Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.
‘The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
‘Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.”
‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”
‘Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”
‘Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”’
Gospel for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Master of the parable, who reaps where he has not sown and gathering where he has not scattered, does not seem to be familiar with Scripture’s counsel against usury! Indeed the third servant’s safeguarding of the money entrusted to him was judged responsible behaviour according to the norms of the day. The other two make profit, hand over fist.
And yet Jesus says, this is the way the Kingdom of heaven is.
Maybe the clue is not in the finance as such but in the third servant’s representation of the Master. Does he reap what he has not sown? Gather that he has not first scattered for our gathering? Maybe, but look how generously he rewards the servants who cooperate with him? Do they cooperate with him for the common good or are they collaborating in ripping profit wherever it is available.
It probably finally comes down to whether or not we judge the Master according to servant three or his treatment of servants one and two. Are they plunderers of the common wealth, or servants of the common good? Hm….
And how does this lead us to think of our God, our Master?
Our Master does not reap where he does not sow. For every good thing, even those fostered by our efforts too, come from God. So is servant three just failing to honour and serve the loving God. Hm…
And maybe nothing suggests that the parable‘s Master is a hard man, except the third servant’s fearful and angry words, and in his willingness to reject the servant who rejects him, and fails to contribute to what (turns out to be) the common wealth and happiness. Hm…
We have a parable that does what it says on the tin: that teases our heart and mind into active thought…
- How do you use what is entrusted to you, and that has potential to contribute to the common good?
- How do you view the commands of your Master? And your Master?
Docklands, London. (c) 2009, Allen Morris.