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LESSON 8 - SERVING THE MASTER (MATTHEW 25 & LUKE 16)

Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are found within
parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: This week our study is parables that teach us about
being good stewards. "Steward," is not a common term today.  It
sounds like someone on a cruise ship or a union business agent.  A
more common term today would be agent or employee.  We will study
today about being the Lord's employees!

I. TALENTED EMPLOYEES.

     A. My brother told me of a former executive in his office that
     always left work just after the owner of the business left. 
     It didn't matter whether the owner left late or left at 2:00
     p.m., this employee went home.

          1. What does this single fact tell you about this 
          executive?

          2. What about you?  Does it make any difference to you
          whether "the boss" is in the office or not?  Do you have
          a different attitude towards your work when your boss is
          on vacation?

               a. If so, why?

               b. Do you even notice when your boss is present?

          3. Do you feel that your heavenly "Boss" is present and
          watching?

     B. In Matthew 24:3 the disciples ask Jesus about His Second
     Coming and the end of the world. Jesus tells them about the
     signs of the end of the world and then starts telling a series
     of parables about what it means to be ready when He comes
     again. Open your Bible to Matthew 25:14 and we will read the
     third in this series of parables on being ready for the Lord's
     return. Read Matt. 25:14-15.

          1. Does the employer start out on the wrong foot by 
          giving the employees different amounts?  Isn't it
          discrimination to give the employees different amounts? 

               a. Why does he do it? (v.15: "according to his 
               ability." Some push egalitarian ideas that just do
               not square with reality. Jesus recognized that not
               everyone was the same, with the same ability.)

          2. Is the "one talent" an insult? (A talent, "adjusted
          for inflation," is about $250,000! No one here should
          have been insulted. The master left 1.25 million, 500,000
          and 250,000 dollars!)

               a. What is Christ's purpose in making these amounts
               so large in His story? (He wants to convey the idea
               that each one of us has a tremendous amount of
               ability, even if we are "one talent" people.")  

     C. Let's read on: Matthew 25:16-18.  The five and 2 talent 
     guys seem to have done the same thing. So let's compare the 5
     and 1 talent guys.

          1. Eliminate from your mind the conclusion to the story.
          I want you, as investment counsellors, to give me the
          "pros and cons" for the "investment strategy" of these
          two:

               a. What is the "upside" and the potential "downside"
               for the five talent investment strategy? (He "put
               his money to work." That means he invested it in
               some project.  This carried the risk that he could
               lose it! The upside was that he could earn more,
               the downside was that he was taking a risk.)

                    (1) Alright, you investment pros. The five 
                    talent guy had a 100% return on his
                    investment!  What does that tell you about the
                    extent of the risk he was taking? (High risk!
                    Compare Matt. 25:27.)

               b. What is the "upside" and the potential "downside"
               for the one talent investment strategy? (If you
               just bury it, you do not risk losing it. You
               eliminate the downside. You also eliminate the
               upside. The bottom line is that you make no
               difference one way or the other.  You do not lose
               the money and you do not gain any more money.)

               c. Is there a spiritual lesson here?

     D. Read Matt. 25:19-28. The master returns!

          1. One servant makes a million and the other servant 
          "only" makes 500,000. Does that matter? (No. Absolute
          equality in result is not required (because not everyone
          starts out with the same "resources").  Instead, Jesus
          rewards both equally because they were both developing
          all their resources.)

          2. Remember we started out saying these are parables that
          describe the second coming? The returned master says to
          these two servants "I will put you in charge of many
          things." What does that tell us about heaven? (It tells
          us first that heaven is real life.  No floating on
          clouds. We have activities to keep us occupied and
          challenged.  Second, it tells us that what we do here has
          an impact upon our level of "authority" in heaven. Third,
          it tells us that our level of "authority" in heaven does
          not turn on the number of talents we were born with
          here.)

          3. What does "Mr. Digger," the one talent man, have to
          say for himself?

               a. Who is to blame for his failure to produce? Our
               lesson (Monday) says the servant was fearful. 
               Maybe he has a "condition" that makes him fearful
               of risk-taking?  Maybe the master should have known
               his servants better and not given this fearful
               fellow any responsibility?  (Nothing has changed in
               2000 years!  Mr. Digger's failure, according to
               Digger, is the master's fault!)

               b. Does the master say,"I'm sorry Mr. Digger, you
               are completely right about your condition.  I
               should not have put you in such a position?" (v.26:
               "You wicked, lazy servant.")

          4. Notice in v.26 the Master seems to admit the
          criticisms that Digger has made of Him. What is the
          Master's point of saying "I harvest where I have not
          shown?" (Digger knew his obligations.)

