rebellion wasn’t defrauding others out of millions and ruining their financial lives and futures.  He wasn’t living a life of waste with what the master gave him.  Did you catch his rebellion?  Doing nothing.  Not using what he was given.  Not being faithful with the gifts he was given.

But, let’s be honest.  He’s not the only one.  How many times do we have the shovel in our blistered hands because we’ve been too busy digging the hole of self-enjoyment and burying what God has entrusted to us.  Then over here we have the freshly covered hole of self-advancement.  In that corner is the hole of self-glorification instead of using what God has entrusted to us to his glory.  The wicked servant tried his excuse of thinking he was a hard and harsh master.  Maybe we are even more bold and say, “Just leave me alone so I can use what you’ve given me the way I want to.  Don’t tell me what to do.  Don’t tell me how to live my life.”  Ah, how foolish we are to think even our life is our own and not entrusted to us from our gracious God.

But we still haven’t answered our big question today: What was the difference between the first two servants and the last?  Two of them knew the master, the last servant didn’t. Knowing the Master makes all the difference for us.  It is only by knowing the master that our attitude changes from how much do I have to do to serve God–how much do I have to dig up from my self-advancement and glory that I squirreled away—to how can I not serve God in every way?  It’s not trying to figure out the magic proportion to give to God, but in all that he has entrusted to me, which is absolutely everything, all that I have and everything I do is to his glory and honor and not my own.  How does knowing the Master make such a vital difference?  Look at what our Master has done for us and gives us.  While our hands were busy burying what God has given us for our own selfish use Jesus’ hands were stretched out on a cross in full payment for our selfishness.  When it comes to payment for sin there are only two options: either you and I suffer the punishment for it in hell or someone else had to be the perfect substitute to suffer in our place.  We know our good and gracious Master that from eternity had the purpose and plan to turn his face away from his Son, Jesus so that he could turn his face toward you and welcome you with open arms.  On good Friday Jesus fulfilled that purpose and plan to pay for my sin and your sin of failing to glorify him with what he has entrusted to us.  This is how much God loves you, instead of saying, “You misused what I have given you so I’m done with you,” he said, “I will give my Son on the cross to release you from sin and guilt.”

As we seek to faithfully use what God has entrusted to us what really matters isn’t saying, “Well, what proportion or what percentage do I have to use for God’s glory.”  What really matters is knowing the Master.  We know the Master, whose heart overflows in love for you and proved it in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection.  That’s the only way we live and give in proportion to what he has given us: everything.  You see, it’s not what you know, but who you know.  Amen.


[1] www.forbes.com  “It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know?” Ty Kiisel. May 2, 2012

[2] Sperling’s Best Places bestplaces.com. Taking out weekends gives 260 workdays a year (not including vacations, etc.) equaling the $270/day per household income.