This Sunday’s readings begin with a heartwarming scene in the first reading; a loving, faithful and capable wife and mother who not only takes excellent care of her family and household but most of all, she “fears the lord” (Proverbs 31:30). She uses resources wisely; she wastes not and wants not. She works diligently with her own hands, weaving wool and linen. A smart investor as well; she buys a field and plants a vineyard “with the fruit of her hands” (16). She never overlooks the needs of the poor and always kind in her words. She is a fine example of making the best use of God’s given time, resources and talents.
In the gospel reading, Jesus teaches his disciples with the parable of the talents. A master is going on a journey. He summons his slaves and gives them stewardship of his property according to their ability; to one he gives five talents, and to the others, two and one respectively. When the master returns after a long time, the slaves who have received five and two talents have both yielded a return of 100%. The master finds them “good and trustworthy”, puts them “in charge of many things” and they “enter into the joy of [their] master” (Mt 25:23). The one who has received one talent has a yield of 0% for all he has done was to hide the master’s talent in the ground. The master is furious, calling him a “wicked and lazy slave”; he should have invested the talent “with the bankers” thereby protecting the principal and earning some financial return for the master (26). The master takes away the only talent from this slave and gives it to the one with ten talents.
This parable warns us against the dangers of sloth whereby God’s given blessings and abilities are not used because of fear, laziness, or jealousy (Ref. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament P53). Why is that person given five talents while I have only one? When challenged by the toils and disappointments in life, the feeling of envy could be overwhelming. Fear may be relevant to many of us in the current times of uncertainty and unrest when our hope for the future is dampened by the threat of war and the possible persecution and sufferings that come with it. Our diligence and creativity and, hence, our ability to be a good and faithful steward is put to the test.
But when we live responsibly in Christ, take good care of ourselves, our neighbor, the less fortunate ones in society and most of all, our Mother Earth, our diligence will be duly rewarded. Our accountability to Christ involves risks and challenges, God’s endowments must be invested in and for the good of others (Ref. ICSB NT P53).
Against this background, Jesus delivers one of his famous teachings, “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” (30).