-Rev Paul Appleby-
Now the one who had received one valuable coin came and said, ‘Master, I knew that you are a hard man. You harvest grain where you haven’t sown. You gather crops where you haven’t spread seed.
Matthew 25:24 CEB
The Scripture quoted above is from a teaching of Jesus commonly called "The Parable of the Talents." Now, as those history buffs among us are aware, a talent is a fairly large sum of money (the "valuable coin" in The Common English Bible- it would have weighed around 70 lbs and depending upon its composition could be worth upwards of $30,000). In this story, a master leaves town and gives three of his servants some of his riches to manage in his absence. The first two invest their talents and pay back their master with interest upon his return. The third… well, he (either out of fear or laziness) buried his talent then dug it up and returned it to his master upon his return.
The English word "talent" comes from the name of this old coin, in fact it comes to us right out of this parable. A talent is a treasure that our master has entrusted to each of us. Just as is the case in the parable, some of us are given a lot of talents, some of us are given a few. The number and value of the talents is really beside the point. In fact, in the Scripture mentioned the use of the talents, the rewards doled out upon his fellow servants who used and developed their master's gifts, and the master's disapproval of this lazy, selfish, fearful servant aren't exactly in view. The issue in view is the servant's understanding of his master as the one who "harvest(s)… where (he has not) sown… gathers(s) where (he hasn't) spread seed." Quite an unconventional picture of God, no?
Unconventional, perhaps, but is it true? The God of this parable is one who looks to us, God's servants, to see what creative and innovative ways we have found to use those talents with which we have been entrusted. This is a God who has given us not success, but simply the building blocks for it. This God is looking to make a name and a treasure for God's self from our creativity, our sweat, our struggle. This is a God looking for us to do the hard work of developing talents, and all to his credit. I don't know about you, but this certainly seems to ring true to my experience of God. It also holds true to the idea of God as a heavenly parent. I have been told by my parents, more than once, to live up to my family name. My parents provided me, not with success, but with the tools needed to build it- it is my hope that I am providing my children with the same.
Because, as the servant in this story intuitively grasps, that is what the Christian is called to do. To develop his/her God given talents. To grow where they find themselves planted, and to offer up to God the increase. We are God's agents of growth, of prosperity, of beauty on this earth. We are called to be salt (an agent for growth to the ancient botanist) and light (an agent of illumination) - and one day, like the servants in this parable, we will be called to give an account of the talents we have been entrusted with. On that day, may we be found faithful.
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Dear Lord, may the talents you have put in my care be carefully seeded to grow a plentiful harvest.
Rev Paul Appleby: Raised in the Church, the teachings of Jesus came alive to Paul in a new and exciting way after studying the Sermon on the Mount, and rediscovering the brilliant, simple, and profound way Jesus encourages his followers to live and love. Along with his amazing wife Sage, he serves a loving Christ-centered congregation in Killeen, Texas.