Scripture Readings: Proverbs 31.10-13,19-20, 30-31; 1 Thessalonians 5.1-6; Matthew 25.14-30
A man going on a journey summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them, according to the abilities of each. To one, he gave five talents; to a second, he gave two talents; to a third, one talent. Immediately the servant who received five talents invested them and made another five. In the same way, the servant who received two talents doubled the figure. The servant who received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and buried the master’s money. After a long absence, the master came home. – Matthew 15.14-18
From the start Sunday’s gospel is a parable of judgment. Matthew’s gospel has three judgment parables in chapter 25–the wise and foolish girls (last Sunday), the talents, and the works of mercy (next Sunday). The parables anticipate Jesus will come in glory and judgment at some time and urge us to active faith.
In the parable of the talents the master sizes up his servants and entrusts his property to them according to their ability. Indeed the industrious and reliable first servant and the good and trustworthy second servant double their talents, advance to larger affairs, and share the master’s joy when he returns. The third servant buries his single talent and blames his master. Out of fear of his master’s harshness the third servants has done nothing with it. The master has no sympathy with the man’s fear and casts him out of the community of joy into which he welcomed the other two.
One talent is equivalent to 6,000 denari. One denarius was a day’s wage in Jesus’ time. The five talents the first servant receives would take 85 years for an ordinary laborer to earn. The master has not given the servants a pittance to trust their trustworthiness.
The priceless windfall each of us has received is life itself, our unique gifts, and family and friends whose lives we share. Our ancestors invested in relationships and efforts that have brought us to be. Jesus invested his life in the human race, opening to us all we can become in God. How do we use these extravagant down payments on ourselves?
With whom in the parable do you identify–the servants who risk their talents or the one whose fear paralyzes him? What gifts and talents are yours to put to work in our fractured society today?