“I will put you in charge of larger affairs. Come share your master’s joy!”
Talent, as we use the word today, refers to natural ability and aptitude. In the parable, a talent was a weight of money worth a thousand or so dollars. We could best interpret the meaning of talent in this parable as opportunities to manifest the grace of God in an effort to make present the Kingdom of God. These opportunities are to be highly valued and we should not turn away from them.
As in the parable, where five talents were given to the person of more ability and two to the one of somewhat lesser ability, the dimension of these opportunities to demonstrate the Grace of God vary according to our abilities. We might note a Billy Graham or a Mother Theresa as persons of five talent ability. Thus they were given five talent opportunities. They were chosen to demonstrate God’s grace on an international scale. In this they proved faithful. There are few people who have the ability to be granted five talent opportunities.
We could probably name quite a few more people who are on the two talent level. Perhaps a notable teacher, a good bishop, a caring pastor, a bold community organizer. They probably will not go down in the world’s history books, but they have made it into ours because of the deep impact they have had in our lives. They were faithful in fulfilling the opportunity God gave them to impart grace and bring assistance to us. Most of us, however, are certainly not five talent people nor even two; we are one talent people. In that there is no shame for that is the purpose to which we were born. We are the religious studies teachers, the counselors, the musicians, the mothers and fathers, the social activists, the volunteers at the soup kitchen. We are your average, everyday, faithful, day-by-day Christians who smile at our neighbors and try to witness to Christ’s presence in our everyday life, at home and at work.
When it comes to talents there is great diversity both in capacity and opportunity, but the key word is faithfulness. The servant who received five and the servant who received two each were given the same reward — increased responsibility and joy. The reward is in the degree of faithfulness. Equal faithfulness brings equal reward. And if we with our one talent are equally faithful as those with five or two, we will be equally rewarded. We one talenters will sit side by side with the Billy Grahams and the Mother Theresas of Christian history as we joyfully feast at the Kingdom table. It is not according to ability or opportunity that we are rewarded, for both of those are gifts of God and outside of our control. It is according to our faithfulness in cultivating our abilities and seizing the opportunities that we are rewarded.
Unfortunately, many of us hide our talent. Like the servant in the parable who buried his one talent in the ground, we do not seize the opportunities given to us to manifest God’s grace. Some of us hide our talents in earthly pleasures, earthly possessions, earthly ambitions, which can and often do cover up the graced opportunities God has given. We hide our talents by not taking the necessary risks associated with making our witness known. We are afraid of what others will think if we are more visibly Christian. We hesitate to volunteer for a task in our Faith Community or at a local outreach because we are afraid we might not do it just right. In our pride, we fear being viewed as less than perfect in the eyes of others so we don’t do anything that could draw complaint or criticism. Some of us are simply so insecure about the little we have that we are ashamed to use our talent. But we should remember that the amount of the talents has nothing to do with either the reward or our value. Rather it is the faithfulness. We should use our little, not worrying about what others will say. “There goes good old Jim again, setting up the chairs, doesn’t ever say much but at least he’s dependable.” Great! God will look at your faithfulness and give you increase. If we are faithful in a little, we will receive more, more joy and more responsibility, not just in the hereafter but now. We can have great confidence in using our talents whether five, two or one, for God will bless our efforts. He is the master who can reap where he does not sow and gather where he does not scatter…if we will only be faithful to do our part.
Thirty-Third Sunday Prv. 31; I Thes. 5: 1-6; Mt. 25: 14-30
Peace Connections: Making the connection between the Sunday Readings and issues of peace and justice. Copyright 1995, by Thomas L. Garlitz. “Not for profit” permission to reprint granted.