Parable of the Talents

November 1999

Matthew 25:14-30 

This parable is speaking of using what God has given us.  Those who use the gifts God has given them will grow.  Those who pray now, for example, will more likely find in time of need and pain that they can still pray meaningfully.  As is says: To those who already have much, more is given.

We often mis-read this parable.  We treat it like an allegory.  That is, we tend to identify the servant with 5 talents as a good Christian disciple, the one with the one talent as a poor disciple, and the master as Jesus.  If we do this we make Jesus into a monster who casts people into outer darkness. For you see ... the third servant with only one talent was clearly in the right!

The Rabbinic laws said it was quite proper to play it safe and go straight out and bury the master's money so it would not be lost in trading ventures!  This was a time of low inflation!  The third servant played it safe, but what he did was quite legal.  Some would have praised him for his prudence, especially since he had a harsh master.

So, this story is not an allegory.  It is a parable.  A parable is a story told to make a point.  A parable is not a story in which we must identify Jesus or God as one of the characters.

This is the point of the parable of the talents: use what you have been given by God,  because the Kingdom is like this: those who have much will be given more, and those who have nothing will lose what little they have.

We can imagine people asking Jesus what on earth he meant!  It's a hard saying.  And Jesus says, well living for God now, and with God now is a bit like this story about three servants I'm going to tell you.  

Life is like this....  We are given great riches in life, but if we don't use them, we'll lose them!  It may not seem fair.  Life may seem like a harsh master, like the one in this story, and take everything away from us, but that's how life is!  And it's how the Kingdom of heaven is too.  Because the Kingdom of Heaven starts as life with God NOW here on earth.  

God has given us heaps of riches for this life.  But life is 'like a master going away on a journey who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them."  Or maybe we could say life in the kingdom is like the little children's song: Faith is like a muscle, use it and it will grow!

What has God given us?  Faith, hope, love, prayer, knowledge, freedom.  Indeed God has come to us and given us the very self of God through Jesus and in the Holy Spirit.  We little people here on Earth can know God NOW!  That's the gifts or some of them! 

And if we use what we have, we will get more.  Those who pray will find growth through their prayer and more life with God.  Those who use the love God has put in their heart to love others, will find even more love.  To those who have much, even more will be given.

But there always comes a time when life is harsh.  It demands all the gifts we have been given, and all we have gained from their use.  Death of a loved one, illness, unemployment, pain.....   For all those who have to live through them, these things are always hard.  But the one who has been praying and known God, comes through with more help.  Perhaps very scarred.  But surviving.  And even enriched by the scars.  

However, if we have buried the gift of prayer, and never used it, then life and circumstance is a very hard master indeed.  If our faith has been a faith that has 'DUG IN' and never grown or changed or been exercised, then life is a harsh master.  We find in the time of crisis that we have nothing, for we have not prayed.  Prayer has little comfort, for we do not know how to pray.  Life demands a payment we can not give, for we have not used the gifts of the Kingdom.  Jesus stands calling us, arms outstretched in live, and we cannot see or hear to be carried through the crisis.  So we give up on prayer; perhaps we even lose our faith. For those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

Will life be a sometimes hard place, but already with the riches of heaven breaking in upon us,or will it be a harsh master, taking what little we have?  The choice is ours!  Let us use the gifts we have been entrusted with, for it is certain that life will come demanding of us like a harsh master.



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