          5. The Master says that Digger could have put his money
          on deposit in the bank and earned interest.  Would that
          have been "good enough?"

               a. Would a banking deposit avoid the label "lazy?"

               b. How about "wicked?" (The master could have left
               his money with a banker and gotten interest. 
               Therefore, Digger really lost the Master money by
               putting it in a hole. He was, as a practical
               matter, stealing from his Master.)

     E. This is a parable about us. What is todays equivalent of:

          1. Digging a hole and putting the money in it?

          2. Depositing the money with bankers?

          3. Getting a 100% return?
          
(Digging a hole means you do nothing with your talents. Depositing
with bankers is the equivalent of giving your money to allow others
to do the work.  It is essentially passive. A 100% return means
that you are personally involved (now -- v.16) in advancing the
kingdom with your time and money.  You do not care that the "Boss"
is out of the "office" and has not yet landed!)

     F. Reread v. 28 and add v. 29 & 30. The final verses are 
     killers.  

          1. Is the one talent guy saved? (No. He clearly misses
          heaven.)
          
          2. Digger's one talent gets given to the five (now ten)
          talent guy. How does that happen? (Once again, this seems
          to give us an insight into heaven.  Those who have
          talents here, but do not use them for the Lord, will be
          lost.  But those who use their talents here will have
          more of them in heaven!)

     G. Let's talk just a moment about where you have set your 
     sights.  Assume we all lived in some 3rd world country and
     none of us had cars.  We walked everywhere. We were told that
     if we worked hard, we would all get cars.  Even better, and
     more unbelievable, we are told that we will have our car for
     life!  No more walking! Our "sights" would be set on a car --
     any car, right?

          1. What if I told you that some of the cars were Yugos,
          some were Pintos, some were Ladas, some were Mercedes,
          Lincolns and Cadillacs.  If you are talking about a car
          for life!, does it make a difference?

          2. I think we need to raise our sights. Instead of 
          saying, "I just hope I make it (to heaven)," we should
          say, "I have assurance of salvation, my goal now is to
          get to heaven with as many talents as possible! By
          putting myself last now, I will be first then.")

               a. Do you feel uneasy about talking about being 
               "first" in heaven? (If you do, tell me you feel
               uneasy about being promoted at work and I might
               believe you are sincere.)

               b. Is this little talk inconsistent with appears to
               be an equal reward in vv. 21 & 23? (Perhaps.
               Consider this. Both the 2 and 5 talent guys were
               entrusted with "charge of many things."  The Master
               does not specify what "many" means in each case. 
               However, v.28 specifically gives the one talent to
               (the now) ten talent guy.  He does not split it
               with Mr. 4 talent.)

II. THE CLEVER SERVANT

     A. Turn with me to Luke 16. Read vv.1-2. What is the charge
     against the manager? (Wasted employer's possessions.)

          1. Was it true? (Seems he was told the outcome of the 
          "hearing" before it was held.)

     B. Read v.3.  What kind of life had this manager led? (He was
     an office worker!  A "proud" office worker.)

     C. What would you do if faced with these circumstances?

     D. Let's read what our manager did. Read vv.5-7.

          1. What do you think of this approach?

          2. Remember, these were outstanding bills. Is there any
          merit to this approach? 

               a. Why did he say (v.6) "sit down quickly" and 
               redraft your bill)? (Without the consent of the
               employer, this kind of deal-making is dishonest. 
               However, he probably got the bill paid.  His real
               goal though, was to advance his own interests.)
     
     E. Read vv. 8-9. The Bible clearly tells us that what this 
     manager did was dishonest.  Yet Jesus says that the owner
     "commended" the dishonest manager. What is going on here?

          1. Why would Jesus tell this story of all things?

     F. Our Pastor is a planner.  He has all sorts of ideas.  
     While I was on vacation I read an article that attacked
     detailed planning and suggested that simply focusing on
     preaching and a relationship with the members was the key. 
     Another article I read spoke of having the church avoiding the
     kind of "marketing" approach used by the world.

          1. What does this parable say about planning? (This story
          is "exhibit A" for putting together the very best plans
          to promote the kingdom.)

          2. How do we use "worldly wealth" to "gain friends" so we
          will be welcomed into heaven?

          3. Would "Digger" like this story? After all, this 
          manager was called "dishonest." (Digger was "wicked.")
          (This story says that we should use our money to promote
          the kingdom -- just like the five talent man.  More to
          the point, we should use our brains as much as possible
          to work most efficiently.)

III. NEXT WEEK: "True Love." The parable of the Good Samaritan.
Study!