A reflection by Fr Joseph Edattu, VC based on Matthew25: 14-30. Parable of the talents
In the parable of the talents, Jesus tells a beautiful story that refers to His second coming. In this parable, a master is going on a long journey, and when he returns, he will ask for an account from all his servants. The servants in the parable represent all of us human beings, and the master represents Jesus. Although the talents in the parable are monetary currency, they represent much more. The talents represent the gifts of the Holy Spirit—gifts that our Father has given to every one of us each according to each one’s ability.
“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). God knows your strength and He knows how many talents you have, how many gifts you have been given. God will never allow you to be tested beyond these strengths, talents and abilities. If you feel that you have lots of powerful temptations, that means God has a lot of confidence in you. Don’t disappoint him,
“For it 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. Then he went away…”(Matt 25:14). The servants are not just three people, they represent three different types of people among the billions of human beings in the world, while the master is Jesus himself. To these billions he has given some five talents, some two talents, and some – one talent, according to each one’s ability. Then Jesus went away, and he’s going to come back.
Sin causes people to have a distorted image of God
In the parable, the servant who was given five talents went immediately and worked hard. He earned five more talents and his master was very happy with him. The second servant also double his two talents and the master was very happy with him as well. But here’s what the third one did: “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, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours’ (Matt 25:24-25).
This third servant depends on some hearsay, some people have spoken about Jesus which he has believed. This servant accuses Jesus of being a thief who is reaping where He did not sow and gathering where He did not scatter seed. He says: “You did not work hard; we are working hard, and you are getting the interest as well as the capital. You are taking everything. You are stealing. You are a thief.” This servant has a very distorted understanding about the master. Sin causes people to have distorted ideas about God.
Everything is a gift from God
Remember, all the talents which He has given to these servants belong to the master. After all, everything that we think we have, belongs to God. Some people say, “I gave so much as a donation to the church. I gave so much as a donation to God.” Remember even the so-called donation which you give from your bank account is itself a gift from God. You are taking from God’s pocket and giving back to him, and you are taking the credit of it. Everything that you have, your clothes, your job, your capacity, your intellect, your memory, your ability, your strength, your courage—everything is a gift from God. When you are giving a donation, don’t ever say that you are giving a donation to God; rather, say that you are just giving back to him,what he has given you.
What does the value of one talent mean? In English we say about people, “He is a very talented man.” The word ‘talent’ comes from this Bible passage. We don’t know exactly how much it is worth in today’s currency, but during the time of Jesus one talent was equal to 20 years’ worth of wages. Today a person who earns GBP 50,000 a year will earn about GBP 1 million in 20 years. Now imagine that this master all on a sudden called this servant and said, “take this one million pounds. He should be thinking, “I’m nothing, I’m only a servant, yet my master entrusted one million pounds into my hands all of a sudden, which is worth 20 years of wages, and he told me to work hard with it. That means my master trusts me, my master loves me, my master has confidence in me, therefore I should work hard for my master.”
But instead, the third servant in the parable puts it under the ground, and after some years he gives it back, saying that the master is not good. This is his distorted concept of God. We all know he’s a foolish man. He could not work hard. He did not enjoy what was given to him. He also did not enjoy eternal life. He is in the darkness now.
You can have joy forever
Let us read what happened to the servant who was given five talents. In our modern-day example this would mean he got five million, and he made five more million so that he ended up with 10 million. The servant who was given only one million didn’t need to make 10 million; he just needed to make one more million, but still he was not ready for that. God knew his attitude, that’s why he was given less.
“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.’ 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.’(Matt 25:20).
‘The joy of your master’ is a symbol of the kingdom of God. Because he was trustworthy, committed and sincere in the responsibility that was entrusted to him, and because he used the
talents God gave him successfully, he is eligible to enter into the kingdom of heaven; into eternal joy. He already had the joy of having five million, as well as the joy of making it 10 million, and now God tells him to enter into eternal joy.
Heaven is not only a perfect place; it is also a place of joy. Sometimes when you’re very happy, you wish that your happiness will last, but mostly it lasts only for a minute or two, or maybe an hour or a day. The next day another problem comes, and your happiness is gone. The happiest days of your life on earth are just a small percentage of the heavenly experience. If you experience it for eternity in the perfect sense, that is heaven.
