By the time Bobby arrived, the football game had already started. “Why are you so late?” his friend asked. “I couldn’t decide between going to church and coming to the football game. So I tossed a coin.” Bobby replied. “Well that shouldn’t have taken you so long.” said his friend. “Well, I had to toss it 35 times.”
Besides looking at how he made his choice, there’s likely a message there about the odds of gambling.
Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew is about things we all know about – taking stock of what we value , how we choose our actions, taking risks, and God’s love.
The parable of the Talents is considered one of the difficult parables. Parables were a common form of storytelling & wisdom in Jesus’ time. The idea was for the listener to think about the meanings contained in the story. Who was the parable about and what lessons could be learned?
Some scholars point out that the talents are the special abilities we have. We all know people who can do everything well from sports to academics and the arts. We also know that if we are gifted in any aspect of our life, we are expected to use it and develop it to the best of our ability.
On a personal note, as a child, my mother and grandmother tried valiantly to teach me the crafts girls learned. I was a disaster – crocheting, knitting, and other crafts never turned out right. When one of our dear parishioners, Pam Scott, came to a camp I was directing at Artaban and assigned everyone, including me, to weave a basket. I tried to explain this was not a ‘talent I had”– but to no avail. My basket became a source of humour. Knowing I probably wouldn’t finish the project, Pam’s assistant took charge and finished my basket.
Pam gently mentioned, I should have done it myself even if it was rather odd looking. She was right. My sense of relief that the basket was done, faded as I realized I had no sense of accomplishment like those who had taken the risk and completed their baskets.
A second interpretation of this parable has to do with the language used.
The word ‘talent’ in Hebrew has a different meaning than our common understanding. In this parable, ‘talent’ has to do with weight. The value of a talent at the time of Jesus Christ would be as much as a labourer would earn for 15 years of hard work. On the surface, this story is about a large sum of money and a huge weight of gold.
Each servant was given the opportunity to have the talents grow financially. Two took a risk and invested the talents. The third servant buried his talent, afraid to take the risk – fear of failure, fear of losing the investment, afraid he would be punished.
People are like these three servants. Some will take a risk, even if it means change in their lives. We can embrace change or resist it. The choice is ours.
In this parable, however, Jesus is not just talking about risk and change in a material sense. He is challenging his followers to deepen their faith journey with God.
There can be no faith or religion without adventure —- without risk.
A Christian’s ongoing responsibility is to engage in mutual encouragement, as Paul instructed in his Letter to the Thessalonians. We must support and build-up one another. We cannot live like an island adrift in a sea. We are called to be the people of God, a community of believers. Our well-being depends on supporting and uplifting each other.
We are urged to expand our material talents – personal abilities and financial means by using them in the service of God and our fellow citizens. Our talents increase precisely in the measure they are given away.
The third servant completely misunderstood the value of using the talent – personally and financially. He missed the awesomeness of God’s love. God’s divine wealth is like the talent – it is valuable and it is heavy. Our response to God’s divine love can be compared to these three servants – the risk of accepting it and letting it grow by serving others from family and friends to strangers here at home and around the world.
If we try to keep God’s love for ourselves, clinging to it as a possession, it will disappear. Our personal and community faith journey with Jesus Christ should be our most valued possession. We are empowered to share our faith, our wealth, our abilities, knowing God is with us, loving us in everything we do.
We are on a mission for God for the common good. Jesus Christ, as light for the world, has given us the prime example of laying down his life for the good of all people. Christians cannot be exclusive. Oh yes, it is tempting, but should never be ‘who we are.’ We must be open-hearted and openhanded if we believe in our destiny as the people of God.
This parable challenges us to take the adventure – dare to risk, encouraging others as they walk their faith journey with Christ.
Remember, unlike the landowner in the parable, Jesus Christ never leaves us.
God’s love comforts, empowers, nurtures, and challenges us.
Let’s expand our horizons – knowing we are encompassed by God’s divine love through the power of God’s Holy Spirit.