By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 25:14-30
14 “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
Today we hear the parable of the master who entrusts varying amounts of property to three of his slaves, leaves, and then returns to settle his accounts. Now, it may seem that the first two slaves were extremely foolish in their master’s absence. If the boss leaves you in charge of the money in the till, who in his right mind immediately goes off and spends it with the hope of making more by the time the boss returns? This seems like a great way to get fired, or, in the case of the slaves, severely punished. It would appear that the third slave is the sensible one. When put in charge of the one talent, he puts it in a safe place to ensure that he can return it to his master upon his return. And yet, when the master returns, he praises and rewards the first two slaves, and severely rebukes and punishes the third. This seems wholly unfair and bizarre, particularly considering that the master gave no indication that he wanted the slaves to gamble with his property. If we understand the master to be God, does this mean God is simply vindictive or deranged? What is going on in this parable?
It is this: what God has provided will multiply in abundance. We have been given gifts, each according to our abilities, but these gifts are not really ours; we receive them but we do not own them. And the Master has not forgotten a single one of us in his gift-giving. Even the least among us has been given as much as that third slave and has been entrusted with one piece of the Master’s property: that is, our lives. It is not enough simply to do no harm, burying our life in the ground, dead before we have died. Each life matters, not just to get by but to flourish. We can see that in the actions of the first two slaves. Like the five loaves and two fishes, they immediately took the Master’s property out into the world and it multiplied to the point of abundance.
The Master has gone, but he has in fact left us with instructions in the form of this parable. The Master is returning, and he expects not only to get his property back, he expects that we would have used his gifts to generate some return.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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Today we pray for:
St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, River Hills, Wis.
L’Eglise Anglicane du Rwanda