Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Parable of the Talents

1. Let us meditate on the parable concerning the talents. A lord was preparing to go abroad and before he departed he called together his servants. He distributed his assets among them in proportion to their ability, giving five talents to the first, two to the second, and one to the third.

After a long time the master returned and asked his servants to render an account of the money entrusted to them. Those who had received, respectively, the five and the two talents returned the capital to their lord along with the profits which they had made, so that in fact each was able to hand back double the sum originally entrusted to him. Their master praised their fidelity and zeal and rewarded them more handsomely than they could ever have expected.

Finally, the man who had received only one talent appeared and said: Master, I know that thou art a stern man; thou reapest where thou hast not sowed and gatherest where thou hast not winnowed; and as I was afraid, I went away and hid thy talent in the earth; behold, thou hast what is thine. The master's reply was stern. Wicked and slothful servant! thou didst know that I reap where I do not sow, and gather where I have not winnowed! Thou shouldst therefore have entrusted my money to the bankers, and on my return I should have got back my own with interest. Take away therefore the talent from him and ... cast him forth into the darkness outside, where there will be the weeping, and the gnashing of teeth. (Cf. Mt. 25:14-30)

The meaning of this parable is clear. We are all servants to whom our heavenly Father has entrusted various talents. Some have been given more than others. By our own labour and industry we must all make profitable use of the talents which we have received. The ungrateful and slothful servant who does not make good use of his talents will be severely punished. But a happy reward awaits the good and faithful servant who has worked zealously all his life for his Master's interests until the talents which he has received have produced an increase of sanctity in himself and in others.

2. As a general rule, God gives us three kinds of talents. These are (i) material, like health or riches; (ii) intellectual and moral, such as intelligence, personality, and ability; and (iii) supernatural, like divine grace, a vocation, or extraordinary powers. God distributes lavishly all these talents, to whomsoever He pleases and in accordance with His own hidden designs.

We have no right, therefore, to envy the talents of others nor to be discontented with our own. Rather should we be grateful to God for whatever He has given us and remember that sufferings and deprivations may also be used as a means of self-sanctification. If we cheerfully accept and offer to God our lack of certain talents, we can gain great merit.

3. We should never complain about the amount which we have received. It would be more appropriate to tremble at the thought of how much we have received. If anyone has received very little, he will have to account for very little. But a man who has received a great deal is responsible before God for the manner in which he has employed all the gifts entrusted to him.

Our own pride and spirit of ostentation is responsible for any discontent which we may feel concerning our state in life and our abilities. But if we are chiefly concerned for the glory of God and for our eternal salvation, then it will not matter to us how much we have received. Let us be satisfied with the position in life in which God has placed us. Let those of us who are not exceptionally talented thank God for the little we have received, but if we have been endowed with a great many gifts, let us anxiously consider how we are employing them. In either case, let us work hard to make the best possible use of the talents which God has granted to us.