Who do you identify most with in today’s gospel? The guy given 5 talents? 2 talents? 1 talent? or someone else?
It is easy to sympathize with that last guy in the gospel – The one who played it safe. The one who received only ONE talent. We are told the talents were given to each according to their ability. So he was the least well equipped of the three to succeed. I sometimes feel like that. Or here in South County, it is easy perhaps to identify with the other two who obviously had some skills to double an investment so easily. But what happens when you shift the focus of the story, not to the three who received the talents, but the one who gave them away in the first place?
Like the father in our Lord’s parable of the prodigal son, this man who is going on a journey gives the servants everything. He does so with such a swift and shocking speed, we read right past this tiny detail. He called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. SNAP* Just like that. Let me give you my life’s work, my nest egg, my IRA, my golden parachute – everything that I have amassed in my lifetime.
What if that was the image – the master’s reckless trust, his prodigal spirit, his surprising largesse – for all that follows?
So let me tell another story.
A great preacher in London would tell the story of a pastor who visited a widow one Saturday afternoon in her small apartment in the city. “Pastor, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said. My landlord has given several notices, I don’t have the money, and come Monday morning, he will evict me.” The minister listened and offered what comfort he could, prayed with her, and left. The next day, the pastor quietly spoke to several in the church and raised the money and more for the widow’s rent. First thing Monday morning, he went to her apartment, knocked on the door, and there was no answer. He knocked again. No answer. Returning to the church, he called the woman, who answered immediately and asked why she didn’t answer the door. “Oh pastor I thought you were the landlord coming for the rent.”
The preacher concluded: Why is it we always think God is the landlord coming for the rent instead of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who comes with generous gifts?
So let me go back to Jesus’ story and do some math. We tend to hear the word “talent’ as a skill, or a set of gifts that are given to us. We’re are good at using our hands; we can play an instrument; we’re able to see all kinds of possibilities. However, in the time of Jesus a talentum was a sum of money. A BIG sum of money. The equivalent of 18 years worth of daily wages. 18 years! Do the math. This is not chump change that last man was given. It was not a golden parachute but a platinum one. So too, the man with 2 talents, given the life expectancy of people in the time of Jesus – he is given more money than he could hope to earn in a life-time. The guy with the 5 talents… woof. That’s the winning powerball ticket. So, what does the master’s reckless trust tells us about God?
He entrusts SOOO much to us. He has given us an inheritance beyond measure. That inheritance is His Son. So, in this second last story in Matthew’s gospel before the passion account begins, Jesus wants to make sure we understand this fundamental truth of the Kingdom. God has entrusted us with so much grace. AND, when we risk what we have of that gift, when we put it into action, we are given MORE of God’s grace to risk. When we risk giving our lives away, we have even more to give away.
This week, pray into that image of an insanely generous God – one who has given each of us wealth beyond measure, a platinum parachute to be shared with the world. Here at this table, each Sunday we are given this amazing wealth, again and again. AND this same generous God counts on us to spread the good news of his Son in our age and time so He may harvest, not where he has planted, but where we have, and gather, not where he has not scattered, but where we have.