Then what is hell? Suppose you feel stressed, depressed, confused, angry with everything and angry with yourself, like you hate yourself, hate everyone and even think of committing suicide; that may be the worst time of your life, yet that is only a small percentage of the hell experience. Consider how difficult it is to cope with even a short period of distrust, depression, anger or irritation, yet hell is this same kind of experience for eternity. To avoid experiencing this for eternity we need to repent and come back to our God who loves us and is ready to welcome us.
God will never forget you, even if you forget Him
God has given you many talents— your intellectual capacity, your preaching style or ability, your singing ability, your studying ability, helping mentality, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and all the good things that one can think of. Are we using these talents for the good of others?
“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, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours’”(Matt. 20:24-25).
It is difficult to understand why he is afraid of this master who trusts him so much that he gave him the equivalent of one million pounds without any agreement. This is because of the distorted notion about God that those who are in sin have. For example, Adam and Eve, before they committed sin, used to walk with God hand in hand, morning and evening in paradise. They enjoyed God’s presence and they were very happy because they experienced the love of God. But suddenly one day, after they committed sin, they were afraid, and they started hiding from God. They were not hiding from the devil because the devil was now their friend.
Consider how God treated Adam and Eve. He treated them as His best friends and loved them. He used to walk with them every day. He gave them dominion over all the creatures and put them in charge of this world. God brought every animal, big and small, to Adam who named each one, just as today we give names to our pet animals. Naming our pets is a tradition started from the book of Genesis when God permitted human beings to give names to animals. We have authority over what we name. That’s why we are not supposed to give names to our guardian angels, because we don’t have authority over them; rather they are our helpers appointed by God.
God gave Adam and Eve everything, but still when they committed sin, they had a distorted perception of God. They thought, ‘Now we are sinful, so God is going to punish us. We had better hide from Him. If he catches us, then we are in trouble.’ They didn’t think of God as the loving Father who searches for the lost sheep. The lost sheep too could say, “why are you searching for me? You have more than enough sheep already.” Then the Master would say, “You are my precious child. You are a child of God. I cannot just let you go. Many people ask, “Why is God interested in me? Let God do His business, I will do my business.” But even as you go about your business, God cannot forget you. Even if you forget Him, he will never forget you because you belong to him. You are his child. He understands your situation. If you have fallen into sin, He doesn’t want to just get rid of you; He wants to take you back, remake you, and lead you to repentance.
Sin of omission is as dangerous as sins of commission
“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? 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’” (Matt. 25:26).
Two of the servant’s bad qualities were wickedness and laziness. Sloth is one of the capital sins. Sloth may not be the most commonly committed of the capital sins, but it is just as dangerous, as we see in Matthew 25:30 which says, “As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Sloth is a sin of omission, which is as dangerous as sins of commission. This man did not commit adultery, kill anyone, steal, or attack anyone. He didn’t seem such a bad guy. But the problem he had is he was so full of sloth that he stood against even God because of his laziness. He didn’t want to work at all. He spoiled all the gifts God had given him. “Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it commits sin.” We are supposed to help and to do many good things. God has given us gifts which we ought not to waste.
“How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:17-18). There are people who are becoming more and more wealthy. Remember, the wealth which God is blessing you with, is not for you to just store, look at your bank balance, enjoy it and sleep peacefully. It is for you to utilize to the maximum to help the many people whom God sends to you for help. Failing to help is the sin of omission committed by the rich man in the parable of Lazarus. The rich man did not harm Lazarus, did not chase him away but permitted him to sit there and eat whatever fell from his table, but still this rich man did not go to heaven because of the sin of omission.
The more you share, the more you will get
“So, take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 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 (Matt. 25:28-29).
You will lose the talents that God has given you if you don’t use them.
