Qualities of a good and faithful servant

by Paul Yeung

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. She obtains wool and flax and works with loving hands. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle. She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy. Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her a reward for her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night. When people are saying, "Peace and security, " then sudden disaster comes upon them, like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.

Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable: "A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one--to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master's money.

After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, 'Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.' Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, 'Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.'His master said to him, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.' Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, 'Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.'His master said to him in reply, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.'"

Qualities of a good and faithful servant
Paul Yeung

When people read this parable, sometimes they have placed the wrong focus. The question of fairness surfaces first in their minds. We need to have the right perspective. Talents are only one form of gifts. There are many other gifts and some are more intangible in nature and some are even blessings in disguise. On the other hand, talents could be a curse in disguise because if not perceived properly, they can lead us to pride and thus away from God. The concept of stewardship is key to understanding this parable in that God has given custody of those talents to us. They do not belong to us and are only entrusted to us for our care. Upon His return, we need to return them (be accountable) as He settles accounts with us. In fact, when more is given, more will be required.

It is the attitude of us, as stewards, that matters. Please note that the one with the five talents is the person who goes off immediately to start using the talents. He has wasted no time in making good use of those talents entrusted to him. However, the one with one talent is the one who has hesitated and then dug a hole and hid his master's money. When the time comes to settle the accounts, the one with the five talents is the first to come forward, while the one with one talent is the one who again hesitates and has no sense of accountability. He utters all sorts of bitter comments and makes excuses for his laziness. That bitterness may be rooted in his belief that he is not being fairly treated and his failure to look beyond and see his master's heart.

But how should we use those talents. What is a fair evaluation of our “performance”? For what should those talents be traded? Indeed, it will not be the same talents that we will reap as harvest. If properly utilized, those talents should yield plentiful fruits in the sanctification of oneself and others, bringing more souls to Jesus and thus the salvation of many.

The reward of being a trustworthy servant abundantly outweighs the effort we put in. The master measures not the returns we bring back but on how seriously we take our role as stewards of the talents entrusted to us. The exact same response the master gives to the two faithful servants: “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21) God loves the one with one talent no less than the one with five. The key is to recognize our gifts and to use them according to our best ability and be the best we can be.

The worst scenario will be for those entrusted with more but they use them against God. Yet another unfortunate scenario is for those who have received many but they refuse to acknowledge their gifts from God. They would say, “I am no good and don't give me that responsibility!” Believe it or not, there are many people like that out there!

God cannot be outdone in generosity and He knows no limits in granting us talents (resources) we need to do His will. So, let us not be fearful about our inadequacy when responding to His call. He will give us more than what we need to take on our missions and to overcome any challenges that may come our way.


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