MAKING USE OF WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN US
Prov 31:10-15, 19-20, 30-31; 1Thess 5:1-6; Matt 25:14-30
Today’s gospel is very challenging. Jesus is talking about his going away from the earth. We are almost at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. The church year is close to an end. In fact, just one Sunday more, and the Church is ended. In today’s Gospel (Mt. 25:14-30) Jesus uses a parable to tells us that God has given each one of us talents.
1. THE PARABLE
In the parable we hear about “a man going on a journey who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability” (Matt 25:15). From the beginning of the story we are told that the servant who received just one talent is a man of little ability. He is not a genius. Yet it is interesting to note that the master has a talent even for his relatively disabled servant. All God’s children have got their talents, even those who appear to have very minimal abilities in comparison with the more gifted ones.
The master departs and the first two servants “went off at once and traded” with their talents. The third servant, on the other hand, digs a hole in the ground and buries his one talent. Why does he do that? Because he is afraid he is going to lose it if he trades with it. He must have reasoned like this: “Well, those with more talents can afford to take a risk. If they lost a talent, they could make it up later. But me, I have only one talent. If I lose it, end of story! So I better play it safe and just take care of it.”
The core of the story comes when the master returns and demands an account from the servants. First, we discover that even though the first servant with five talents had made five more talents and the second servant with two talents had made two more talents, both of them receive exactly the same compliments: “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” (Mtt 25:21, 23). They are rewarded not in proportion to how many talents each has made but in proportion to how many talents each of them started off with.
The parable is pretty simple. (Narrate briefly the idea that the football player who puts on shirt No. ‘9’ must take risk) BELIEVERS MUST TAKE RISKS. They should not just fold up their hands and wait. However, many Christians want to stay away from trouble. Jesus wants men and women who are ready to risk. The kingdom will never be built by cowards, by people who are not willing to engage in life. Many Christians prefer to hide. Quietly they come to church, quietly they go home. Quietly they criticize. They hide and are not ready to risk anything. Let us look at the lessons that can be drawn from this text:
2. GOD HAS GIVEN US A RESPONSIBILITY
When reads the parable, it comes clear that God wants us to do at least two things.
First, we are called to share the gospel. We are reminded that every baptized Christian is given God’s Spirit and the message of eternal life. Our job is to seek to bring a good return from that message by our faithful proclamation. We are Christ’s ambassadors. We are charged to point the lost to Christ.
The second thing is that each servant was given differing amounts, “in accordance with their ability”. God has equipped each one of us with gifts that we are to use for His glory. There are people who complain that they think God skipped over them when he was giving out gifts. We seem to think that the only gifts God gives are gifts of music, public speaking, or teaching. Those are just a small measure of what God gives to people. God gives many gifts:
It may be our finances (the ability to help others and make things happen)
It may be insightful ideas (you can lead with great clarity and insight)
It may be an ability to organize (you are a detail person)
It may be a great vision (you see possibilities others never thought of)
It may be a caring heart (you are tuned in to those around you)
It may be the ability to give wise counsel to those who need guidance
It may be the ability to mediate between warring parties
It may be the ability to build or fix things (you can help people in very tangible ways)
It may be a rapport with children (you may have gifts in youth work)
There are many gifts that God has given us. Our job is simple. First, we are to find what gifts and abilities we have been given (seek God in prayer, talk to your friends, experiment).
Secondly, we are to take the gifts God has given and find a way to use them to bring glory and honour to the Father. We have been given, each according to our abilities and potentialities. Not all of us can be chairpersons, treasurers, secretaries, or choir masters. Yet, we can contribute in very many ways to the growth of God’s kingdom and our human society.
3. GOD HAS GIVEN US A PROMISE
In the parable, the message is clear that the person who serves faithfully will be rewarded.
a) Two principles are highlighted here: The first is this: “those who are trustworthy in little things will be given more” (Lk 19:17; Mtt 25:21). You will never be used greatly by God until you are faithful in what he has given you to do now. There are two simple reasons for this principle of life.
i) First, in the little things of life we show whether or not we can handle the big things. The way you handle the little things shows your character. If you do not put the Lord first in your present finances, you will not put him first when you have more. If you do not fulfill your present commitments, there is no reason to believe you will fulfill greater commitments.
ii) Second, the little things of life often turn into the big things. The message of the gospel you share with another might lead to the call of the next Pope or St. Mother Theresa. The act of kindness you extend may open the door of eternal life to your neighbour. The young person you help lead to Christ may head some great corporation someday. If we serve God moment by moment in whatever circumstance in which we find ourselves, we will be astonished at what God will do through us.
b) There next principle or promise in these parables: “everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.” (Luke 19:26; see Matthew 25:29). This is not as difficult as it seems. In Luke’s version, we read: “Then he said to those standing there, ‘Take the money from him and give it to the servant who doubled my stake.’ “They said, ‘But Master, he already has double.’ “He said, ‘That’s what I mean: Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up going empty-handed’. This is exactly how this often happen in life.
The salesman who works hard will be given more territory to make more sales
The student who is diligent will continue to excel at learning while the lazy student will eventually find that they are unable to keep up.
The athlete who continues to work hard on the fundamentals will remain sharp and at the top of their game, while the athlete who feels “good enough” will cease to be effective.
Those who train their bodies will work more efficiently and be more fit and stronger while those who neglect their bodies will lose their energy and be unfit.
Those who keep working at their spiritual life will discover more of God’s goodness and grace; those who become lazy in spiritual pursuits will slowly drift from the Lord.
There is no such thing as standing still in the Christian life; you are progressing or regressing. The person who is growing will be given increasing opportunity, blessing and responsibility. The person who is idling will find his/her joy decreasing, effectiveness diminishing, and compromise increasing. He/she will lose ground.
4. GOD HAS GIVEN US A WARNING
There are really two warnings in these parables.
a) The first is a warning to those who do nothing with the grace and resources that God has given. They will lose what they have been given.
b) Second, Christians will be judged. Christ teaches us about ACCOUNTABILITY. Just like it is for the servants in the parable, we shall be made to render an account for our gifts, by they material wealth, a money-making skill, an ability or a position we may hold. We would need to answer these questions: Did I use them for the good of people or only for my selfish enjoyment or, worse, to amass ill-gotten wealth? Those who resist the Lord shall be punished swiftly and severely.
It clear, therefore, that fear is no excuse for a lack of results in our Christian life. Quite often, people are afraid of failure. Who is the true failure? The person who tries and is unsuccessful or the person who never even tries something new? Being unsuccessful and being a failure are two different things. One’s being increases in the measure that one gives it away. That is the law of the gift, and it can be found from one end to the other in the bible. One application of this law has to do with faith itself. Your faith will grow only in the measure that you give it away, sharing it with others.
Inspired by the 1st Reading of today, we learn that God has given us families. We have not just got to sit back and wait for things to happen. We have to work in order to build it to what we expect of a good family. We have to be positively active. Husband: Praise your wife and your family. Woman: You also have to be a good wife as described in the 1st reading so as to build a formidable family. At this juncture, we think of the qualities that have been described in the reading. Such a wife is the happiness of her husband; she keeps peace, serenity and harmony in the home. She is a great worker; she is never idle. She has a great and generous heart. She is moved by the needs of the poor and helps them. She is very religious and keeps the commandments of God. Are there any many women like that? The text of today begins with a provocative question: “A perfect wife—who can find her?” Certainly, there are many such wives. Such wives are a model of industriousness and dedication. They put their talents to the fullest us, for the good of their families, and for the needy.
We pray that we may also be judicious and hardworking like the first two servants in the parable of today’s gospel. Amen.