Small Group Curriculum

Changing Lanes in Personal Finance

03.30.14 | Sermon Series: Spent


COACHING VIDEO


SMALL GROUP CURRICULUM (Download PDF)

PREPARATION

Spend the week studying Matthew 25:14-30. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.

Determine which discussion points and questions will work best with your group.

Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their receptivity to God’s Word.

Focus on the Main Point. Everything we have—possession, opportunities, time, talents— has been given to us by God to advance His kingdom. We must recognize that God is the Owner and Giver of everything we have, and we must learn how to be good stewards of all He has given us.

INTRODUCTION

As your group time begins, use this section to help get the conversation going.

Think about some trips you have taken. What preparations did you make before you left?

If you were to go away on a long trip, who would you entrust to look after things for you while you were gone, and why?

This lesson examines a parable about a man who was about to go on a trip. He needed to be sure his property was cared for while he was gone, so he entrusted it to three servants. This parable teaches us to be faithful stewards of everything God has entrusted to us by investing it all in His kingdom.

LEARN

Unpack the biblical text to discover what Scripture says or means about a particular topic.

HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ MATTHEW 25:14-18.

Why is it important to recognize that the master entrusted the servants with his wealth? How does that truth relate to the way we think about God’s blessings in our lives?

Why is the first step to handling money wisely recognizing that all material possessions really belong to God and not to us?

Does it bother you that the three men received different amounts from the master? Why or why not?

This story demonstrates both the generosity of God and the responsibility of His children. God has generously entrusted material possessions to us to spend wisely. Two of the stewards in this story did that, but the third did not. The Bible gives us very practical counsel about how to wisely handle what God has given us.

How did each of the servants handle the talents the master gave them?

“At once” the man with the five talents put them to work (v. 16). “At once” has a sense of urgency and passionate obedience. This was a sign of faithfulness— because he did not know how long his master would be gone, he did not procrastinate. The third servant received one talent (still a lot of money in that culture) because he had some ability to manage resources. But instead of investing it wisely, the third servant dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money (v. 18). He had an opportunity to do something significant, perhaps even doubling his master’s money as the other servants had done. Instead, he buried his talent and waited for his master to return. Not everyone faithfully uses what God has given them.

HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ MATTHEW 25:19-23.

The master gave his servants a long time to work with the talents he had given them (v. 19). God gives us time to develop and make the most of what He’s given us. But we need to put it to work immediately as the first two servants did, and then we need to keep at it. When we fail or our efforts go unappreciated, we must not quit. God will reward faithfulness.

In the process of earning “five more” and “two more,” the servants risked losing some of it. How is it risky to invest in God’s kingdom?

When the master returned and settled accounts with his servants, how did he reward those who had doubled the amount He gave to them?

Notice that comparing servant to servant didn’t happen; instead, the master highlighted what each did with what they had. The master was just as pleased with the servant who had doubled two talents as the one who had doubled five (vv. 21,23). First, the faithful servants received their master’s praise:“Well done, good and faithful servant.”This was the greatest reward. Second, they received greater responsibility:“You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” God rewards faithfulness with increased opportunities for service.

Why is sharing the master’s joy such an awesome reward?

Of the three rewards the faithful servants received, which is the most exciting to you? Why?

What motivates you to invest what God has given you?

HAVE A VOLUNTEER READ MATTHEW 25:24-30

What mistakes did the third servant make?

First, he blamed his actions on his master. For some reason, he concluded his master was cruel and selfish. There is no indication in any part of the parable, especially in the interactions with the other slaves, that these accusations are true. Second, he allowed fear to control him. When fear is dominant, God-honoring decisions are unlikely.

The third servant claimed to know the master (v. 24). Based on his actions, do you think he knew his master as well as he said? Explain.

Do you think it’s common for people to view God as the third servant viewed his master? Explain.

How might the way people see God influence whether or not we invest our lives in God’s kingdom every day?

The third slave claimed he hid his talent in the ground because he feared his master. Lead your group to identify and evaluate excuses we might give for burying our gifts and talents. The biggest opportunity the slave squandered was to know the master.

