We have all received gifts before that made us ask the question, “what do I do with this?” Whether it was an odd trinket, a hand-me down family item, or something you just didn’t need or want – these items can be difficult to figure out. For me, it was right before I moved off to college in the Summer of 2011. I was visiting some family I didn’t see too often and was gifted an item I was unsure really what to do with. As we were readying ourselves to leave my aunt quietly passed me a small box wrapped in paper and informed me that this had been hers, but she wanted me to have it. I said thank you, we said our good-byes, and it wasn’t until later in the car I realized what had been given to me. Upon unwrapping the gift and opening the box I was surprised to find a perfectly working iPad sitting in my lap! What a gift! I instantly called my aunt and expressed how surprised and grateful I was to her for giving me such a nice gift before I left for college. I had never owned an iPad and was excited for the different ways I could use it once on campus. Over the next few years that iPad served me in several different ways. I used it for my notes while preaching and studying, countless class presentations and lectures, and of course, for its various games that could be downloaded and enjoyed on it. This unexpected gift was one that I had not prepared or hoped for, but made all the difference for my time in college.
This got me thinking about two different men found in Matthew that also found themselves with unexpected gifts. The first one is one that I and the other ministers discussed just last week on the Ministers of the Roundtable discussion – the unforgiving servant of Matthew 18:21-35. To teach the disciples a lesson on how forgiveness works Jesus told the following parable, ““Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So, the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.” What an amazing gift this servant was given! His Master forgave him of an unfathomable amount of debt out compassion. What did this servant due with this amazing gift? Unfortunately, he seems to have squandered it by failing to pass it forward. After receiving his forgiveness, he failed to extend forgiveness to a man who owed him even a small amount of money. Mistreating him to the point of choking and throwing him into prison. The servant of Matthew 18 wasted the gift of forgiveness that was given to him by not internalizing it and expressing it to others.
The second man of Matthew that was given a gift can be found in another parable in Matthew 25. Here Jesus tells a story of three men who are given different sums of money by their master and are expected to have done something with it upon his return. Upon the master’s return Jesus says, “And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 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.’” Matthew 25:20-21. In this story the man who was given five talents pleased the master by doubling his portion. By realizing what he had been given and investing in it, the servant was able to return even more talents back to his master.
These two stories tell a similar story with radically different endings. Both servants are given a great gift, the servant of Matthew 18 the gift of amazing forgiveness and the servant of Matthew 25 the gift of financial blessings. One servant squandered his gift and failed to truly grasp what he had been given while the other made the most of what he had been given. Today we have both gifts in our hands as sons and daughters of God. We have not only been extended a forgiveness that is amazing and is hard to fully grasp, but also the gift of countless blessings God gives to us in our everyday lives. The question is, “What do I do with this?” How are we spreading the grace that’s been given to us? How are we making the most of the blessings God rains down upon us every day? My prayer for us today is for us to reflect the servant who made the most of what was given to him. For us to internalize and fully embrace the gifts God has given us to the point that we reflect that to others in our lives today.