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AHC A The Parable of the Talents Ord 33 - Hebrew Catholics

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The Parable of the Talents

Ordinary 33 Year A

A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
www.hebrewcatholic.org.nz

Click here for a printable copy of this paper

St. Matthew 25: 14 — 30

 

Introduction

We have almost reached the conclusion of our Lord’s teaching ministry. This parable is part of the previous lesson: be ready, and be doing what is within your reach, now!

The parable of the talents, which we have now read, is near akin to that
of the ten virgins. Both direct our minds to the same important event,
the second advent of Jesus Christ. Both bring before us the same
persons, the members of the professing Church of Christ. The virgins
and the servants are one and the same people, — but the same people
regarded from a different point, and viewed on different sides.
The practical lesson of each parable is the main point of difference.
Vigilance is the key-note of the first parable, diligence that of the second.
The story of the virgins calls on the Church to watch; the story of the
talents calls on the Church to work.                                    J.  C.  Ryle

Click here for a printable copy of our text

 

Some Reflections on our Text

Verse 14

The parable, unlike any other, begins abruptly with the words:

“It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in
his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.

If it helps, the parable could be said to open with the words, “The Kingdom of heaven is like when …..”.

Thus it is to be read in association with the parable of the ten bridesmaids, and so it is designed to prepare all true members of the Church for the Lord’s Return at the end of time. Verse 14 establishes that the master, going away for an unspecified time, entrusts his property to chosen (trusted) servants. The next verse tells how much property he gave to each.

Verse 15

To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one —
to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

Notice the text does not say the master handed out abilities or skills; but rather different volumes of money. The term “talent” is not a reference to a coin but to a unit of money. We should notice also that the money is not given as a gift but entrusted to them to manage it on their master’s behalf. Ronald Cox suggests the talent, being the largest unit of money, was equal to about 16 years of wages. The master was not handing out talents in the modern sense of the word: they already had ability, in varying degrees, as verse 15 implies.

Our Lord is, in fact, talking about His teaching, His word. This is His “investment” in us — His great legacy to us, and we too will be called to give account of how we have used such a valuable “resource”.

Verses 16 — 18

Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with
them, and made another five.

Likewise, the one who received two made another two.

But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.

The five-talent man and the two-talent man both acted with alacrity. They had a duty to perform and they did it “immediately”. They invested carefully, or as we might say, “they put his money to work”. The one-talent man chose not to perform the duty he was assigned. Professor Samuel Tobias Lachs writes, “Burying money or valuables or any entrusted property in the ground was considered the safest way of keeping a bailment (a delivery of property on trust) and hence being free of responsibility.”

Verses 19 — 23

After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled
accounts with them.

The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the
additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’

His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great
responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’

(Then) the one who had received two talents also came forward
and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two
more.’

His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great
responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’

This sub-set of verses opens with the familiar ring of Jesus echoing the return of the Messiah after the “long time” following His Ascension. The five-talent man reported first, and presented his master with double the amount of money he was originally given. His master is ecstatic, and affirms him with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Then comes an amazing statement, which could be paraphrased as, “You have been faithful with such minor property as 80 years wages; I will put you in charge of much, much more!”

As the scholars point out to us, life in heaven is thus not to be seen as being inactive, but being very active and in this case, even more so. But there is still more to be said. The master (in the Greek text “ho kyrios” signifying the Son of Man) calls this faithful servant to come and share His own joy. This is a clear reference to union with the Messiah in His eternal joy.

Our Lord is also hinting that His disciples should be ready to prove their loyalty to His cause. Rabbinic literature helps us understand the model He is using. Let’s hear from a truly great scholar:

“This motif is found frequently in rabbinic literature.

“God does not give greatness to a man till he has proved him in a
small matter, only then does He promote him to a great post.
Two were proved and found faithful and God promoted them to
greatness.

He tested David with sheep …. and God said, “You were found
faithful with the sheep, I will give you My sheep that you should
feed them,” and so with Moses, who fed his father-in-law’s sheep.
To him God said the same.”

Rabbinical Commentary on the New Testament by Samuel Tobias Lachs.

Our Lord repeats the same procedure with the two-talent man. Though this person was entrusted with less than half of the first, he receives the same reward! He shares in the master’s happiness! The Greek word (chara) can mean a feast or holiday celebration (Lachs) suggesting a warm welcome and a full sharing in the festivities, according to the person’s capacity. This fits very well the image Jesus often refers to of the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in Revelation 19: 6 — 9.

“Alleluia! The Lord has established his reign, (our) God, the almighty.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day
of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready.

She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment.” (The linen
represents the righteous deeds of the holy ones.)

