It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ [Then] the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
“A man … called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.”
There’s a reason Jesus begins this parable this way. It’s a reminder that nothing we have is our own. It’s all a gift from God. Knowing where grace originates helps us avoid a sense of entitlement, but it also should fill us with gratitude. God has blessed us with so much; we simply have to make use of all that he has entrusted to us in order to share in his joy. The faithful servants in this parable acted in gratitude, and in doing so received more blessings. How can we use the blessings God gave us to build up his kingdom.
“Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Are these not the words we hope to hear one day in heaven? After a long life of fighting the good fight to the end, confessing our sins, and surrendering to God so he may use our life for his kingdom, a faithful Christian hopes to hear the words the master in this parable speaks to his faithful servants. Does this make these servants blind and vain followers who just want to please their master and be labeled “good”? If so, their hearts are in the wrong place. But if we know where the graces come from in the first place, what we are seeing in this parable is a constant flow of love and gratitude between the master and servants.
“Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.”
While the master of the talents is rewarding the faithful servants, he is also requiring more of them. This parable is in many ways parallel to Christ’s words in Luke 12:31-48, where he speaks of the servant who stayed awake while his master was away. Regarding such servants, he says, “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required” (Luke 12:48).
The master later tells his faithful servants to come and share in his joy. There is no indication of reward except the reward of further responsibilities. When we read this, we may be imagining the master’s joy as great banquets, better wages, or maybe vacation time. But Jesus’ parable makes no mention of anything like that. To the servant who is faithful, who loves his master and wants to serve him, greater responsibilities are the reward. The faithful servants want to selflessly empty out the talents given to them for the benefit of others. Sharing in the master’s joy means distributing his talents and joy to others, not keeping them for themselves.
“Master, I knew you were a demanding person.”
In contrast to the faithful servants, there is the servant with one talent. His words may leave us suspicious. At the very least his heart is in the wrong place. What a temptation it is to see God as merely a demanding master. We have all fallen into this trap of the devil. Is it not akin to the way the serpent deceived Adam and Eve? The serpent tricked them into believing God was giving them a needless demand, and preventing them from seeing the love behind the demand. When God asked if they ate the forbidden fruit, they hid in fear.
When love is not the root of our obedience, fear creeps in and takes over. Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Without love, our master’s demands become nothing but subversions of our freedom. We then fear those demands, and what would happen to us if we did not fulfill them. So we hold onto what we have more closely, and hoard our blessings rather than sharing them. The unfaithful servant’s error is rooted in fear.
A light is not supposed to be hidden under a bushel (Matthew 15:15). Are we letting our gifts from God waste away for fear of what may come of them?
“Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.”
The master’s decision here may seem unjust. It may sound like the master is stealing from the poor and giving to the rich. But what is really going on here? We know the servant with the one talent saw his master as a “demanding person”. It’s fair to assume he did not love his master, and did not serve his master out of love. In fact, if we see this parable as a parallel to Jesus’ parable in Luke 12, as mentioned above, it’s also fair to assume that the servant with one talent did not tend to his duties much or at all. One could fairly infer that his words to the master once he returned were just his attempt to cover up his unfaithful behavior while the master was gone.
What desire would such a servant have in taking on new responsibilities from his master, as the other servants did after proving their faithfulness? His squandering of his responsibilities indicates that he had little desire to serve his master anyway.
“For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich.”
In this parable we see that to serve is to reign. The more faithful the servants proved to be, the more opportunities they were given to serve. The servant who listened only in fear was relinquished of his duties. Since he did not serve his master out of love, but only did so out of fear, taking the one talent from him and relinquishing him of his duties was a kind of mercy.
One can imagine this servant looking elsewhere for what he truly desired, and perhaps returning later like the Prodigal Son once he notices that his original master only wanted him to sincerely value his grace. Returning in gratitude, we can imagine this servant rightfully embracing his master’s grace and producing at least one more talent with the one his master gives him.
Dear Lord, my master, you have blessed me with so much. How can I show my gratitude? Invest your grace in me, so that my life can produce more fruit with every blessing you give me. I am here to serve you. My life is yours. I surrender all to you. If I can share with others the infinite outpouring of your love through my life, that alone will fill me with the greatest joy possible on earth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
What is God saying to you in this week’s Gospel? Perhaps he has blessed you with something, but you don’t know how to use it to give him greater glory. Are you waiting for the right moment to share your gifts with the world? God may be calling you to share them with others today. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 15:16).