The Parable of The Talents, found in Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-28, is one of the most fascinating stories told by Our Lord. While many scholars point out that the “talent” described in this story were measure of money, I believe that the common definition of that word which we use today takes this tale to a much deeper, and meaningful, level.
The Basic Story
For those who may not know or have forgotten this story, it begins with a powerful man who is going on a journey, and therefore summons three of his servants, entrusting the first with 5 talents, the second with 2 talents, and the third with 1 talent. The Parable tells us that each servant was given an amount in accordance to his ability. We are also told that each of the first two put their talents to work and doubled their amount but the third, fearful of his master’s reputation and not wanting to risk loss, merely hid his talent and, unlike the other two who presented their master with a profit upon his return, simply gave the master back what had been originally entrusted to him.
I interpret this parable as telling us that our Master, God Almighty, has entrusted each of us with talents and abilities according to our capacities, mission in life, and purpose as decided and outlined by Our Lord. Some of us have many talents, others some, and still others few, but we all bring something to the table in terms of abilities. Now God expects each of us to put our talents to work and create a profit for Him, not for our own selfish motives, nor to win favor in this world. Note that the first two servants each returned to their master their original amount plus a 100% profit. Neither one secretly kept a portion for themselves or saw this amount entrusted to them as some opportunity to gain for themselves. If anything, it seems clear that each of the first two servants only sought to serve their master by doubling his money, which they did. Once the master saw that these two servants had done this, he rewarded them by inviting them to share in their master’s happiness plus promised to entrust greater amounts to each in the future. In other words, the first two servants used the talents given to them to faithfully serve their master and, upon doing this to their best ability, were able to double their master’s original investment in them. In turn, the master rewarded each by welcoming each to partake of his celebration and by promising to give them greater future responsibility.
Likewise, we have each been given certain talents, each according to his or her life purpose and mission, and we are expected to put those talents to work to bring praise and glory to God, who alone is our Eternal Master. When we are judged at the end of time or at our death, we will be expected to show a profit, to prove that we used those talents to bring other and ourselves closer to God. If we are able to show this profit, this return on God’s investment in us, we will each by invited to share in His celebration and be given the responsibility of being considered one of the elect.
Now, what of the third servant? Was he not wise to avoid risking his initial amount which would have been worse than at least returning that amount to his master? While some may argue yes on this question, that is not God’s answer. This is because God does not want us to barely float above water and be content to merely “survive” or “exist” on this earth. He did not give us the gift of life to give us a chance to break even! Neither does He want us to fear Him, not trust Him, and play it safe out of some sort of apprehension about what God might do to us should we fail. This third servant did not trust his master. In fact, his focus was on himself, on preserving his own position rather than risking what he had been given to further his master’s agenda. We have been given talents, but we must not waste or hide them out of some form of fear, apprehension, or mistrust of God, much less a desire to protect our hides. Imagine where Christianity would be today if the Apostles had decided to each cover his own posterior and not take any risks! Imagine if St. Paul had decided not to take any of his critical road trips in furtherance of his faith!
Just as the servants in this parable, we will each be called upon to give an account of what we have done with what we have been given. Most of us will probably not show an enormous profit, but we better show a resolve to use what we have been given to serve our Master. Such an effort demonstrates loyalty, faith, love, and dedication to Our Master, for we will be risking much to serve our Master’s agenda and purpose for our lives. We can no more hide our talents than we can or should hide our faith, especially in a world which constantly pushes us to hide our talents, our faith, and dedication to Christ. Regardless of what we have been given, we are each expected to do our best to turn what we have been given into a profit for Our Lord. This message fits very nicely with the theme of this blog, for we must serve God alone and no other purpose or mission. Regardless of what we have been given or how impressive those talents are, if they are not used to glorify and serve God, they are meaningless and perhaps even harmful to our moral health. Let us each first ask God to help us discover our talents and, then, to use those talents to bring others and ourselves closer to God.
Copyright 2011 Gabriel Garnica