David Kolander

“I Wish I Could Be Like…”

by David Kolander on November 26th, 2023
Matthew 25:14-30

Sometimes I wish I could be like my brothers-in-law in the family I married into. I wish I could be like them because they have the gift of knowing how to fix things and build things – and I just plain do not, something exemplified by the time a number of years ago when we were living in a different house and we bought one of those put-it-together-yourself tables, of which the directions basically say anyone over the age of six should be able to build this thing. I seemed to be making some progress until I started turning a screw into the table top that I had resting upside down, and I started wondering why I just had to keep turning and turning, until I finally decided to check it out by lifting it up, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t lift it up, because I had just screwed the table top into our linoleum kitchen floor… I had just made an immovable, upside down kitchen table! That was embarrassing, but some things that are probably very easy for many of you just do not come easily to me.

Is there anyone you wish you could be like because of the talents and abilities they have, someone who makes things look easy that aren’t easy for you – or someone who has interests in things that you wish could interest you, but at the moment just don’t? It’s the thought of all of us having different talents or abilities or gifts that Jesus is talking about today in his parable about these bags of gold. And, more specifically, it’s how we use those talents and gifts during our time on earth that Jesus is talking to us about today. So, if you have ever thought to yourself, “I Wish I Could be Like…” I Wish I could be like that person or that person, let’s see what our Savior has to say about that in a way that will hopefully help us enjoy our lives a whole lot more just the way we are – and maybe also realize that there may be people we will never know who might wish they could be like us – and who are thankful for what we do for them – whether we actually are always aware of that or not.

Do you think the man in our parable who got one bag of gold wished he could be like the guy who received two bags of gold or the special guy who got five bags of gold? To help us deal with any thoughts we may have like that, this parable gives us a great warning and a great comfort by having us realize how we got our talents. How did these three servants who had a different number of bags of gold get those bags of gold? The owner just gave them to them as he went off on a journey. They did not earn them or work them. They were simply to use them as they waited for his return. It’s the same way with the gifts God has given you and me. Whatever talents we have – whether they are many or few – are from God himself. So, for one thing, the warning is we dare not boast that we are so great if we think we are so great. In our Second Lesson the apostle Paul said it this way, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” Every talent we have is a gift of God’s grace – his love that we don’t deserve. So, none of us is more special than any other person in the world or in our church or in our family. Without God we would not be able to do anything. That’s why St. Paul also said in those words, “Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought.” That’s the warning.

On the other hand, here is the comfort. Precisely because those gifts are given to us by God himself, every gift he has decided to give us is very special and very important, because he has determined what he knows in his heart is best for us to be happy in life and to help others in life and to serve God with our life. The apostle Paul reminded us of the purpose of whatever talents we have – again, whether they are many or few – when he said in that same lesson, “In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Every talent we have is used by us, obviously, but its primary purpose is not merely to be used by us for us – but by us for others. What a comfort it is to know that God has made me exactly the way he wants me to be so I can help other people and be kind to other people – and that God has made other people with the exact kinds of gifts he wants them to have so they can help me. God has worked things out for every single one of us in a way that will help us all work together in the Body of Christ, something, for example, that is so wonderful to see in the many different ways he has gifted you his people here at Christ the Lord.

So, how does the parable about these bags of gold help us understand all this better? Jesus compares the use of our talents to investing money. A basic understanding of finances, unless the Lord allows an economic downturn, as he often does, of course, is that when you invest money to gain interest or dividends, you make more money. That’s the point of the man who was given five bags of gold doubling his gold to ten bags of gold – and the same with the man with two bags of gold now having four bags. And that was the problem with the man who was given one bag of gold not being faithful with that lesser amount, but instead coming up with some excuse of knowing how hard and difficult the master was, and therefore burying that bag of gold, instead of, as Jesus said, “putting it on deposit with the bankers.” What he was really saying is that he didn’t appreciate or didn’t take seriously or didn’t know how important that one bag of gold was that the master had given him. And – to show the key spiritual concern Jesus was displaying – the master made it clear that the man’s real problem was actually unbelief – not believing in his Savior from sin – since his punishment was going to be being thrown into darkness – the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth – one of the Bible’s ways of talking about eternal death in hell.