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have
been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

It is worth reflecting a moment on the fact that the reward given to the servants is measured not by the original gift, but by the degree of their whole-hearted co-operation.

Verses 24 and 25

Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and
said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting
where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter;

so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’

Thus we finally get to the one-talent man. He had made a decision that with only one talent, it was not worth the risk to put it to work. Besides, it was much easier to hide it on the pretext of keeping it safe.

When called to account, this man quickly “gets in first” and annihilates the character of the master to his face. He betrays himself, however, by making out that he was afraid of such a harsh and greedy master. This is obviously a sham, since if he really believed his master was a hard grasping man, exploiting the hard work of others, he would have tried to increase the one talent entrusted to him! Instead, he projects on to his master his own mean and ungracious character; a common but futile practice of a devious and unfaithful person.

This person was right about one thing though: his master was a “demanding person”. In the parable, Jesus therefore puts into this man’s mouth a very valid observation about Himself. We notice that in verses 26 and 27 below, this observation is not denied, for our Lord knows He makes “outrageous” demands! Nevertheless, this character is a timid person, too proud to risk making a mistake. It is no trouble to him to be insolent and tell his master:

“Here is your money back”, implying, “You have no right to expect,
let alone demand, any more!”

Verses 26 and 27

His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you
knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I
did not scatter?

Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I
could have got it back with interest on my return?

The master sees through his servant’s pathetic excuse for doing nothing and rightly condemns him as evil and lazy. He will not accept any excuse for lack of willingness (if not enthusiasm) to carry out one’s duties and obligations.

Verses 28 — 30

Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.

For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where
there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’

So the first person who gained an extra five units of money (now totalling ten units) receives another. But note he is already enjoying the master’s hospitality. This suggests that he receives an even higher status and greater involvement in caring for Christ’s Kingdom.

The insolent servant is now dealt to in a way which commands our attention!

The master’s sentence is the irrevocable, permanent severance of the relationship between himself and his servant!

 

Conclusion

In many ways, the lessons are obvious. The parable is a total reversal of worldly views.

•    One’s reward for hard work in the kingdom of God is not more
     money but more work!
•    We are all given tasks to do for the sake of the kingdom, but these
     are always in proportion to our abilities.
•    God does not value the return on one unit of responsibility any
     less than the return expected on two or five units. All receive the
     same reward for an honest and faithful effort.
•    As mentioned in the notes, Jesus is making a clear statement at
     the close of his teaching ministry, about the volume of precious
     instruction, the body of spiritual knowledge, He has handed on to
     His disciples, which includes the Apostles, as well as all the faithful
     whom they, in their turn, instruct. All are called to take it to heart,
     let it constantly echo within them as the Living Word of their
     Master, and let it flow forth in their own words and actions.

Jesus was never clearer than when He said that what has been entrusted to each person will one day be seen as miniscule compared with the superabundance of spiritual blessings when each hears the call:
                                   “Come and share your master’s joy!”

The early Fathers of the Church saw in all of this, the lesson that grace used well leads to increased gifts of more. They also concluded that the “in-between-time” (Ascension to the Great Return) must be filled up and made meaningful by our deeds of love — which the following parable-like story of the Last Judgment shows.

Our Lord has truly proven himself to be the fulfilment of all the promises, prophecies and blessings of the Old Testament. But His work is unfinished until we have completed our assignments!

“Son of man, he said to me, take into your heart all my words that
I speak to you; hear them well.”               
   Ezekiel 3: 10

 

Shalom!

 

Further Reading

For those who would like a detailed study resource on
the readings for Sunday, please visit:

Agape Bible Study — 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
If you require only the section on the Gospel reading,
just scroll down the page.

To view all the material on the Agape website please visit:
www.agapebiblestudy.com

This website is highly recommended:

 

“Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature”

(Mark 16: 15)

The real Jesus, is the real answer to the real needs of the world!

Let us remember God’s teaching, contained in His Word and in doing
so, remain close to Him. The following are only examples illustrating
how you can note the gems the Holy Spirit highlights for your on-going
reflection.

The Parable of the Talents

Ordinary 33   Year A                           St. Matthew 25: 14 to 30

1. The parable of the talents is, strangely to us moderns, one of the easiest to
read and yet so easy to gloss over the essential meaning. When our Lord uses language like: “You wicked, lazy servant”, we can be certain He is highlighting
the message as urgent, a real priority, and an opportunity for us to show
enthusiasm and passion for taking His Divine Word and “multiplying” it. He has bequeathed His Church with a vast treasury of Biblical knowledge and spiritual teaching. He requires us to value it, live according to it, and share it as our
ability, circumstances and opportunities permit.

