In today’s Gospel reading, a man plans an extensive voyage abroad. This is long before there was an Edward D. Jones on every corner. So he turns to his servants. To one he commits five talents, to another two, and the third, one. Now the talent was a lot of money, literally years worth of income for the average worker, so these are big investments. In the Master’s absence, the first two double the money, while the third servant is afraid and buries the talent. When the man returns after many years, he praises the first two and invites them to rejoice with him, but condemns the third and dismisses him.
Likely the third servant represents the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Their sin is being conservative. They preserve the Law intact, and always impose their literal interpretation. They fence in the Law and allow for no change or innovation. They prevent Torah from being a living document. Thus they keep the letter of the law and kill the spirit of the law. They reject Jesus’ new ideas which are, in reality, more faithful to the spirit of the Law. These religious professionals also make certain that their official approach to religious practice ensures growth of their own personal wealth, power, and prestige.
There are lessons here for us today. First, like the third servant, we may become fearful of taking a chance, risking any change, stepping out of our comfort zone, moving boldly into an unknown future. But for the Christian there can be no option. We cannot use a conservative interpretation of our Faith to avoid responsibility. We must be open to what God has in mind for the us and future of the Church. We must not hide our heavenly treasure, but invest it, expecting rich returns.
A second lesson lies in the pellucid intention of the writer to symbolize the second coming of Christ (the Master’s return) and final judgement (the call to accounting). Clearly this means that each of us must give a final account for how we have lived, what we have done or failed to do, in our mission of building the Kingdom of God. We need to think seriously about that.