21 June 2013

Matthew 25:14-30

“So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 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.” (vv. 28-29)


This passage offers an interesting picture of how communities of that time were organised, and may surprise us with the amount of responsibility given to slaves. Even one talent was a large amount of money. It has been suggested that it equalled more than 15 years wages. So the burden of getting it right would have been very heavy. It is also clear that the story is not interested in what we might call 'being fair'. This is not a society where equal opportunities are an issue! The issue is whether or not people take their responsibilities seriously.

The context in this Gospel is about being prepared for a final meeting with God on what some would call the Day of Judgement. The suggestion seems to be that being ready for that day involves being able to account for any responsibility which was committed to each person during their life. The accolade "good and trustworthy" (vv. 21, 23) suggests that these two qualities must always go together.

The hard work that might have been involved for each slave is taken for granted, although the rewards are very impressive. However, a lack of response, caused by fear - or for any other reason - is not only unacceptable, but is to be very severely punished. Unlike some of the stories Jesus told, this one seems to suggest a God whose demands must be fulfilled if a person is to be considered worthy. The verses about what is given and what taken away raise even more questions about God's attitude to the community of faith.

To Ponder

  • Jesus sometimes offered exaggerated pictures in order to encourage people to think through what they really believed. Do you think this might be one of those occasions?
  • How helpful or unhelpful do you find these images of reward and punishment as you think of God?
  • How might the idea of taking responsibilities this seriously affect your daily decisions?

Bible notes author

Revd Alison Tomlin

Alison Tomlin is a supernumerary Methodist minister, who was president of the Methodist Conference in 2010/2011. She has been involved for the last 25 years in leading retreats and offering prayer, accompanying both groups and individuals.