November 19, 2023
From Fr. Jeff
“Jesus told his disciples this parable:
‘A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one--
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master's money.’”
Money is important. For most of us, it is much more than a commodity to be traded. It carries the meaning of our time, effort, education, development, diligence, skill, networks, knowledge, ability, availability, and affability. We often sacrifice to earn it and it provides security, freedom, family stability, sustenance, safety, shelter, access, influence, power, and voice. Whether it should or not, money is often tied to our personal value and worth. In 2004, when I was considering leaving seminary for a second time, I explored options. My education, qualifications, and certifications (security clearance) could have earned me a starting salary with a defense contractor of $150,000. In 1995, as a 24 year old second lieutenant watch officer in Korea, I had immediate and direct control of over $500 million in intelligence assets. That I know and remember these figures is an indication of the significance of money. Every faith decision to give money away represents more than just parting with a commodity. It is a gift of ourselves, of all that our money represents and provides. Two keys to our own personal generosity are stewardship and gratitude. Stewardship views our lives and all that they entail as a gift from God that bears a personal responsibility for being developed and used according to the intention of the giver. Gratitude gives due appreciation for the gift of our lives also to the giver in tangible and meaningful ways. We do not live for ourselves, but are blessed to be a blessing for others. In thankfulness for what we have received, even for our own life, we give for the good of others and in response to the goodness we have received. While the love of money may be the root of all evil, the giving of money is nothing less than a miracle of grace in our lives. It is a sacrifice of love, of our very selves.
Having said all of that, we should recognize that the parable today is about more than “talents” or money. Even in Jesus’s day, money represented and provided more than a simple commodity. It was then, as now, personal. The servants are each given a gift which bears a responsibility, according to their ability. Their time, effort, education, development, diligence, skill, networks, knowledge, ability, availability, and affability are that gift. How they use that gift is their gift back God. How we use our “talents” or talents is our gift back to God for all he has given to us and for the good of others. It is through us that God answers the prayers of others. The adventure of faith is not in safeguarding what we have been given in order to preserve it. It is not about burying our talents. Instead, it is about setting out into the deep, into the uncharted waters of risk, reward, uncertainty, and trust. Taking a step in faith can be unnerving. It is meant to be. You and I are more than we can ever imagine, more valuable than any amount of money. Our lives are eternal, infinite. So is our love! If we can let go of safeguarding and take the risk of trusting God, we will ourselves hear God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.”