In this parable, the talents the Master gave to his servants were made of either silver or gold. They could be likened to ingots – representing a great deal of money – entrusted to these servants. Five talents or two talents – even one talent was a vast sum of money. Five talents could be a lifetime of wages for that servant and even one talent, the wages of many years’ service.
The basic meaning of this parable remains: the use of the talents God entrusts to us to further His kingdom, but – and here is where the story is transformed - it is also about risk-taking for the sake of God’s kingdom.
Now, we know the story: Each servant was entrusted with a different amount of talents while the Master was away on a trip and each did something with the talents because they knew the Master expected them to oversee his property in his absence. They knew their Master to be a demanding man who ‘reaped where he did not sow’ and ‘gathered where he did not scatter’. He is a Master who always looks to make a profit from his property; increasing his estate. The first two servants, knowing their Master always took risk to increase his property and expand his estate, also did the same as he, while the third servant buried the talent entrusted to him for safe-keeping.
Now the disciples’ understanding of this story would have given them an appreciation for the actions of the third servant for, in their time and culture, burying valuables was an acceptable way of keeping them safe. If buried valuables were stolen, the person who buried them was not held responsible for their loss, but – if you lost valuables entrusted to you through bad investments or squandered through poor decisions – you were punished and held liable for the entire amount entrusted to you – and remember – these talents represented a very great deal of money.
So, when Jesus told the disciples the part of the story of the Master’s return, they thought the first two servants extremely lucky to have escaped condemnation for their risky though profitable actions. They were shocked when the Master failed to appreciate the actions of the third servant and not only scolded him, but cast him out of his household - into the darkness, where there is wailing and grinding of teeth.
The moral of the story is that we are not just called to preach the Gospel by our lives- doing the safe thing, but to actually go forth; taking risks in bring the Word of God to all the nations. We are called to move out of our comfort zones among family and friends, of being ‘good’ and working to ensure we follow the commandments, so we can come into the heavenly kingdom, but to actually seek out others to bring them into the light of God’s kingdom.
We are called to live Jesus’ command of loving God above all and loving others as we love ourselves by going out into the dark places of the world to bring the light of Christ, His message of love and salvation, and God’s promise of eternal life to all people. The Master expects us to take risks; using the talents he has entrusted to each of us, to increase his property and expand his estate. ~Amen