2. The lesson Jesus gives in this parable can be a little daunting to us. Those
who choose to follow Him (knowing that it is He who has chosen them) must
all be involved in the spreading of His Teaching, His Word, according to their
situation. For some people, this will involve much activity and hardship, even
danger. For others, whose circumstances prevent that, there is the equally
meritorious
vocation to reach out to the world by prayer and meditation,
supplemented by simple good deeds in everyday life. It is the collective power
of all these different responses to Jesus, which He unites with His own on-going
ministry, that will carry the light of revelation to the farthest ends of the world.
All who give themselves to this can look forward to hearing Jesus our Lord,
finally calling them:      

“Come and share your master’s joy!”

3. To be perfectly honest, it has become quite out of place, among many
Christians, to talk about (let alone just believe in) the second coming of the
Messiah — the Glorious Return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

St. Matthew’s Gospel has consistently shown how very real and imminent
this is. Religious groups and communities who highlight this, usually display
vigorous Scripture study, disciplined prayer each day (and night), and an urge
to invite others to follow Jesus Messiah. Many congregations show little
interest in highlighting such a “dated” belief.

When the Second Coming of the Saviour does not feature strongly in the life
and teaching of a religious group or community, it is rare to find any
passionate desire for evangelisation. In fact, such communities reflect
characteristics of a dying culture.

With Christ, His teaching is very clear. We cannot pick and choose the “bits”
of the Gospel which suit us — common as that practice might be. Our vocation
is to embrace the whole of the Teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, and let it truly,
“dwell in us richly”. For He is Christ, the Word — the very essence of the
Father’s Love. It is this love and concern for others which urges and empowers
us to reach out to the whole world.

Let us pray for one another that we will take these parables of Jesus seriously, and have the courage and spiritual energy to keep up our faith in this teaching despite the general lack of enthusiasm people have today for our Lord’s very pointed lessons.

Shalom!

Click here for a printable copy of these points for reflection

 

 

Matthew 25: 14 — 30

Ordinary 33   Year A  

NEW AMERICAN BIBLE

14    6 “It will be as when a man who was going on a
        journey 7 called in his servants and entrusted his
        possessions to them.

15    To one he gave five talents; 8 to another, two; to a
        third,
one – to each according to his ability. Then he
        went away.
Immediately

16    the one who received five talents went and traded
        with them, and made another five.

17    Likewise, the one who received two made another
        two.

18    9 But the man who received one went off and dug a
        hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.

19    After a long time the master of those servants came
        back and settled accounts with them.

20    The one who had received five talents came forward     
        bringing the additional five. 10 He said, ‘Master, you
        gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’

21    His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and
        faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small
        matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come,
        share your master’s joy.’

22   (Then) the one who had received two talents also
        came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two
        talents. See, I have made two more.’

23    His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and
        faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small
        matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come,
        share your master’s joy.’

24    Then the one who had received the one talent came
        forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a
        demanding person, harvesting where you did not
        plant and gathering where you did not scatter;

25    so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the    
        ground. Here it is back.’

26    His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy
        servant! 11 So you knew that I harvest where I did
        not plant and gather where I did not scatter?

27    Should you not then have put my money in the bank
        so that I could have got it back with interest on my
        return?

28    Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the
        one with ten.

29   12 For to everyone who has, more will be given and
        he will grow rich; but from the one who has not,
        even what he has will be taken away.

30   13 And throw this useless servant into the darkness
        outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of
        teeth.’

 

6 [14-30] Cf ⇒ Luke 19:12-27.

7 [14] It will be as when . . . journey: literally, “For just as a man who was going on a journey.” Although the comparison is not completed, the sense is clear; the kingdom of heaven is like the situation here described. Faithful use of one’s gifts will lead to participation in the fullness of the kingdom, lazy inactivity to exclusion from it.

8 [15] Talents: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 18:24.

9 [18] Buried his master’s money: see the note on ⇒ Matthew 13:44.

10 [20-23] Although the first two servants have received and doubled large sums, their faithful trading is regarded by the master as fidelity in small matters only, compared with the great responsibilities now to be given to them. The latter are unspecified. Share your master’s joy: probably the joy of the banquet of the kingdom; cf ⇒ Matthew 8:11.

11 [26-28] Wicked, lazy servant: this man’s inactivity is not negligible but seriously culpable. As punishment, he loses the gift he had received, that is now given to the first servant, whose possessions are already great.

12 [29] See the note on ⇒ Matthew 13:12 where there is a similar application of this maxim.

13 [30] See the note on ⇒ Matthew 8:11-12.

 

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised
edition
(c) 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine,
Washington D.C.
and are used by permission of the copyright owner.
All Rights Reserved. No part
of the New American Bible may be reproduced
in any form without permission in
writing from the copyright owner.

 

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