So, can you see another lesson Jesus is teaching us about whatever talents and abilities you have? Not only are they given to you by God himself, so we dare not boast about them nor, on the other hand, think they aren’t important, but they are given to us to be used until he comes back, and that we are responsible to God himself for how we use them. Now that, too, is something that can be both very scary and wonderfully comforting. The scary part is pretty simple. Every single one of us has to admit that at times we have not acted in a way that shows we know our gifts are from the almighty God, either by thinking too much of ourselves or by thinking that we don’t have enough talents to be worth anything. And every single one of us has to admit that at times we have not used those gifts in a way that has pleased our almighty God by being lazy or selfish or uncaring. For that reason it is a scary thought to someday think about Jesus “settling accounts with us,” as the master did with each of his servant in the parable.

But here’s the comforting thought. The comforting thought has to do with Jesus’ reaction and Jesus’ promise. What did Jesus say in reaction to the servants with five bags and two bags? He didn’t say, “Hey, guy with the ten bags of gold, you are better than the guy with four bags of gold.” He didn’t say, “Hey, guy with four bags of gold, I love you less that the guy with ten bags of gold.” To both of them he said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful…” What pleases me, Jesus is saying, is not how much you accomplish with whatever gifts I have given you, but how faithfully you use whatever gifts I have given you, because I am the one who has determined how you can help others out and serve in my kingdom in the way that I know is best. It’s like the older Christian woman I once visited who was nearing the end of her life and wasn’t able to get out of her home anymore and said, “I was wondering what use I was to anyone, because I really can’t do anything anymore, until I realized I can pray.” “So, dear sister, pray. Faithfully use God’s gift of prayer with your gift of praying, and know your Lord says you are a good and faithful servant.” “Yes, as you pray, dear sister, let your brothers and sisters in Christ use their gifts and their love to serve you.” Never underestimate the gifts and the situations God gives you.

And then the master gave the promise right after that reaction, when he said: “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.” Perhaps you have experienced this once or twice in your life as a Christian; maybe you’ve experienced it many times. The more we just live and do what we need to do that day – in other words, the more we use our gifts or our situations as a parent or a student or a worker or a friend or a person in the neighborhood or a member of our church – the more we just live day by day and use the gifts that just come our way – the more we grow in those gifts – and in other gifts that also just come our way along the way. We get better at things. We get to learn new things. We get the privilege of helping more people in our family, our church, our world. It’s the basic way the process of education works, obviously, as we move from grade to grade in school, but it’s also the way God works in our spiritual life. The more we use our talents to help someone, the more people we seem to get to help and the more things God gives us the opportunity to do. God just has a way of multiplying the use of our gifts in the very same way he has a way of multiplying the use of our love – and that is not a surprise at all, because it is our love for God’s love for us that leads us to want to use our gifts and abilities for the benefit of others, which means it will be for the glory of God.

It all comes down to this: knowing how we get to enjoy what the parable called our “master’s happiness” – a life in heaven. The way we serve God and others does not get us to heaven, but the way we serve God shows that we know that we are going to heaven, because the way we serve God humbly recognizes that we should only be thrown outside into the darkness, just like that wicked, lazy servant, but that, instead, the Son of God came as the servant of all – and, though having talents and abilities far beyond comprehension, invested those talents in service to us, to the point of giving his life to forgive us for our every failure and letting us know in his grace that, by taking our place in God’s salvation plan, we don’t have to just say something like, “I wish I could be like Jesus,” because we could never be perfect like our holy Lord Jesus – that’s why we need our holy Lord Jesus. But, praise God, we can know, because of what our dear Lord Jesus did for us in dying for our sins and being perfect in our place, we are just like Jesus in the holy, loving eyes of our holy and loving heavenly Father.

So, since that’s what God in heaven thinks of you, who on this earth do you wish you could be like? Yourself… You are a child of God specially gifted by God himself to serve your Lord and others in the exact way he has chosen for you. So just go out there and live, and, if you have ever had any doubt about it, even if you have never done something like screwing a table top into a kitchen floor, you will soon find out that the number of “bags of gold” he has seen fit to give you are just right – and that there will be more bags of gold – yes, more opportunities to serve — to come – until the day our Lord and Master returns and says, “Well Done!” Amen.

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