Matthew 25: 14-30
Speaking literally, a talent is 15 years’ worth of a laborers’ daily wage, according to several sources. So, let’s begin with a little math. Imagine your current monthly income from work, or your monthly social Security check. Lert’s choose a nice round number: $2500 a month. Multiply that by 12, giving you your year’s income: that’s $30,000, and then multiply that by 15. $450,000. That’s one talent.
It’s a pretty big chunk of money, no matter what you start with.
This is the amount of money that the third servant starts with. The second servant starts with twice that amount, or $900,000, and the first servant starts with five times that amount, or $2,250,000. Jesus is making a point here, in his way of telling parables that get your attention: his hearers would be blown away with the amounts of money he’s using, and what’s really interesting, is that the audience is thinking that the third guy is the prudent one.
Think about it-if you were given fifteen times your yearly income in one check, what would you do with it?
Pay bills, right? Maybe buy a treat or two for the ones you love? Get a decent piece of land and build a house? Buy a new car, or pay for your kids or grandkids to go to college, if they’re so inclined? And of course, invest most of it.
Problem is, at the end of the parable, this money isn’t given to the servants to be used for their own needs. Apparently this huge amount was given to them so that they would be useful with it.
What is true about all of that is that you would be taking that money and exposing it to some sort of risk, wouldn’t you?
Which is why it is so fantastic that the first and second servants both double the amount of money they are given. Imagine thirty times your yearly wage. That’s how much they give back. But that involved quite a bit of risk, and as they are returning the money they were given, the implication is that they were not to keep it.
So, that being true, this is why the third servant may have been seen as the prudent one. He did not submit that money to any risk at all, and returned it whole to the master.
Shockingly, however, he’s the one who failed.
Speaking literally, then, Jesus is saying that the talents we are given are not to be kept safe, but to be used for the glory of the kingdom.
Now, we all have talents. I know that there are some of you who say that you really don’t have anything to give to the kingdom, you just want to live your simple life, keep things uncomplicated, come to church, go to work, see family and friends, volunteer, and not get involved in the pain of the world.
Speaking metaphorically, however, Jesus tells this story in order that we might now just how highly the Kingdom of God values our talents. Not the money we make, not just that. But God sees what he has given us as talents, gifts, and graces, the things we do well, as equal to the wealth of fifteen years of wages in one check.
And in the story, the one guy who plays it safe with his talents is the one who is punished.
So, frankly, the lesson is this; not giving of yourself to the church and the world is a punishable offense. Gently put, it is a sin.
This is what Jesus is teaching. We are put onto this earth to risk. We are put onto this earth to find out what we do well, to nurture it so we can then do it better, then put it in service to the world. Staying home with our talents is how we find out what weeping and gnashing of teeth means.
Sometimes we don’t even know what it is that we are good at. We’ve spent lives of comfort and fear, not venturing out of our comfortable houses, relationships, things we’ve always known, people we’ve always known. Perhaps for some of us the last risk we took was the person we married. Perhaps the last risk we took was the house we bought.
As the people of God, we are called to risk more. We are called to risk everything. We are called to be, as Martin Luther called us, little Christs.
Thomas Merton said that often, what the desire of our hearts is, the thing that we idly daydream about when we think of serving God, when we think about the world’s needs, that thing we see ourselves doing is what we are really called to do. God has placed his call on our hearts before we have even begun to think of it.
What is that idle daydream for you?
Go and invest your talents, as God has sent you to do.