A Reflection on Matthew 25:1-13
(for the Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost, November 16, 2014)
‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “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.” And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “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.” Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “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. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:14-30, NRSV)
The above gospel reading continues Jesus’ plea that we live lives in readiness for our returning king.
As he prepares his disciples for the coming Easter events, Jesus is seen setting out a number of stories and teachings on the need to be ready. We have read of the last days; been encouraged by Jesus’ anticipated return, and; are now being offered word pictures of what this readiness will look like.
Clearly the hope of heaven – and all things to do with the end – are designed to impact the way we live in the here-and-now.
The above Jesus-invented story is the third in a series of parables pointing to our need to faithfully watch for this return. The first tells of a slave who mistreats those under him because he believes the master is delayed. The second points to ten bridesmaids of whom only half were appropriately prepared for the wait.
And then there is the parable we have just read. It tells of three lives – two that invested well in anticipation of their returning master and one that invested poorly. I suspect we do well to remind ourselves that all three of these servants rightly anticipated the master’s return. Only two, however, allowed this hope flourish into obedience.
The final servant was motivated – perhaps more accurately paralysed – by a fear of this promised return. Despite the fact that the master’s final words were an empowering giving of that single talent, this servant responds with a crippling concern for his self-preservation and safety. The master has given a task but fear has prevented the appropriate response.
Jesus, it would seem, is pointing us away from a fear-filled waiting – to a truly obedient and active waiting. The final fate here of the fearful, talent-burying, slave is the master’s wrath. His inaction caused his worst fears have come true.
I pray that you who read will be found by our returning king bravely involved in – not fearfully resistant to – the purposes and call of God.