At that time, Jesus spoke this parable to His disciples: A man going abroad, called his servants and handed over his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his particular ability, and then he went on his journey. And he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more. In like manner, he who had received the two gained two more. But he who had received the one went away and dug in the earth and hid his master’s money. Then after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; behold, I have gained five others in addition.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; because you have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had received the two talents came, and said, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; behold, I have gained two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; because you have been faithful over a few things, I will set you over many; enter into the joy of your master.’
“He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying: “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? The you out to have invested my money in the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more to be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” So completes this passage of scripture. I wondered when I read today why the back end of this parable was left out.
It’s harsh! In many ways it seems unfair; the last servant seems to have very real fears. Today, we have a different comprehension of trauma, and our instinct is to place our comprehension of trauma onto the last servant and see the master as an abusive, harsh jerk.
That is one way to look at the parable, and in looking at it that way we may see a different reading. We may see that profit creates misery and suffering, and those who reap the most profit end up at the top of the heap, although they still remain servants.
But there’s another way of looking at the parable as well. If instead we see it as an allegory of our how we view ourselves, then it may take on a different reading completely. The man going abroad is the Kingdom of Heaven. Each servant is a different way we can achieve our place in that Kingdom.
The last two days have been challenging for me emotionally. Work has been good! The last two days I’ve had to have some hard conversations with people. Hard conversations take a lot of energy out of me, and I find myself in my bed earlier and staying there longer. I’ve missed some of my priestly obligations over those two days because of exhaustion. Last night, when I went to bed, I was really hard on myself. I was treating myself as the servant who hid the talent in the ground. I woke up this morning, I know I’m going to have another day with hard conversations, but felt the call to sit down and write today because it’s been a couple of days. As I write, I find myself feeling happy that I’ve taken the time to do so.
This parable teaches us that the more we put into an effort, the more benefit we will receive. It may not seem to say as much, but there is always an opportunity to try again. The master leaves the country every time we resolve to do something new, something to benefit our lives. We have a choice at each leaving on how we will invest. Will we put our efforts in, will we take it easy while putting a little time in, or will we burry our talent in the ground and raise our hands when the outcome is not what we expected.
“I don’t know how this happened!?”
If you don’t water a seed, it won’t sprout. If you don’t water a sprout, it won’t grow into a plant. If you don’t care for the plant, it won’t bear fruit, then seed. You can stop at any point during the process. You can reduce the effort and reduce your harvest. The choice, and the outcomes, are always in our hands.