LIVE

Help your group identify how the truths from the Scripture passage apply directly to their lives. Create some talking points for the group by looking at the practical implications of the lesson. Get group members to talk about the real-life implications of the passage. Look at what can be applied specifically to Pinelake.

Why is it important to recognize that everything we have ultimately belongs to God? How might such a recognition be an important first step in getting control of our finances?

What is one practical step you could take this week toward greater financial faithfulness?

What do you need to change about your attitude or actions, so that Jesus will say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

 LEAD

Help your group identify how the truths from the Scripture passage impact the way you lead at Pinelake and interact with people outside of Pinelake.

What opportunities do you have this week to invest in God’s kingdom?

What talents or gifts have you buried under ground? How might you begin to use that talent or gift to glorify God this week?

How can we, in our group, help each other make wise decisions about money?

PRAY

Thank God for trusting you with material possessions. Pray that you would be good and wise stewards of what He has given you, and that the families represented would live not in bondage to money but in the freedom that comes with wise stewardship.

FOLLOW UP

Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following information:

Questions to consider as they continue to reflect on what they learned this week:

    • Have you spent your money differently this week?
    • Has your attitude toward money changed since this week’s lesson? How so?

The challenge to memorize Matthew 25:21.


COMMENTARY

MATTHEW 25:14-30

25:14-15. Matthew inserted the parable of the talents in a section of other teachings dealing with the consummation of God’s kingdom (24:36–25:46). In the parable of the talents, Jesus challenged His followers to invest all that God has entrusted to them to advance His kingdom. He taught that living in God’s kingdom includes waiting, but it is an active waiting, where people are provided resources by God, are expected to put them to use, and will be judged on their faithfulness. Verse 14 begins with the word for, tying this passage to the previous parable of the 10 virgins (25:1-13). While the King James Version inserts “the kingdom of heaven,” other translations simply have it, pointing back to the “kingdom” of heaven” in verse 1. This parable about the coming kingdom of God deals with a man going on a journey. The master, before traveling, called his servants and entrusted to them his property. During Jesus’ day, wealthy landowners often entrusted their property, possessions, and affairs to their trustworthy servants. These “bond slaves” enjoyed considerable authority and responsibility. The remainder of verses 15 through 18 highlights three important principles regarding the talents God gives to us today. To begin with, God grants resources to all people. The master called three of his servants. Each was given an amount of a financial asset: To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one. A talent originally was used as a measurement of weight (about 75 pounds) before later referring to money. Determining the exact value of a talent is difficult, but certainly it was a very large sum. We should be careful restricting the talent in Jesus’ parable to money or expanding it to refer specifically either to spiritual gifts, natural abilities, the gospel, or anything else. Certainly, these items are assets God gives to further His kingdom, but such attempts may lead to narrowing Jesus’ meaning of the parable. It is actually possible that Jesus intentionally chose the talent because its symbolic meaning can fit various applications. Regardless, the point Jesus made initially was that the master gave each servant something. In the same way, God not only has His plan for His kingdom, but supplies responsibilities and resources to accomplish it. Second, God determines who receives what resources and the amounts. While all of us are equal in terms of our potential to have a relationship with God, this parable suggests that functionally God treats some different from others. This point is made clear by the detail of the master giving the three servants different amounts of resources. They received five, two, and one talent respectively to each according to his ability. The master knew ahead of time the trustworthiness of each servant and acted accordingly. He determined who would receive how much. The same is true with God. He is sovereign, and we are not. In essence, God can do as He pleases, because He is God.

25:16-18. Finally, God expects the assets He provides to be put into use. The master expected that the servants do more with the money than simply hold on to it. He obviously intended they would treat it as he would, utilizing it in such a way that he might receive a gain on his investment when he returned. Two obeyed. One did not. The first two servants wasted no time in obeying the master’s expectation to use their talents. They traded with them, probably setting up some businesses and working to earn more capital on their invested talents. They took a certain amount of risk—they could have lost the money entrusted to them—but reaped reward for their master in doing so. All believers should willingly take wise, faithful risks with their resources so God will provide a return on their investments. The third servant acted in exactly the opposite manner. He went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. By doing so, the servant chose a route that was (1) less work, (2) less time-consuming, and (3) less risky. God grants to each believer a ministry of stewardship based on his or her differing gifts, abilities, and opportunities. We should be eager to serve, quick to act, willing to work, and open (when necessary) to take on tasks that may be risky but can reap great rewards for God’s glory.

