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The Parable of the Talents

00:00 / 17:09

19 Nov 2023

Matthew 25:14-30

Holy Trinity Winchester - Fr Jamie Franklin - The Parable of the Talents
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Now may I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.


Please be seated.

So this morning I'd like to make some comment on the parable of the talents which we've just heard.

Three servants.

Given charge of the property of their master who goes on a long journey, one with five talents, one with two, one with one.

Now for our purposes, a talent is essentially a large amount of money.

The first to invest that money and double it, the third one does nothing except hide it in a hole in the ground.

The master returns, he commends the first two and he punishes the third.

Now what does this parable mean?

What does it mean for us?

Now, in a very straightforward way, this parable is about where we find ourselves in life and in this world.

The man who leaves on a journey is Christ.

He has ascended into heaven and he has, as it were, entrusted us with his property.

One day he will return

As we say in the creeds, to judge the quick and the dead.

And we will each of us have to give an account to him.

That is, broadly speaking, the meaning of this parable.

And so where we find ourselves is in this in-between time.

The time in between Christ's ascension and his second coming.

And we have a task, we have responsibilities, we have a calling to respond to.

Now, before I say anything else about this, consider the view of man that this parable is proposing.

Now, in a sense, this parable is about judgment, isn't it?

It's about a final judgment.

And we've heard that in our other readings this morning as well.

And we might say, well, we don't like that.

That sounds harsh.

It sounds difficult.

But in a way, we might look at it differently.

We might say that this proposes to us a very, very high and exalted view

of Mankind.

In our culture we might think well basically we are sort of a product of evolution plus atheism.

We're basically animals who are here to enjoy ourselves maybe at our best for a time but ultimately to be snuffed out and to fade away.

Now the Christian view of man, the Christian view of humanity is quite different to that.

The Christian view of humanity is that we are indeed made

in the image of God and exalted above the animals.

Psalm 8.

What is man that thou art mindful of him?

Thou hast set him slightly lower than the angels.

Thou hast put all things in dominion under his feet.

We are made in God's image, called to be His servants, given responsibilities, given tasks to do, called to meaningful action in this world, given gifts by God to fulfil these responsibilities that He has given us.

And at the end of it all, we will give an account to God Himself.

You might say, well, that sounds scary.

But at the very least, we could say that this is a very high calling to which

We are called.

We are not called to some kind of mediocre lives.

We are called to rise to the calling of God himself.

And so what is our task in this world, friends?

Well, how we carry out the task that God's called us to will be different for each one of us, but it includes the same.

Being a loyal subject of God, living a holy life,

in accordance with his commandments and sharing the good news of the kingdom that we serve.

Now, as I say, how that task is carried out for each one of us is manifested in an infinite number of different ways, but nevertheless, that is what we are all called to.

That is the mission that we share in common with one another.

There are, in the parable, two responses, broadly speaking.

We have the first two servants who doubled their money.

We might call this obedience and attainment.

Now, observe something about this story.

Observe how great a storyteller Jesus is.

Because I would suggest that if I made this story up, or if you made this story up, we'd probably just have two men.

We'd have one man who obeys, and we'd have one man who disobeys.

But not in the way that Jesus tells the story.

No, there are two men.

and they both doubled their money.

Now why does Christ tell the story in this way?

It's in order to illustrate a very important point.

The one man has five talents.

The one man has two talents.

They both go out and they invest immediately and double their money.

One ends up with four talents, one ends up with ten talents and they are both commended in the same way.

The point is

God is interested primarily not in the outcome, but in the attitude.

He is interested in what we do with the gifts that he has given us.

And those gifts, friends, are indeed different.

They are different.

We may be born equal in the sense that we should all be treated with equal dignity and respect, but we are not born equal in respect of our gifts and the opportunities and the things that we can do in this life.

We are all different.

We have different talents.

We have different opportunities.

We have different tasks set before us.

And you may feel that you have more.

You may feel that you have less.

Friends, our story today

tells us that we are to offer it, whatever it is, the same.

Many people feel that they have less.

Many people feel that they have little to offer to God, little to offer to the church, little to offer to the world.

It's easy to look at other people and to think, well, I wish I had their gifts.

I wish I could do what they are doing.

But this doesn't help us if we think in this way.

It doesn't help us to look at others and to be envious of what they have.

Friends, we have to come to terms with what God has given to us and use that, even if it's a little, for His glory.

There may be some here who feel, well, I've got quite a lot of gifts.

I've got quite a lot of talents.

I've got a lot to offer God.

Well, that's good if you do.

If you've been given five talents by God, then give those five talents in his service, but do not be proud.

And remember that the only reason you have those talents in the first place, the only reason you have those gifts, those opportunities, that time, that energy, is because God has given those things to you in the first place.

That's a detail that comes out in our story, isn't it?

The servants don't have anything to begin with.

They are given those things by the master.

What do you have that you did not receive?

The answer is nothing.

