But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.’
This can be a troubling and frightening statement. Why is Jesus using such direct, even harsh, language?
In Matt. 25:14-30 Jesus is telling the “parable of the talents”. A wealthy man is traveling to a distant country, so he calls on three of his servants to handle small portions of his resources while he is away. From the context of the parable we can discover a few important points regarding the situation:
- The man is wealthy, having made his fortune in shrewd business dealings
- He is not appointing them managers; he already has others taking care of the major portion of his business
- He has selected these three for small, specific tasks, much like giving them a probationary period in new positions to see if they can succeed
- He knows they have different skills and capabilities, so he gives funds “to each according to his own ability” (v.15)
- He is testing their initiative and creativity, as he does not give them specific instructions on what to do with the funds
- He has much greater positions in mind for their future, as evidenced by the rewards he gives for their efforts
The man immediately leaves on his journey, and doesn’t return for “a long time” (v.19). Upon his return he evaluates the three men’s performance.
The first two have done well, producing an increase appropriate to what they have been given. The third, however, has not. He has not produced any increase; he has not tried and failed due to lack of knowledge or experience; in fact, he has not tried at all! He hasn’t even deposited his master’s funds in the safest place – the bank – so as to receive a small amount of interest. For whatever reason he didn’t want to be bothered with trying to improve his master’s funds through any personal effort, so he merely returns what has been given to him.
This is so sad. He was not under any great pressure: he was given such a small amount that even a total loss would not have made any impact on his master’s fortune. But out of fear, or laziness, or whatever motivation, he did nothing – nothing at all – and the master has quite harsh words for him. “You did nothing with what I gave you. I could have achieved the same result had I given you nothing at all!”
Each of us has been given a gift. Some gifts are greater, some are lesser, but all are given “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). Each of us is not to compare our gift with others’, but is only responsible for the use of the gift we have been given (1 Corinthians 12:1-31).
One day – perhaps soon – Jesus will return from His “journey to a far country” and He will call each of us to appear before Him, asking the same question as the master in this parable: “What have you done with your gift?”. Jesus does not want us to be taken by surprise; He warns us many times in Scripture to watch and be ready for His return. But to be ready, we must ask ourselves this question now, “What have I done with my gift?”, and invest our time and treasure in using the gift He has invested in us.
So … what have you done with your gift? Have any non-believers been led to Christ, or even turned toward Christ? Have any believers in your circle grown in maturity in the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23):
- their love for God and others?
- their joy through the midst of trials?
- their peace and ability as peacemakers?
- their longsuffering without selfishness or blaming others?
- their kindness even to their enemies and those who persecute them?
- their goodness when surrounded by temptation and evil?
- their faithfulness even when others are faithless?
- their gentleness even when facing wrath?
- their self-control when the world around them is out of control?
On the other hand, have you let pride in having your gift infect the ministry to which God has called you? Has anyone left the church because of your words? Has anyone buried their gift because of your criticism, or perhaps even walked away from the faith?
The harshness of the master’s words in the parable is not an indication of Jesus’ anger or frustration at our results, but an indication of the seriousness of His question. Do not neglect His words! “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Has your gift been gathering dust on the shelf, or under the bed … or buried deep in the closet under old shoes, sports equipment, and dirty clothes? Go pull it out. Look at it. Have you left Jesus, your first love?
Don’t bury your gift; don’t put it on a shelf and forget about it. Invest in it; employ it; invest your gift in serving God and your neighbor. Go beyond bearing interest to bearing fruit – thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold.
Word of God: speak!
Non nobis Domine+
by Fr. Dana Jackson