New Monkland and Greengairs Parish Church


The Parable of The Talents

“Well done, good and faithful servant!
You have been faithful with a few things;
I will put you in charge of many things.
Come and share your master’s happiness.”

St. Matthew 25:23.
Imagine, if you will, a scene where the work has been completed and the time of reckoning has come. Each worker has some accounting to do; their actions are under scrutiny as they try to gain the boss’ approval. It’s a moment of drama before those all important words are uttered: “You’re Fired!” I couldn’t help thinking of the boardroom when I was working on this passage from Matthew’s gospel this week. Here we have the Master settling his accounts, he’s reviewing the performance of his workers (who were probably servants), and the outcome brings joy for some and real loss for others. But before we jump to the end, we need to set the scene. Jesus is teaching His disciples, preparing them for the time when He is no longer with them physically. They’ve had Jesus with them for three years, but now it’s the last week before the Cross, and after that, the Resurrection (when Jesus is raised to new life) and the Ascension (when Jesus returns to the Father’s side in heaven). Jesus is reminding them that one day He will return - His coming is certain - but what should they be doing in the meantime? How should we live between the Ascension and His return?

So today’s parable introduces us to a man who is setting off on a journey. He’s disappearing from the scene, and before he does, he puts everything in order. Now, this is a parable told by Jesus and most parables often have spiritual counterparts. Jesus is clearly the departing “Master” in this story. In the parable, the Master is making the arrangements you need to make before you set off on holiday - someone to water the plants and feed the budgie. The master also entrusts his very significant property interests to his servants while he is away. It’s still his, but they have the use of it for him. And it’s round about here that we sometimes run into difficulties. This is the “Parable of the Talents” - and as soon as we hear the word “talent” we might think of Britain’s Got Talent, or some special ability. But the “talent” here is an amount of money. In fact, one “talent” is the equivalent of a heck of an amount of money. The “Master” in the parable gives out the amounts to his servants: Five talents; Two talents; and One talent; and because Christ employs the picture of a huge amount of money here, I think that He is talking about much more than just physical possessions; there is much more in view here than just your bottom line. The spiritual counterpart to the “talents” is that every Christian is unbelievably rich. We are all spiritual billionaires; when we believe in Jesus for eternal life, we hit the spiritual jackpot. In the same way that the Master in the parable left his servants to look after his precious possessions, so Jesus has left His disciples to get on with His work, entrusting each one with His property, giving grace to each of us. The work of building the Kingdom and spreading the Good News continues unabated, as we wait for His return. But, back to the parable and fast forward to the “boardroom scene”. The “Master” returns, it’s time for the accounts to be reviewed. The first servant has used those five talents, traded with them, invested them, and has made five more talents; he’s doubled his master’s money and he’s greeted with a resounding answer:
“Well done, good and faithful servant!
You have been faithful with a few things;
I will put you in charge of many things.
Come and share your master’s happiness.”

And it’s the same for the second servant. Remember him? He had received two talents, and now, he has two more! The same response, the same welcome, in the exact same words greets him:

“Well done, good and faithful servant!
You have been faithful with a few things;
I will put you in charge of many things.
Come and share your master’s happiness.”

The “Master” is delighted with their work; they have both been “good and faithful’; they have pleased their Master, and he brings them “into his happiness”. You see, it’s not about doing the same as someone else - one had five, the other had two, yet they both heard the same words. They were faithful with what they had been given. They got on with the work they had been entrusted by their master, so that faithfulness in small things brings the reward of being entrusted with more.

Have you ever had to give a presentation after other people and you get more nervous as time goes on, after hearing how they have been so great, and you haven’t really prepared and you think it’s going to go badly? Or perhaps you’re opening that results envelope after your friends have been opened theirs. Eventually it’s the turn of the “one talent” servant. Rather than saying what he has done with the money, he rounds on the master: “Master, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.” This servant has received this amazing trust, he was trusted with a vast amount of money - a very generous act, yet he turns on the master and accuses him of being harsh; so he simply buried the talent and now gives it back untouched, unused, unloved. He thinks he’s being safe, not losing or wasting the talent. But he never used it, he didn’t put it to work - not even to gain some interest from the bank. Far from being faithful, the master calls him for what he is: “You wicked lazy servant!” What a tragedy it is to receive so much from the master, and just to bury it deep and never use it to good effect. This servant thought that it didn’t matter how he got on while the master was absent - he didn’t need to worry about working. But on the accounting day that servant loses even what he has, and is thrown into the outer darkness, where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth”!

What are we to make of that story? Well, we’re clearly being told that Jesus is calling us to work faithfully for Him as we look towards His return. Could this be the right time to think about how we’re getting on; how we’re working to bring in the Kingdom? How do we view our “Master”, in that, if we were to be asked - what would you say Jesus is like? The last servant in the parable thought the master was harsh, cruel, exacting. Is our Christian life the same - just a dull and dreary duty? Or are we filled with awe and wonder as we recognise the master’s grace and generosity? When you think of how much Jesus has given us; He has left us with the task of being His body, the Church, in this generation and passing on the Good News to the next - who will really need to hear it.

Just as there were different amounts of “talents”, so there are different jobs and tasks and opportunities for each of us. Wherever we are in life, and whatever we are given, we have no excuse to be unprofitable. No matter what our opportunities we have, we are called to be responsible with them. Mark Twain said: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Maybe today, after all these years, is your “find-out-why” day. Is there the possibility do you think, that you were born to use your God-given gifts, that each of you have in abundance, to work for the inbringing of the Kingdom of God? Don’t forget what we’re really for - as Christians our high and holy calling is help people live this life more fully, more richly, more generously, in anticipation of the next. We’re to work to build faithfulness and good will as a daily commitment in our lives As we rejoice in the grace gifts of our Master, Jesus Christ, so we’ll work for Him with all our heart and soul, seeking to do our best in His service. Look forward, then, and imagine that glorious moment when you hear the “well done, you good and faithful servant” - it will all be worth it, to share our Master’s happiness.

Let’s Pray

Almighty God, You sent Your Son Jesus Christ to be the light of the world. Free us from all that darkens and ensnares us, and bring us to eternal light and joy; This we pray through the power of Him who is alive and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit. One God, in glory everlasting;

Amen.
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