The Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 28A (November 16, 2014)
Lessons:Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18 Psalm 90:1-8 [9-11], 12 1st Thessalonians 5:1-11 St. Matthew 25:14-30
Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm Judges 4:1-7 Psalm 123
Prayer of the Day: Righteous God, our merciful master, you own the earth and all its peoples, and you give us all that we have. Inspire us to serve you with justice and wisdom, and prepare us for the joy of the day of your coming, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
25.14 [Jesus said] “For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15 to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17 In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18 But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29 For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30 As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ”
St. Matthew 25:14-30, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Faithfulness, Fearfulness and the Nature of God
Three slaves. Eight talents. (By some estimates, in first century life, a talent was equal to nine years worth of wages for a skilled laborer.) The first slave receives five talents. The second slave receives two talents. The third slave receives one talent.
We see that the first two slaves have similar experiences. At once, they go and trade with their talents. They double their investment. The master returns “after a long time” and settles accounts with them. Quite pleased with them, the master responds to each slave: “Well done… you have been trustworthy… enter into the joy of your master.”
The third slave has a much different experience. He digs a hold in the ground, protects what has been entrusted to him, and returns it in full to the master. The master is deeply displeased, and announces: “You are wicked and lazy… you ought to have (at least) invested my money… take it away from him and throw him out.”
What is the difference between the first two and the third one? Some have concluded that this is a harsh and demanding master, and the slaves are treated in accordance with how successfully they have invested the master’s money. The inference here is the more they make, the happier their master is. But it is curious to notice that the first two slaves don’t describe their master as harsh and demanding. Only the third slave describes him this way, and he isn’t exactly lifted up as a model to follow in this parable…
What if we were to think of this from a different point of view? Jesus tells us that when the coins are entrusted to these three, the first two “went off at once and traded with them.” But he doesn’t actually tell us why. The Greek word for “at once” is εὐθέως (eutheos) and means “immediately.” This word is used often in the New Testament, and it usually refers to something that is important, and in accordance with God’s purpose. Perhaps these slaves aren’t investing out of a sense of fear for what might happen if they are unsuccessful investors. Perhaps they are trading these coins eagerly, enthusiastically, and motivated to make the kind of difference in the world that their master likes to make.
It may very well be that these slaves aren’t treated based on the specific return the master received from their investments. It may have more to do with their understanding of what this master enjoys, and their desire to do as their master does. One could even imagine a slave trading with these talents, losing it all, and being praised for having given it his best.
This, at least, would account for the commendation each of them receives: “enter into the joy of your master."
If this is the case, the operative question is: “what gives joy to the master?” Not a bad question for us to be asking. If God is our master, and the one who has entrusted to us everything we have, what gives joy to our God? And how might we manage our resources in a way that is pleasing to God?
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- How does each slave seem to understand the nature of the master?
- What is most commendable about what they do?
- What is Jesus saying to his listeners about faithfulness?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- How do I understand the nature of God?
- How does my understanding of God shape my words and actions?
- What might I plan to do today that could be pleasing to God?