This parable teaches us that we should not under any circumstances neglect or hide the gifts that God has given us. Mostly, people are fearful of sinning by doing something wrong. Here the sin is to neglect to do what is right.
The poet John Milton was fascinated by this parable and referred to it in a number of his works. In his sonnet: “On his blindness” he writes as follows:-
“When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent, which is death to hide,
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He, returning, chide.”
(“chide” = to tell off)
Some people claim, with false humility, that they are very poor in gifts from God. This is never true. God is not begrudging with His gifts; in anyone. Everyone without exception has a gift, be it small or great, and it is no defence to claim that it is small and not useful. As a matter of interest the talent in this parable was worth about 6000 denarii or 20 years wages of an average worker at the time. The third servant had even less cause to be fearful than the other two who were given responsibility for truly huge amounts of money.
In the gospel the man with one talent went and hid his in the ground, fearful of his master and thinking that simply to return it would be enough. This seemingly safe choice incurred a great judgement upon him for not using the talent that his master had given him. He was left with nothing and cast out. This was his sin, a refusal to take what God had given him and make it fruitful, a refusal of his vocation based on an impoverished and self-serving notion of himself, his security and the false god that he worshipped. This should warn us against hiding from God or being inactive or reluctant in using our gifts in His service.
Notice that the other two servants were given different talents; one five, the other two. The master gave the correct gift in accordance with the capacity of each servant to use it to good effect. We can be sure that whenever God gives us a gift, it is appropriate for our own situation, character and aptitude. God never gives us an impossible task to perform. He does, however, judge us severely if we are lazy or fearful of living our Christian lives in accordance with His will and fruitfully for others.
So how shall we discover the diversity of gifts that God has granted to each one of us? Even if we think we know what these gifts are, some may lie hidden and dormant, below our radar so to speak. Others we may be aware of but we have not trained ourselves to make full use of them. Was, for example, Solomon wise in some degree before he asked God for the gift of wisdom? Was the Prophet Elisha endowed with the Holy Spirit before the mantle of Elias fell upon him? These were, arguably, strong before they became stronger in God, but let us now consider St Peter, named after ‘petros’, Greek for rock. He is a different case altogether. He was to become what he was not.
Although Christ called Simon this name, “rock-man”, from the beginning there was nothing rocklike about St Peter until after the resurrection. Having denied Christ three times before the passion, only when our Lord had restored him with the thrice repeated question: “Peter do you love me?” did he become in his faith that solid foundation of the Church. It seems that Jesus saw what he could become. He did not delay in declaring that ahead of time when St. Peter was certainly more like sand than rock.
So, whether our situation is like that of Solomon or of St Peter, different in so many ways, it is the call of Christ and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that take our natural abilities or even our natural deficiencies and make them good. Our talents may be either emergent or in need of refinement, but for all of this God is the Great Giver and His gifts are certainly present in each one of us. All we need to do is to pray for divine grace to discover the gifts of God in each one of us and then nurture these in the service of God and his Church. This is true whether we are men, women or children; whether we are old or young; whether we are new in the faith or more mature. God calls and equips us all.
In the next few years in this community we shall have opportunities given to us by God to contribute to the church’s growth and to deepen the witness of its love and service. This is not going to come to pass, however, without each and every member playing his or her part as active members of the body of Christ. Perhaps it is time now to take stock of our own service, to consider what talents God has given us, to take care that we use them fully. This is not just a question of putting our name down on a rota to do this, that or the other on a Sunday morning, important though that is. It means that we should pray about what God would have us do to witness to Him and His love in the community; certainly with actions that glorify Him and sometimes also with words. This pleases God and transforms lives. Anything else is unworthy of both Him and us.