buried treasure?

Woodcut of the Parable of the Talents
From Historiae celebriores Veteris Testamenti Iconibus representatae (1712).

Matthew 25:14-30
For Sunday, November 13, 2011
Proper 29

Have you heard the the Parable of the Talents before?   A master is going on a long journey and entrusts his estate to his servants, of which there are three.  He gives five talents to the first, two talents to the second, and one to the third.  After “a long time” (v. 19) he comes back and discovers that the servant who had five talents now has ten, the servant who had two now has four, and the servant with one now has… oh… still one.  

The master is understandably pleased.  He received 100% return on his investment from servants number 1 & 2.  Servant 3, whom everyone already knew was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, only had 1 talent anyway, and at least he didn’t lose it.  No harm, no foul, right?  

Wrong!  Servant 3 suffers withering criticism.  “You did what?!”, the master asks?  “You buried my money in the ground.  The least you could have done was take it to the bank for a a Certificate of Deposit!”  The master then takes Servant 3’s lone talent and gives it to Servant 1, who is now known as  Mr. Ten Talents Plus 1.  Servant 3 is then earmarked for the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Wow, that seems a bit harsh,” we say in response.  Then we think about it some more.  “Wow, that seems incredibly harsh!”  How can the master, known as a “hard man” (v. 24), demand that the dullest Servant in the drawer suddenly become a successful entrepreneur?  It wasn’t even the Servant’s money!

What, though, was the Master really angry about?  Was it that he only got a 90% return on his investment instead of 100%?  No . . .  what he was angry about was that Servant 3 squandered the opportunity given to him.  A talent was equivalent to 20 years’ wages.  At $40,000 per year, that would have been $800,000.  Rounded up (to keep things simple) that’s a million dollars.  

Servant 3 was entrusted with a million dollars but he never engaged: he just buried his treasure in the ground.  How many of us do the same thing with our faith?  We’ve been given something far more valuable than one million dollars: we’ve been given eternal grace and peace that is intended to transform not only our own lives but everything around us.  

The important question this parable asks is this: “What are you going to do with your million?”  As a child of God, you have been entrusted with the kingdom of God.  God’s plan for the redemption of the world is you.  Don’t fear: engage.  

“But where do I start?” you ask.  Pull out a piece of paper.  Take 5 minutes to write  out brief answers to these three questions (Would you mind turning off the TV while you do this?  Thank you so much):

  • How would I like to engage today?
  • How would I most like to engage this month?
  • How would I most like to engage this year?
Now go, and don’t forget, you are worth a million bucks.  

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