“Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” Matthew 25.28-29.
A man is going on a journey. He entrusts large sums of money to his servants — five talents, two talents and one talent — “each according to his ability” (Matthew 25.14-15). (A talent was 6,000 denarii and a denarius was a day’s wage for a working man, so a talent was about 20 years wages … Jesus loved to use hyperbole to gain attention and make a point!) The first two servants put to work the money with which they have been entrusted and make more money; but the third servant hides what has been entrusted to him in a hole in the ground. On the masters return, he commends the first two servants and promotes them, but he takes the talent that has been entrusted to the third servant and gives it to the firstservant. Does that seem fair? In Luke’s gospel, the evangelist records an occasion when Jesus re-told this parable with minas instead of talents and has the bystanders in the story objecting at the unused mina being given to the one who has most minas (Luke 19.25); but in Mathew’s record which we are looking at this morning, Jesus spells out the principle that is being illustrated — the one who has will be given more, and the one who does not have, will have what he has taken away.
The second part of that principle makes no sense at all, however, unless we go beyond what is there and add words on the lines of “something to show for what he was given” to the word “have” — which is clearly the point of the parable anyway. The one who has something to show for what he was given will be given more, but the one who has nothing to show for what he was given will have what he was given taken away.
In its original context, this story is about Israel and the way she has buried the truth and light with which God had entrusted her, leaving the world around her in error and darkness. Now she will be relieved of that responsibility (it will be given to the church) and that truth will be taken from her. But the parable has a real and clear application for me also.
God has given me truth and light. And he has given me gifts and “talents” (our usage of the word “talent” for a special skill or ability comes from this very parable) that are to be used to propagate the truth and shed the light; and shame on me if I do not use them. All I have been given is “according to my ability” — I have already been empowered to meet all the responsibilities God is placing on me — so I have no excuse for sitting around, doing nothing with what I have got. And there is that awful warning that if I do, what I have been given will be taken away and given to someone else.
Here’s a sobering thought … When I marvel at the ministry of others in God’s church, might I be marvelling at a ministry that would have been mine had I (way back) used a gift I had been given in the way God wanted me to, and with all the dedication and commitment he expected of me?
Help me, Lord, to use to the full this day, in the service of your kingdom, every gift and talent with which you have entrusted me. Amen.