Fr. Joseph recalls that growing up there was a big well at his family home that had little water in the summer. He thought the water would be depleted if they used it, but his father explained that whatever amount they drew would be replenished. It would still have the same amount of water remaining. In the same way, even if the talent which God has given you is small, the more you use it, the more it will be given to you. If you don’t use it, slowly you will lose it. For example, Fr. Joseph has noticed that many priests who are very good at preaching, after a long break for studies, have a reduced capacity to preach when they return. Similarly, if your talent is music or sports and you don’t use it for a long time, you will eventually lose it. These lost talents will be added to those who are using their talents. Those who are working hard, are committed, and stay faithful to doing the right thing will have more talents and gifts added to them.
When he first started preaching, Fr. Joseph recalls that he used to collect all his notes and keep them hidden. He thought that if someone else found them they would use his preaching points, then all his hard work would be wasted. Sometimes when he preached in front of the people he worried that someone might write down these points and preach them somewhere else. Back then he found it very difficult to get new points and inspirations, write them down and preach them. Then the Lord revealed to him that the inspirations and all the points were not the result of his own talents, ability, capacity or intellect; rather it was all God’s gift. The gift was not just for him, it was for everyone.
“The more you share, the more I will give. The less you share, the sooner you will be back to the limited notes which you have. You will not get anything more,” God revealed. In the 14 years of his priesthood, he had collected the notes of all his preaching in his room, but in just about seven months during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, through the power of God, he received much more inspiration for preaching than all that he had collected for 14 years. Because he was sharing more, he was getting more. The more you share the more you will get. The less you share the less you will receive. This applies to every talent which God has given you. Use it. If you have the ability to sing, don’t hide it. There are many opportunities to use our talents. Use all the gifts He has given you for the glory of God, to spread the Good News, not for your own glory.
Encourage your children, encourage yourself, and use all the talents which God has given you. This is the wonderful time God has prepared for you to multiply the talents you have. Within no time you can not only double, but multiply them a hundred times. That is why God tells us to use the talent, otherwise He will give it to someone else who will use it, especially to one who is using theirs more powerfully.
Become like a perfect wife
“A capable wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant, she brings her food from far away. She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.” (Proverbs 31:10-16).
There are many men who have not married even at a late age because they are still searching for a capable wife. Many married men also quote this passage to remind their wives how a perfect wife should be. As a result, many women memorize this passage, not because they like it, but because they have to listen to it so often from their husbands and are therefore very familiar with it.
Husbands, remember this passage is not just for the wives; here the “wife” is all the human beings that make up the church and the “husband” is God, just as in the Parable of the Talents the “servants” are all of us and the “master” is God. We are all supposed to work hard. The servant who got the five talents and the one who got two talents both worked hard like this perfect wife, but the third one was a lazy fellow and God could not accept him. All of us human beings—boys, girls, men, women—are supposed to be like the perfect wife.
Speaking of the “perfect wife,” Fr. Joseph recalls that during his childhood, his father, who was a farmer, would go out into the field early each morning and work hard. In the afternoon he would come back tired, have some food and go to sleep. In the evening he had some free time to read the newspaper and maybe go out and meet his friends. This was his routine. His mother used to say, “You know, your father is working hard every day.” Each afternoon when he returned she gave him the food she had prepared, and even as he worked she would take him something to eat or drink in the field.
As a young boy, Fr. Joseph always thought of his father as a very hard-working man, which he was, but as he grew up he came to realize that his mother was even more hard working. She too had to get up early in the morning, clean the whole house and compound, and prepare the food. She would prepare different curry dishes according to the taste of her four children, because all four had different tastes, and she did this not just once, but morning, afternoon and evening. Afterwards she had to wash the dishes and the house before going to sleep late, then getting up again early the next morning.
He had seen his father working hard, and indeed his father had a reputation for working hard, but his mother was not known for working hard because what she did was not really considered as work. He saw that on Sundays, his father didn’t have to work because it’s the Sabbath, but his mother had to work, otherwise the family would be fasting. This is typical for many women, especially mothers.
God says that all people should be like this perfect wife. All the servants should be like this. All the children of God should be like this because we will all give an account before our God. If He finds that we are lazy, that we are not using the talents which He has given us, then the result will be that our talents will be taken away and given to someone else who is using their talents powerfully. Another consequence will be that we will end up in darkness.