”To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents and to another one talent, each according to his ability.” Jesus in the parable of the talents, Matthew 25: 14-30
“Your voice is like liquid gold.” Simon Cowell, to a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent.
The parable of the talents is a story told by Jesus about a wealthy man who entrusts his property to those who serve him before he goes on a long journey and gives them a gift of money according to their ability. Those who received five and two talents put them to good use and double what they were given but the third simply hides it, doing nothing.
In the time of Jesus, a talent was a considerable amount of money and the rich man shows great faith in his servants by giving them so much. On return, the rich man praises the others but is angry that nothing was done with the one talent, which could at least have been invested. Why was he angry, when the money was given according to ability? If the owner wanted a better return, why didn’t he give it to those more able?
It’s clear that the servant given one talent knows that the rich man doesn’t think much of him. He fears and dislikes him – and yet, he’s been given this opportunity to show what he can do and make a difference. The rich man has given him a chance – but, by doing nothing, he squanders any possibility of change and wastes the opportunity he’s been given. Is that brave and honest or foolish and lazy?
When the rich owner returns, the servant can’t control his resentment and fear, telling his master what he thinks of him and his profiteering. He’s then asked why he didn’t try harder to impress his master – and he has no answer. So, what he’d freely been given is lost and given to the one who had most but used it. The lazy servant is thrown out and loses even what little he had, condemned while the able servant benefits from his loss.
There are times in life for all of us when the temptation to do nothing prevails or when we feel there’s no point in even trying to change someone’s mind or circumstances. Sometimes, resentment or fear, self-pity or laziness can prevent us from still trying to make a difference for ourselves or those around us if we become demoralised, jealous of others or obsessed with our own failure. It’s also clear, as Covid-19 continues, that this is sometimes to do with mental health matters and that the number of people with depression, anxiety attacks and other issues is increasing as restrictions continue. It can also be a life choice and a life style in choosing not to respond or use what is given.
However, the servant blamed the master for his problems, even though he’d given him a chance, and by not taking the responsibility he’s been given, brought about the very thing he feared and made matters far worse for himself. He wasn’t condemned for not reaching the same amount as the others but because he did nothing with what he had been given. Don’t we do that too, sometimes?
Today, the word talent has come to mean the skills we’re naturally good at and the gifts we’ve been freely given. TV programmes like Britain’s Got Talent showcase a huge range of abilities from the mundane to the golden and many talents can be improved as well as coming naturally. During the pandemic, Covid-19 has given many the chance to use their talents for the benefit of others and there are so many instances of people doing this to encourage others – as well as making money from it and selling their book or DVD too! Amongst them are the elderly – centenarian Captain Sir Tom reminding us that tomorrow will be a good day, Margaret Payne doing a climb of Mt Suilven on her stairs at the age of 90 to raise £75,000 for charity and Paul Harvey, the pianist with dementia who, aged 80, is raising money for people with Alzheimer’s others through his lovely compositions.
The good news is it’s never too late to use and develop new skills, change your mindset, make an effort or encourage others. Knowing and doing that is a talent in itself and a real gift that is so much needed in these hard times – it can bring its own spiritual riches, more precious than gold and a much wiser investment than money!
With my prayers,