Gospel of Matthew 25:13-40
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
The more we recognize God’s grace and mercy, the more we allow God’s grace and mercy to flow into us. God’s grace touches our thoughts, our emotions, our will, our physical body, and our relationships. We are shaped and reshaped by God’s grace for us. Which then, gives us the courage and freedom to live that grace out into our world.
This parable is a story about a landowner who is about to go on a trip. Before he goes, he entrusts, “graces,” his wealth to three men. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one. Then he goes away.
The story tells us that the one who received five talents traded and re-traded them, earning five more talents. In the same way, the one with two talents made two more. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s wealth.
Today, when we hear the word talent, we think of a special ability, musical, athletic, intellect, or something that one has not had to work for or to develop. That meaning came into the English language through this parable. In Jesus’ day, a talent was a measurement of weight. It had nothing to do with abilities.
A talent was the heaviest weight in the Hebrew system of weights and measures. It represented the full weight a man could carry. In time, a talent became a sum of money, about 6000 denarii. One denarius was a day’s wage. 6000 denarii would represent 19 years of wages. In today’s dollars, a single talent would approach a value of 1.5 million dollars. In this parable, the first person received the equivalent of 7.5 million dollars, the next 3 million, and the last 1.5 million.
After a long time, the master returned and summoned his servants to make an account of how they had dealt with his wealth. The first servant gave him 10 talents and the second gave him four. They had doubled the share of their master’s wealth. To them he said, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
Upon hearing that the third servant who gave back only what he had been given, caused the master to go into a rage, calling him a “wicked and lazy slave.”
What differentiates the third servant from the other two? Fear. The third one clearly states, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.” The third servant saw the master as a ruthless taskmaster and behaved accordingly. He saw the master as such and in the end, was treated as such. “As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness.”
The moral of the story is that you better make good use of your talents. This is how this parable is often heard. Good works are rewarded! We are rewarded for good behaviour. If you do not use your talent, it will be taken away. Something I heard growing up in the church.
So, how do we make sense of this parable then so that we too are not locked in fear? Or, thinking we have to do good works to earn God’s favour?
Fear is a great motivator. Fear says, “Do this or else.” Churches have been very good at using fear to motivate people to come to church and then keep them coming. The fear of hell, or divine punishment, has brought in and has kept many in the pews. Fear is a great motivator, but it is opposed to the Good News of Jesus. We ought to come to church as a response to God’s grace and mercy for us.
This parable shows how debilitating fear is on one’s ability to live freely in the world. The third servant acted out of fear. This servant’s understanding of his master was, “I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid.” Out of fear of how he viewed his master paralyzed him to action. That is what fear does. Fear keeps us turned inward. We become self-centered and protective.
The first two servants freely used their abilities to trade and re-trade their master’s talents and therefore, expanded their master’s wealth. They saw themselves as being empowered to go out and trade, thus taking risks with the confidence of their master. As a result, they were brought into the joy of their master. They freely lived out their abilities as a response to the graciousness of their master. Being entrusted with their master’s wealth was an act of grace.
How we understand God to be and how we view God, directly effects how we will live our lives. If we see God as angry, vengeful, and punishing, then we will live our lives accordingly. We will be like the third servant. We will not see that God has given us any gifts, talents, or blessings, let alone the freedom to live them out.
If we understand our God to be a benevolent God. If we understand that God has our best interest at heart and wants us to have an abundant life, then we will live that grace and freedom out. We will live our lives accordingly. We will know God’s grace and mercy for us, and then live that grace and mercy out for others.
Our belief about God shapes our expectations of God. Even more, each of us has a clear, if often unspoken, expectation of God that shapes our experience of God. To put it another way, I think each of us carries with us a picture of God - and our experience of God rarely strays very far from that picture.
My sisters and brothers, our God is a benevolent God, who loves you, accepts you, believes in you, trusts you, and invites you into the joy of living your life with courage, compassion, and confidence.
Receive the Lord’s Blessing
May the sure and certain hope of the resurrection through our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and encourage you.
May the God of all consolation comfort your hearts,
may you know the unforced rhythms of God’s grace,
may you be at peace knowing Jesus’ presence beside you,
may you stand firm in the Spirit’s promise that as beloved children of God, you are not alone.