14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.
16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Here we are with one of those tricky parables of Jesus again!
What many find disturbing about this parable is the harshness of the judgment against the third slave. Is this the type of God we worship — a God who rewards the rich and makes them richer and condemns the poor, only making them poorer?
The way we hear this parable is something like this:
As he departs for a long journey a master calls in his servants and gives each servant an amount of money.
- Some servants use the money to make more money. One servant does not. He buries the money.
- After a very long time, the master returns to square everything up with each of his servants.
- Some servants get the master’s approval. They were trustworthy in the way they used the gifts given, and so, they now have authority over greater things.
- One servant can only live in fear of the master. He cannot use what he has been given. He buries what he has been given out of fear of the master’s judgement on him.
- He is dealt with very harshly by the master. He is stripped of what he had been given by the master and thrown out of the family!
The message we hear? We have been given a lot by the Lord and so we better get on and use it well unless this angry master throws us out of his family when he returns!
Not surprisingly, this this parable has been often used in stewardship campaigns! It has been used to show that a faithful response to the Lord’s grace in our lives involves the creative, daring, and successful use of our time, talents and treasures for the kingdom’s sake.
Surely this is a big part of Jesus’ message here. We indeed have been given much and we are called to daringly use what the Lord has given us as wisely, generously and carefully as we can so the good news is advanced.
But there may be more to Jesus’ message here – more than a fearful “try harder” message.
What is initially striking in this parable is the superabundance of gifts. A talent is a vast sum of money. Vast gifts are generously distributed to the servants, though in different amounts. The master entrusts his wealth to his servants.
Surely the master is the one taking the most risk! Fancy entrusting everything you own to your workers, giving them huge sums of money to use as you take go on a long journey. There is no guarantee that there will be anything left when you return!
Not only is the master trusting them with his wealth, he does so over a long period of time. The master is very patient here. This is probably a journey of months, if not years. He gives abundance of gifts and abundance of time for his servants to grow in trustworthiness with what he has given them.
Could it be that this master has given his servants everything he has and given them the very longest time to work with the gifts he has given – to learn faithfulness and the wise use of his gifts for his benefit and theirs? See how the three servants are already participating, in a yet incomplete fashion, in the life of their master. The master has invited them into his wealth, his land, his security, his life. He has opened up his life to them and entrusted them with himself and everything he is.
This is Jesus speaking. He has given us a superabundance of grace that is continually offered and renewed in us by his Word. Like the servants, we are being called to live in the joy of the Master. Jesus is offering us everything he has.
Being a Christian is joy. We are in the joy of being alive in him and with him – not to mention joy in being like him – self-giving, serving, loving, working while it is still day.
In this sense the interest gained on the talents is like the hundred-fold that the disciple receives when he or she gives everything away to follow Jesus. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:29).
And friends, here’s the thing – The wise use of his gifts, is not a burden or a fearful endeavour but the very opposite. Serving is the joy of life in which everything is given to us and then given away by us (the gift and the interest!).
I see this joy at St Petri. I heard it spoken of again this week – testimony given about the generosity, bravery, faithful care and daring love of one to another in the worst of times for some. We thank the Lord for his multiple and overflowing gifts of life and grace.
But what then can be said about the third servant? The third servant has not only hidden the talent, he has buried himself. The third servant is not so much condemned as he condemns himself to a place — a life — that knows no joy, a place in which he knows only darkness and wailing and grinding of teeth; a place of self-interest, lack of trust that breeds a lack of vision and little hope and so no joy. This place, this kind of life, is self-created.
Friend, you have everything he is and we have the opportunities to live, practicing super abundance of giving, living, loving, hoping, serving, speaking of this Jesus whom we know and love because he knows and loves us and lavishes on us the great self-giving love of our heavenly Father on us.
Let’s continue to invest ourselves in the economy of Jesus – live with shares in his grace company, distribute his wealth open-handedly with daring grace – and all in the joy of the risen Jesus. Through our trustworthy use of his abundant gifts there will be less gnashing of teeth, less fear, less foolishness in our community – and more joy – joy in the superabundant hope and love of Jesus Christ.