(for the Twenty-Third 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 25:13-20. NRSV).
Another parable. Jesus clearly wants his listeners mulling over the nature of the kingdom as he nears the events of that first Easter.
Like the bridegroom in the story immediately prior this story also opens with one who is absent. Two stories. Two masters who are elsewhere. Two returns with less than precise timing. A theme is emerging.
And like the account of the bridesmaids there is again a sense of active waiting. There is no purposeless waiting. The servants are summoned and given takes.
The master clearly holds each of these in some regard: he gives cash with little instruction. Truly each slave is ‘entrusted’.
And along with this comes expectation. Upon the mater’s return the accounts are once again settled: the one with five returned ten; the one with two, four. They are generously rewarded.
The pattern is disrupted, however, when the third slave presents. He can only confess: he believed the master to be harsh; he was ‘afraid’; he hid his coin.
This is not good waiting. It is ‘lazy’ waiting. His single talent and precarious position are both taken.
The Master’s summary is sobering: ‘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.’
Whatever you have comes from God and is only well invested in the kingdom of heaven.