Spheres of Responsibility Matthew 25:14-30

“Be diligent in the work God has given you and free from the work he has not”

*There was a technical snafu yesterday and only part of the preaching was recorded, so there’s no video available with this sermon

Intro: “Well done, good and faithful servant”—isn’t that what we all want to hear when we see Jesus?

This parable has been misused to place a yoke so burdensome on people no one could ever bear it—

  • One guy I read recalled a story when a teacher used it on his pupils so that they would do their spelling homework better
  • If it can apply to spelling, it would apply to everything…and we’d be forced to admit the pharisees had an easier life, whom Jesus condemned for “putting a heavy yoke on others yet not lifting a little finger to help them”

Jesus is calling us into service, and our service will cost us a great deal, but don’t put too much on yourself.  Remembering God’s priorities will help set you free from undue burdens and encourage you to be diligent and faithful in serving him.

The word servant is closer to slave

What’s a talent? 

  • Started off just being a weight…
  • A large amount of money
  • In general terms:  a days wage was a denarius, in nearby Tyre a talent represented 6000 denarii
    • So a talent was almost 16 ½ years wages

Why did different servants get different amounts?  Why didn’t the master give the same to all?

  • V. 15  “each according to their ability”
  • Not every servant was equally talented—in both respects (ahem…)
  • This isn’t unfair in the least—remember these are slaves who were all given their master’s money
  • Matthew Henry, “we have no stock of our own to trade with but trade as brokers with our master’s stock” (Church History Study Bible, comment on Matthew 25:14 p. 1460)
  • We shouldn’t compare the amounts each servant received—Jesus’ point was that what they received was all of grace

That makes the wicked, lazy servant’s description ridiculous, “a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you didn’t scatter seed”

  • Remember the master was exceptionally gracious in giving these slaves an extreme measure of wealth to be responsible for
  • It reminds me of me.  Don’t we forget God’s graciousness just as quickly?
    • We see God’s frowning providence as hardness and severity
    • Forgetting what we deserve and beginning to expect more and more
    • The frowning providences are often what pricks our heart to seek heaven all the more


  • Everyone’s works will be judged
  • Two are rewarded and the third punished
    • The last servant didn’t produce anything with what he was given
      • There’s no such thing as an unsanctified saint
        • Saint= “saved” not an elevated Christians, just a Christian
        • His lack of production proved him to be unsanctified, therefore he wasn’t truly a saint
        • Faith produces works in us, in just the same way that Jesus’ work purifies us
    • The first point of this parable, is make sure you are truly following Jesus
      • Not just part of the visible church, but also a part of the invisible church
      • True faith in Jesus as your savior
        • Know your sin
        • Know that your sin comes from you and not outside of you
        • That’s important because it emphasizes your incurable state—you can’t just “do better” you need to be fixed
        • You need a Savior
        • Jesus died for your sins—not just died for sins, but you must own Jesus’ death to own his salvation
          • Peter addresses us in Acts 2:23 “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”
      • You should also notice that all of the servants are part of the Kingdom—it’s rare for a true believer to willingly remain separate from the visible church
        • Cyprian, “outside of the church there is no safety”…“for anyone to have God as his father, he must also have the church as his mother”
        • The Church doesn’t grant salvation, but the salvation Jesus grants makes you a part of his church—it only follows that one of the responsibilities represented in the talents is that believers should be active in a local church body.

That brings us to what we should learn—how do you apply this parable?

First—what do the talents represent?  They have to represent something beyond money, because God gives us so much more.

  • At first glance you might think, “spiritual gifts”—at least that’s what I thought
    • But there’s a problem—take a stab at it, what’s the problem with it being spiritual gifts?
    • V. 15 “each according to his ability”
      • The spiritual gifts equip a saint with ability
      • That word “Ability” means that the talents can’t refer to:
        •  spiritual gifts,
        • natural ability,
        • or even mental acuity
  • John Legg, “The simple and obvious answer is that they stand for the responsibility of the servant to serve his master. Spiritually, they represent our individual responsibility to work for Christ’s kingdom, fulfilling the tasks he has laid upon us. Such a responsibility and such tasks depend on the abilities we have.[1]
    • The Talents in the parable correspond to our responsibility in God’s kingdom
    • We share many of the same responsibilities
      • Believe in the Lord Jesus
      • Gather for corporate worship
      • Practice private worship and piety
      • Obey God in your moral life—1 Peter 1:14 “as obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct”
      • Repent, because your holiness won’t ever equal God’s—1 John 1:8  “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
    • So there are a lot of similarities in our Christian responsibilities, but, and this where the difference of amounts of the talents matters in the parable:  we have different responsibilities

Think of it as “Spheres of Responsibility: 

But before we get to the “spheres” we should notice that like the previous two parables:  Timing is important—don’t wait too long

  • Redeem the time Eph. 5:15-17 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
  • Use your God given wisdom and Spirit sanctified reason to be diligent in your use of the time God has given you

Paul finishes that section in Ephesians with “do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is”  that brings us back to the Spheres of Responsibility:

Each of us have been given “talents” as it were, by God

  • Remember I’m referring to the parable’s talents, not your ability to play a musical instrument or anything like that
  • We’ve been given situations, circumstances, material goods, opportunities to serve, and places to live, work, and worship that we should be using diligently, “making the best use of the time”

But there are levels of responsibility in our lives and not everyone’s “spheres” are the same.

