The Gospel passage this week is Jesus’ parable of the talents. Throughout history this has been a challenging parable to explain. What does it mean for us today? Let us start by reading Jesus’ words again and trying to hear them in our mind.
14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Who does the useless servant represent? Scholars agree that the useless servant stands for the Scribes and the Pharisees and for the way that they treat the Law that they have received. The whole aim of the Pharisees was to keep the Law exactly as it was. They wanted to “build a fence around the Law”. They did not want any development, any growth or anything new. Jesus is saying that faith is about taking risks; faith is about adventure; faith is about giving out to others and not keeping everything safe and hidden. But, once again, there are other, more universal messages to this story. Firstly, it may suggest that God gives people different gifts. It does not matter how much of a gift you have but rather how you use it. Secondly, the reward for work well done is not rest but more work. Sometimes we do not see work as a reward but as a punishment. For God, work is good and a gift. Thirdly the story tells us that the worst you can do is not try. The servant who is punished is the one who did not try. The real sin is not falling but refusing to get back up again and keep going. Finally, to develop our service in the Kingdom of God, we need to exercise the God-given talents we have received. If you never use your talents, you will find one day that they have gone. “Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” The more we exercise our gifts the more we will improve and be of greater service in God’s Kingdom.
Old Testament reading for this week: Judges 4:1-7
Gospel reading for this week: Matthew 25:14-30
Epistle reading for this week: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Psalm for this week: Psalm 123