The Responsibility of the Talents
People who think that Jesus never talked about money haven’t read the gospels too closely. Today, He is at it again, continuing His teaching about the Kingdom and our responsibility toward it. When He speaks of “talents” in the parable, He is not talking about “God-given abilities” that we should develop – like playing the piano, kicking field goals, or putting your leg behind your head. No, talent – and everyone listening to Jesus would know this – was a sum of money; it was a weight of gold, silver, or copper.
Now, if He were talking about silver, for example, one talent would be the rough equivalent of 15 to 20 years’ wages for a manual laborer – a huge sum of money. When Jesus speaks of a man giving one, two, or five talents to others, this is a big payout, and folks should pay attention to what happens – including you and I.
What is the point of this parable? It’s pretty clear: put those talents to good use. However, what are these “talents” meant to represent? And what does it mean to put them to good use?
Let’s observe what the three recipients do. The first man goes and trades with his five talents and doubles his investment; the second does the same. However, the third, “out of fear,” took his one talent and buried it – hid it away from himself and from others. When the rich man returns to collect, he is joyful over the first two’s industry and he rewards them richly. Then, even when he offers the reasons for his fear, the rich man is furious. The rich man – like many rich and powerful men – wants results, not excuses.
These “talents” represent our relationship with the Lord – the awareness of what God has done in our lives and in the life of the world. That is no small thing! A world in darkness, division, and sin – a world estranged from God – has been brought back into harmonious relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ. It is important to note that Jesus is telling this parable to His disciples – and not to the scribes, Pharisees, or elders of the people. He is instructing those with whom He already has a relationship and from whom He expects fruit. The lesson is tough.
St. Paul tells us: “You, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.” In other words, we have learned of God’s great love for us and the salvation that Jesus has won, and we ought to know that this gift has transformed us, giving us an eternal destiny. You and I are going to live forever! How much better does it get than that? God loves you that much – that He sent His only Son for our salvation. This is what we should be sharing with others; this is the “talent” with which we have been entrusted.
Therefore, we cannot simply hold on to that information and not let others know. We cannot live our lives as if nothing is different about us – as if we were just like everyone else. No. We are redeemed! We are chosen. Jesus died for us! That is worth more than a year’s wages, more than a hundred years’ wages. And what does Jesus want us to do with that great gift? He wants us to put it out there for others to know as well, so we produce fruit for Him.
So much has been entrusted to us, friends. Our faith is a priceless gift because through it we have access to eternal life. But to the one who has been entrusted with much, much will be expected. We have a responsibility – not to ourselves but to Christ – to produce fruit. As a priest, I have a duty to share the gift I have been given by teaching the truth and sharing the Sacraments. As redeemed Christians, you have a duty to make Christ known to the world in your words and your actions. We cannot allow fear or any worldly pressure to dissuade us from accomplishing the fruitfulness that Jesus expects, because in the end there are no excuses. As disciples, we know that Jesus expects results; to not produce is to insult the Master.
This is why we need one another in the task of living the Christian life faithfully. We must support one another in prayer and charity so that we can see one another’s light burning brightly – that we reveal the gift we have received to be that unfailing prize, whose value is far beyond pearls. As a community of faith, we cannot give in to devaluing other people’s gifts or seeking to put their light out. All of us are here, and here now, in order to accomplish God’s work. When we do that faithfully we are fruitful; and when we are fruitful, we are welcomed into our Master’s joy.