We are a very possessive people: we talk about my car, my house, my clothing, my paycheck, even “my body – my life”. We learn as little children that “you can’t play with those toys because they belong to someone else;” and we “must share our toys with others.” As we grow older, we look forward to the day when we make that final payment and the car (house, property, business, etc.) no longer “belongs” to the bank, but now we “own” it. But this is worldly thinking!
Over and over again God’s Word clearly tells us: “All the earth is Mine” (Exodus 19:5); “The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:8) “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7); “You are not your own, you were bought at a price therefore, honor God with your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20) We must constantly be reminded that “It’s not my body, my time, my money… my anything! – It all belongs to the LORD who gives it to us, to use in His service.
The Gospel reading begins with Jesus’ words: “Again, it will be like…” (v.14) telling us another parable about “life in the Kingdom of heaven” – especially, how we are to live our lives RIGHT NOW so we are ALWAYS READY for the end of our life, to “settle accounts with our Master.” (v.19)
Jesus says: “Again, (the Kingdom of heaven) is like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.” Everything belongs to the master, the servants as well as all of the property. The master thought a lot of his servants, for “To one he gave 5 talents of money, to another 2 talents, and to another 1 talent, each according to his ability.” (v.15)
A “talent” in Jesus’ day was the largest unit of money at the time! Some have estimated 1 talent = 20 years of wages for the common laborer! Therefore, 5 talents = 100 years wages! 2 talents = 40 years of wages! and 1 talent = 20 years of wages! This was a VERY generous and trusting master!
As we hear this parable, don’t just think of money, but of ALL the VERY generous gifts that our Master, God the Father, has entrusted to us – even more valuable than money: health / mentally and physically, abilities (talents); family and friends, time, etc.: everything that we can’t take with us when we die.
When the master returned, the two who had “used their talents” and doubled them heard the wonderful words from the master: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (v.21, 23) But the one who had “buried his talent” heard the HARSHEST WORDS that will ever be spoken: “You wicked and lazy servant!… Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the 10 talents… And throw that worthless servant outside into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v.26, 28, 30)
This is quite shocking to the world today who would say that this servant “really wasn’t that bad” – after all, he wasn’t like the prodigal son who squandered his father’s money; he wasn’t like Ananias and Sapphira who lied to the Holy Spirit; he wasn’t like the rich man who “feasted sumptuously” while Lazarus begged at his gate. This servant SIMPLY DID NOTHING!
This servant was “wicked and lazy” because he had great opportunities, but he “buried his talent” – he refused to use the great wealth (time, abilities, treasures) entrusted to him by his master. This parable focuses on the worthless servant so that we might honestly ask ourselves: “Is it I, Lord?” And when we are honest, we must answer, “Yes, Lord, many times I do not faithfully use the vast amount of blessings You give me. Although You “own” me, there are times that I do not want You to “possess” me; although You have “purchased and won me” with Your holy, precious blood; I’m not “always at Your service.” We “bury” the gracious gifts – using them only selfishly for ourselves rather in service to God and others.
How tragic and unnecessary was that final fate of the worthless servant. He was really a pathetic man; fearful, self-centered and totally disillusioned! He viewed His Master as he knew himself to be; hard-hearted, grasping for things he had no right to have. He accused his Master of being “one-sided” – and this servant was half right – but tragically he believed the wrong half! He accused his Master of greedily taking what was not his, but, as the parable shows, the Master was one-sided – giving his wealth entirely in favor of His servants, and promising: “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (v.21, 23)
Therefore, my life, my house, my education, my bank account, my family, friends, health, time, talents, etc. – including and especially my faith are all given to me by the Master, entrusted to me to use for the glory of God and serving our neighbor. We confess is in Luther’s explanation of the Apostles’ Creed: “Jesus purchased and won me from sin, death and the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death; that I might be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.” WHAT A PRIVILEGE TO SERVE in God’s kingdom through our first-fruit offerings, our time and talents, joyfully serving within the church, in our families and communities. And knowing that when our Master, Jesus, “returns and settles accounts” (v.19), it will not be a fearful meeting but as He is NOW empowering and blessing us in our service to Him, He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness.” (v.21)
May God strengthen and preserve us in our lives of service, using the many talents / gifts that God has entrusted to us in service to our Master, until life everlasting. Amen.