25:19-20. This next section of the parable makes another important point about God giving assets: the master returned after a long time. The delay implies that God may allow people a great deal of time to capitalize on the assets He grants to further His interests. The master came and settled accounts with his servants. Using a standard commercial term, Jesus underscored the master’s expectation for the servants to put their talents to use. The slaves given five and two talents demonstrated faithful use of their resources in expectation of increase. Because of their ingenuity, the master rewarded them equally in three ways. The commendation likely would have been the same for the third man had he exercised faithful stewardship. God’s criterion for reward is what we do with what we have, not how much we have or how much we gain.

25:21-23. First, the master commended them. To each he asserted “Well done, good and faithful servant.” No doubt the servants gladly received the master’s commendation. Second, the master gave them greater responsibility. Following the commendation, the master continued, saying to both servants: “You have faithful over a little; I will set you over much.” As a result of their faithfulness to their master, each servant was promised greater opportunity and responsibility in the future. Third, the master invited them: “Enter into the joy of your master.” Both servants heard the same excited injunction to share their master’s joy. This joy was the subjective possession of the master in which he then invited the faithful slaves to participate. Scripture makes clear that all people will face God’s judgment after death (Heb. 9:27). The fate of unbelievers will be based on their failure to repent of sin and receive Jesus as Savior, especially in light of God’s blessing them throughout their everyday lives with gifts of natural abilities and resources. Christians will be judged based on their works for God after experiencing salvation and rewarded accordingly. The rewards given to the faithful slaves provide both a comfort and challenge. We do not act out of an attempt to “earn” our salvation. Rather, out of gratitude for God’s grace and gifts to us, we should strive to hear God pronounce, “Well done,” with respect to our efforts, have Him offer us greater opportunities to further His kingdom and glory, and share in the joy He grants to those exhibiting faithful service.

25:24-25. What about those who don’t act faithfully? We can safely assume the third servant would have heard the same commendation had he exercised faithful service. But he chose to act on fear. So he suffered judgment both for his faithless attitude and bad action. He sought to excuse himself and actually blame the master! He first asserted, Master, I knew you ... but his attitude and actions reveal he did not know his master. Notice the harshness in the third servant’s justification of himself. He first called the master a hard man. “Hard” translates the Greek scleros (we get “arteriosclerosis” from this, which means hardening of the arteries). “Hard” can mean harsh, strong, overbearing, oppressive, cruel, and merciless. He accused his master of greed and exploitation of others by reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed. What might lie behind such an accusation? He did state, I was afraid. Hiding the talent may mean his actions were spiteful. Whether his unfaithful actions were due to an inadequate knowledge of his master, fear, or spite, the master passed judgment on him.

25:26-27. The master identified the man as a wicked and slothful servant! The servant’s problem was both moral and behavioral. He chose this path similar to the way the first two servants chose to behave in ways that were “good and faithful.” Second, the master turned the servant’s words back on him. Be careful not to see the master agreeing with the servant’s assessment of his master’s character. If the servant genuinely believed his master was greedy and exploitative, the servant’s actions still should have been different! By depositing the master’s money in the bank he should have received his money back with interest.

25:28-29. Third, the master declared, Take the talent from him. If he had been upset that another had five talents to his one, imagine the ignominy of now having that single talent given to his perceived rival!

25:30. Fourth, the master pronounced the most severe punishment. This worthless servant was to be thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The expression “weeping and gnashing of teeth” refers to the result of God’s judgment. In addition to verse 30, the expression “weeping and gnashing of teeth” occurs five other times in the Gospel of Matthew (8:12; 13:41- 42; 13:49-50; 22:12- 13; 24:48-51).