This passage records the parable of the talents and is also found in Luke 19. This parable is often interpreted to be about good stewardship of financial resources. Its placement in Luke would support the financial stewardship interpretation. However, its placement in Matthew leads toward a broader interpretation about trusting in God, moving beyond our fears, and taking risks to help set up Godís reign on Earth.
In Matthew, this parable is the third of four stories told by Jesus that give insights about the coming of Godís kingdom.
Through this parable, Jesus is trying to help people trust in what God has already done for us. Jesus teaches that we should respond to Godís invitation to help build Godís vision of shalom and not worry about trying to earn Godís love, which we already have unconditionally.
The return on investment by the slaves who received five and two talents was amazing. Although the master praises their efforts, his response seems understated given the significance of their earnings. The focus of the story quickly moves to the slave who chose to bury his single talent. The masterís response to this slave seems extreme and harsh from the perspective of the slave who was trying to keep the masterís talent safe. The slaveís action seems lazy and misguided from the perspective of the master who trusted the slave to make responsible choices about the use of the talent.
As we go deeper in the story, we realize the slave who buried the talent makes his choice out of fear. The slave does not trust the nature of his master. He is afraid of what the master might do so the slave chooses what he thinks is the least risky path by burying the talent to protect it. The master asks why the slave would lose the safe opportunity to earn interest in the bank if he thought the master was so demanding. Ironically, we recognize the slaveís fear blocked him from making a responsible choice. At a minimum, the slave should have made the safe choice to at least earn guaranteed returns on the talent in the bank. However, if the slave had trusted the master who first trusted him with the talent, the slave would have risked choosing to do all he could to aspire to the masterís intents.
Jesus tells this parable in his last few days of life on Earth. He is in the middle of making a series of choices that are not responsible if his goal is to stay alive. However, we learn from the meaning of the parable and from Jesusí example, that making responsible choices is about being willing to take risks to proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace. It is about choosing to get involved in changing the world based on Godís vision of shalom.
When we fail to trust God and fear that God will harshly judge the choices we make, we sit idle and frozen in our fear. Like the slave, we bury our ďtalent.Ē We must remain centered on Godís unconditional love and grace through Jesus Christ. We must recognize God trusts us as stewards of our choices to help set up Godís reign on Earth. This helps us trust God, break free from our fear, and take the risks Jesus took. Like the slaves who created miraculous earnings on their ďtalents,Ē we are led by the Holy Spirit to make responsible choices that contribute to Godís restoring purposes on Earth. As we risk making responsible choices like Jesus did, we share in the joy of being Godís kingdom builders.