“For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Is it good news to the rich, and bad news to the poor? NO. The parable is not about the rich-get-richer and the poor-get-poorer. We know, Jesus said, “go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21; Luke 18:22). And the parable is not about how to obtain salvation. This parable is about the stewardship of the servants, and is about how the servants live in the absence of their master.
Let us enter into the scene, and follow the third servant who is a tragic character in the drama. With other two servants, he too received the talent, and gave it back to his master in his coming. However, he was thrown outside in the darkness. He could not join the party. Why? Why was this servant called wicked and lazy servant by his master? Why did this third servant go off and dig a hole in the ground, and hide his master’s money? He said, he knew his master well, “You were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.” But, No. He did not know his master. We know this Master is not such a harsh man. He is a Master who sowed and scattered seed. The Master did sow his own body. He did scatter his own blood. He is the seed and also the sower. He was the Master who fulfilled his task assigned for the sake of them. The servant did not know that he was the Master who served his servants, and what was more, he gave his life for his servants, and for him. The servant thought he did know his master well, but in fact, he did not know him. In addition, he had no idea what it meant to be a servant. He had no idea what he was expected to do in the absence of his master. He was afraid when his master entrusted the talent to him. So, as he received the money, he went outside and hid the talent that he received in the ground. Finally, his master came back, and called him. Then, he came to him, and gave his money back, saying, “Here, you have what is yours.” The servant’s focus of attention was to keep the money safe and secret from others, and also tried to secure his own safety. He did not do anything but keeping it in the ground. The servant had fear of failing to fulfill his task. He had the fear of losing the money. He was imprisoned with fear and anxiety rooted in him, in his lack of knowledge of his master. He had no idea what his absence is about, and what to do and how to live in his absence. The servant hid the money in the ground, but, he was still afraid that someone might come to the place, the spot, to dig up the ground and steal the money. Day and night. He might have walked around the place in which the money was hid and sleeping. He was like a shadow walking around the grave in anxiety, in worry, in fury, in fear, and in darkness. Even in day time, under the sunshine, he might be a walking shadow, not looking up at the sky, and the sun, but looking down the ground, and looking around to see what was happening round here the place where he hid the money. In fact, he had been already in darkness before he was thrown into the outer darkness. He had been already in the inner darkness. Then, did he live right living during the absence of his master?
It is the line of a tragedy of William Shakespeare. Macbeth says, ….
“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this pretty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.
Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That swaggers and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Macbeth betrays his king and his trust in him. He kills the king and other royal servants, and finally he seizes the throne. He becomes king and Lady Macbeth queen. However, “Sleep no more to Macbeth.” He not only murdered his king, but also murdered his sleep. Night after night, he is oppressed by a nightmare. While he is awake, he is haunted by the ghost of the dead. His wife, Lady Macbeth, is walking in sleep with her eyes open. “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow.” Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and their living are like a walking shadow. They live not in joy, happy, and peace, but in fear, anxiety, and fury. They live not in still, but in sound. They did not use the talents and the gifts of their living given to serve the king and his kingdom and his people, but instead, they did use them to serve their own ambition, greed, safety, plans, and their own well-being. Their talents and gifts of living were buried and hid in the ground, in the darkness. They keep it secret from the people. Fright, anxiety, worry, fury, and fear devoured up them and their whole life. They are just a shadow walking around their place in fear, in fury, in sound. The crown he seized does not light his way, and the throne does not give him comfort and peace. He walks as a shadow holding a brief candle at nights, and also during the day. He walks in the darkness even in the day.
Our servant of the parable, just like Macbeth, could not take one step forward from the place in which he hid the money. He hesitated before the door, walked up and down his room filled with fear and anxiety, and its window was just a hole for him to watch for a thief. He should have known that, to be a servant, and to be a faithful servant, is to accept a trust, responsibility, and to fulfill trust assigned to them even in the absence of the master. The Bible says, “to be wise, to be a wise servant, he must first have fear for his master” (Prov. 9:10). But, the fear in here is not a fright, anxiety, worry, horror, phobia, or being scared or afraid that the servant has. The fear of the Master is to know that his master is master, and he is a servant. The fear of God is to know God is God, we are human. To praise and worship him, and to keep his commandments. That is the fear, and that is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111). The Psalm of today says, “To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, … Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, …” (Ps. 123). Today, we are called to lift up our eyes to the Lord in heaven, to follow his commandments, but not to look down onto the ground, not to walk around the ground like a shadow. Our Master is the Master of grace and mercy and compassion. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him (Psalm 103). However, he does not require us to be perfect, but to be vigilant, and faithful. The servant was not a walking shadow, not a poor actor in darkness. The talent that he received, was not a burden, not darkness, but, gift, and light, coming from his merciful Master. His master expected him not to hide his gift, but to use, enjoy, and share with others, and to encourage and help one another with it. In the second reading of today Paul says, “You are all children of light and children of the day. You belong to the day, not to the darkness. You are not in the darkness.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11) So, you are not a shadow walking in darkness. Do not look down on the ground. Do not look around the grave. Do not walk like a shadow. Lift up your eyes to me, to your Master in heaven, and walk in my light.” The parable of today calls us to commitment to the risen Lord, our Master, and to be faithful to him, and to do our tasks assigned in the between times, in his absence.
I imagine the Day when the Lord say, “How was my gift for you?” “How was that, your living of gift?” “Did you live the life of gift given through the life, death, and resurrection in Christ?” “Did you do what I entrusted to you?” Jesus said his disciples before coming to the cross, “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8) Faith requires his disciples, his servants, to accept a trust, and to fulfill their trust assigned. Paul says, Let us today, wear faith and love as a breastplate, and wear our hope of salvation as a helmet (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11). Let us enjoy God’s gifts of living. Let us live the right living in Christ with the help of his Spirit, worshiping God together, celebrating one another for the gifts of living, growing in the knowledge of God’s justice and practicing it, and praying the people in need, and serving the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and the alien among us. That we may, in his coming, enter into God’s joy and share his happiness. Today, through the parable, our Master is asking us, “Where is your talent?”