  1. Vocation—this was a doctrine that came out of the Reformation
    1. RCC—vocation only applied to priests, monks, nuns etc.
    1. Protestants—each of us has a calling God has put on our lives
      1. No one’s true vocation can be inherently sinful, because God put that “calling”  on us
      1. There are certain vocations integral to society that God honors above others and they don’t have anything to do with being paid
        1. Genesis 1-2—Look to Pre-Fall conditions as an interpretive principle in Bible and life
        1. Marriage
        1. Children
      1. Not everyone does get married—that doesn’t change the goodness of it
      1. Not everyone has children—that doesn’t change the plan of creation
    1. This doctrine, knowing that God has planned your work for you is one of your Christian freedoms
      1. “the truth has set you free” Jesus said
      1. This sets you free from thinking ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING has to be done by you at every possible moment
      1. That would be exhausting—God’s plan isn’t for you to do it all, Jesus did it all, already. 
      1. God’s plan was “to prepare the good works you would eventually do for him” Eph. 2:10
      1. He prepares those good works according to the responsibilities He’s given you
  2. First sphere is your Spouse if you’re married
    1.   1 Cor. 7:4  For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
      1. That’s talking about intimacy but the principle extends further than that
    1. You have “become one” in everything
      1. Important decisions
      1. Child rearing—making sure they are moving in the direction of God
        1. Do that together
        1. Make your children attend church, as much as you are able, together—don’t let them hear one thing from mom and another from Dad
      1. Iron sharpening iron
        1. Your spouse should be able to help you think more clearly about God, Christ, and biblical living
        1. Are you pursuing deep conversations with your spouse?
  3. Second:  Children
    1. Fear and admonition of the Lord is hard to convince them of if church is optional at your house
    1. Listen well to them, don’t give them the canned answer you’re ready with
    1. Sometimes you’ll need to pry a little to get them to talk about the hard stuff they need to share, but not necessarily want to share
  4. Third:  Church and extended family
    1. If you don’t have children at home or a spouse then this third sphere becomes your first
    1. How can I put extended family alongside church?  What about aging parents? What about your grandchildren, or your children who have left the house?  Am I saying your church family should take precedence over the extended family?
      1. Sometimes, yes.
      1. Think about it this way—when a church calls a pastor, it’s often true that he and his family move somewhere that they don’t have any family of their own.  So, if extended family comes before church family, then calling a pastor away from his extended family is a violation of these spheres and is inherently sinful.
      1. In the New Testament, the believers were called together into a new family—into God’s family.  Often, they were disowned by their families and left destitute by the society around them, so the church wasn’t just an extra family.  The church became their only family.
        1. 1 Cor. 7 again:  if the unbelieving spouse wants to stay married to the newly believing spouse you should let him/her
      1. Happily, that’s not the case for most of us.
    1. The Church should take precedence over your family—Israel was more about faith than blood, the same is true for church, and we’re brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
    1. Of course there are times when your family needs you and you make allowances for that
      1. Extreme sickness
      1. Deaths
      1. Marriages or divorces
      1. As Christians, we seek to minister Christ in every situation, especially with our family—weeping with those who are weeping and rejoicing with those who are rejoicing
  5. The fourth sphere is The World
    1. The evangelly world often makes the World a higher priority than it should be
    1. And yes, we all should be seeking times and places, people we know and new people we’ve met to share Jesus’ good news with
    1. But, if the world is one of the talents God has given us, no one is going to be called “good and faithful” because the world at the end of time will be mostly lost
    1. We still share, we still live out our faith as light and salt in a world of darkness and corruption; but conversion is the Holy Spirit’s job—yours is just daily faith, putting one foot in front of the other, loving those who have been placed in your path. 
    1. Isn’t that joyful news?  That in this fourth sphere of responsibility, You aren’t responsible for doing God’s job, you’re just responsible to see what God did for you, believe he will continue, and tell others about it.

God has given you this life to serve him, and everyone’s life is different.  How you serve him will depend on your circumstances, the situations you find yourself in, the providences God has granted you, but there are three universal principles:  first, be diligent, it’s been a long time since Jesus ascended, but he will return;  two, seek God’s will; and three, seek God’s glory.

  • His will—revealed in the law
  • His glory—shines forth most brightly in redemption through Jesus

Have you prioritized your life appropriately?  Are you putting God’s will and God’s glory above everything else?  It feels risky, doesn’t it?  I’m sure it felt risky to those faithful servants in the parable when they “went at once and traded with their master’s talents and made more”.  Just like it felt risky  for Abram to leave Ur, or Moses to return to Egypt, or the disciples to follow Jesus.  The question is, Will you trade with God’s gifts and invest them in others, or will you just hide them away until Jesus returns?

TH 193  Let all mortal flesh keep silence

The Lord’s Supper

355 we are god’s people

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

[1] John Legg, The King and His Kingdom: The Gospel of Matthew Simply Explained, Welwyn Commentary Series (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press., 2004), 464–465.