We receive everything from God, even the ability to do what we are able to do through our own free will.

But one thing I would say is don't underestimate the importance

of your gifts.

Don't underestimate the importance of who you are.

And particularly, I'm saying this from a perspective of a priest and a pastor in the church.

Because I feel this very, very keenly.

I'm sure you'll all be aware of those posters that they had, I don't know when it was, in the Second World War in America.

Picture of Uncle Sam with a finger pointing, saying, your country needs you.

Well, that's the way it is in the church.

Your church needs you.

And as I say, I feel this perhaps as keenly as anyone.

We need you.

We need your gifts.

We need your talents.

We need your time.

We need your treasure.

Because God has given you those things in order to build up this congregation or wherever it is that you worship God week by week.

Your church needs you.

And you might feel, well, I don't have very much to give.

Well, that's okay, because your presence is significant in itself.

I can't tell you how much it means that you simply come and worship God with us.

That in itself is extremely significant.

Of course, you may have more to give, and many of us do, but that in itself

is such a gift to the church your presence your prayers your support of the people of God as we attempt to build up the community in this place your church needs you we need you and so friends whether it's great or whether it's little give what you have even if it's just like that lady who just gave her two copper coins into the collection give that that's worth it

That makes a difference, and in many ways that is the greatest gift of all.

So that response that we see of those first two men, that's a great response.

That's the kind of response that the Lord is looking for.

What about the third man?

The third man who received just one talent, but he buried that talent in the ground.

We might characterise this as inactivity.

Motivated by fear.

So that's what he says.

He says, Master, I heard that you were a hard man, so I simply dug a hole and hid my talent in the grounds.

Now, this is something that I've actually come across quite a lot in my life.

It's actually quite a common attitude.

A feeling, you might say, a feeling that I'm not good enough, that maybe God is angry with me, that I need to sort myself out before I can

As I say, I've come across that very commonly in life and it's something that people are prone to feel, something that we're all prone to feel in some cases.

To see God as an angry father who can't ever

Two thoughts about that.

The first thing is that we all need to remember God's grace

in Jesus Christ.

God's love avails for us in Jesus and this is at the heart of our faith.

The heart of everything that we believe as Christians is Jesus Christ crucified, dying on the cross, shedding his blood for our sins out of what?

Love for the world.

Love for you and me.

God so loved the world.

And so this reveals to us that God is not a harsh taskmaster, but He is a compassionate Father who gives out of His abundance so that we might be united with Him.

As it says in Psalm 103, as a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him.

We all need God's grace in Christ, whether we are great in the church, whether we are lesser in the church.

Whether we are sinful or whether we are sinless, and indeed none of us are, we all need God's grace in Jesus Christ.

The second thing I'd say about this tendency we have to shrink back because we feel that we're not good enough, is that friends, if we wait till we've sorted ourselves out completely, none of us would ever do anything.

Everything we offer is always imperfect in some way, it's always incomplete.

It's always tinged with some kind of self-interest or pride or something like that.

And that's okay.

That's just the way it is, until we come to glory with Christ.

Don't wait until you're sorted out completely.

Don't wait until you've got yourself completely together, because you never will.

Offer what you have now.

Now is the day of salvation.

And it's quite interesting, it's almost the last thing that he says to them.

He says to them, brothers, never despair of God's mercy.

Brothers, never despair of God's mercy.

And I think the reason he says that is because to despair of God's mercy is ultimately to retreat from God and to cut ourselves off from his love forever by our own choice.

Now don't get me wrong, the offer in this life is always there, that we can always come, that we can always find compassion, the compassion of a loving father in God's embrace.

But nevertheless, if we continually despair of his mercy, we will never come.

And this, I believe, is why St Benedict left that until last.

Never despair of God's mercy.

You can always find forgiveness.

You can always find reconciliation.

You can always find compassion and love.

If only you will come and receive it from God.

Friends, our lives are not just meaningless, meandering around, waiting for something to happen.

But our lives are a journey.

At their highest, our lives are a journey towards God.

And we desire to hear the words that we heard in this parable.

Well done, good and faithful servant.

Enter into the joy of your master.

This gives our lives meaning.

It gives them an orientation.

It gives them a direction and a purpose.

So let's embrace these things.

I'd like to finish with a slightly longer quote from the rule of Saint Benedict.

This is actually from the introduction, but I think it sums up many of the things that I've been talking about today.

Saint Benedict wrote this to his monks.

And so we must prepare our hearts and bodies to fight by means of holy obedience to his instructions.

If our natural abilities do not allow us to do something, we must ask the Lord

to grant us his grace to assist us.

If we wish to escape the punishments of hell and reach eternal life, we must hasten to do now what will profit us forever.

While we still have time and while we are in this body and have the opportunity to fulfil all these things by the light of this life.

We must hasten to do now what will profit us forever while we still have time.

So friends, let us take the time to offer the gifts that we have in the time that has been given to us by God's grace.


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