Who is God? What does God give? What does God expect? What will God give in the end?
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. God is the one we fear, yet love casts out all fear, and God is love. To fear God, then, is to revere, love, respect, and adore the source and giver of all life. Unfortunately, the wrong kind of fear and an incorrect understanding of God can foster a life of trepidation and caution, a life devoid of prudent risk and joy.
The kingdom of heaven “is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability” (Matt. 25:14-15). A talent is an extraordinary sum, ten thousand denarii, that is, ten thousand daily wages. Each servant, according to his ability, was given an enormous sum of money. The last servant who received one talent, returning the talent to the master, said, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man . . . so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here have what is yours” (Matt. 25:24-25). The servant, fearing the master, wanted nothing to do with the talent, promptly digging a hole to bury it and then returning to the master “what is yours.” Overly cautious and fearful, the servant is cast into “outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30).
The first two servants have a different view of the master. They sense generosity and the urgency of acting quickly and wisely with what is given. They “went off at once and traded with [the talents]” (Matt. 25:16). Furthermore, they take responsibility for the talents, “Master, you handed over to me [the] talents” (Matt. 25:20). They invest them, realize a one hundred percent profit, and return the talents to the master. Thus, they are called “good and trustworthy,” and they are welcomed “into the joy of your master.” The God hidden in this parable is generous, but also exacting in the sense that God expects talents or gifts of any kind to be used profitably. The intended consummation of the gift is to “enter into joy.”
We can be too fearful, too cautious in our approach to all that God has given us. Yes, God is to be revered. God is king over all the earth. God is enthroned on high. Yet God stoops to behold the heavens and the earth. God gives life and gifts and the promise of joy. Take what God has given; use it for your good, and the good of others, and to the glory of God. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
The parable is a warning. As St. John Chrysostom says in his commentary on Matthew’s gospel, “The talents here are each person’s ability, whether in the way of protection, or in money, or in teaching, or in what thing soever of the kind. Let no man say, I have but one talent, and can do nothing; for thou canst even by one approve thyself.” He continues, “For this end God gave us speech, and hands, and feet, and strength of body, and mind, and understanding, that we might use all these things, both for our own salvation, and for our neighbor’s advantage.”
Fear not. Take what God has given and use it. Take risks and travel toward joy.
Look It Up: I Thess. 5:4
Think About It: Beloved children have gifts and work to do.