16 November 2014

Matthew 25:14-30

“Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that 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. Here you have what is yours.’” (vv. 24-25)


Traditionally this parable has been read as a lesson in the good stewardship of the gifts and skills (talents) we are given by God. However, a look at this parable in the broader context in which Jesus tells it can help us to discover new insights.

Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives, looking towards Jerusalem, where he recently entered in triumph and threw moneylenders out of the temple (Matthew 21:1-17). Perhaps with foreboding of his own death, he is teaching about signs of the end of time, and this is the third of four parables on the subject of how his followers should behave while they await his return.

The focus of the parable is not the talents, but the relationship between the master and the third slave. The first two slaves, who are included not so much as individual characters, but as stock figures to offer a contrast to the third slave, responded to the master's trust with confidence, pursuing high-risk strategies to turn a profit. The third, however, responded with fear. He daren't lose what had been entrusted to him, for fear of punishment, so he buried it and waited anxiously for the master's return.

The third slave seems to exemplify what the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer called the sin of respectable people: running away from responsibility. But he discovered that being fear-driven, playing it safe, protecting himself from risk, refusing to invest in anything or care passionately about anything leads to a life that is more like a living death, like being banished to outer darkness.

Instead, Jesus is calling his disciples to live as fully as possible whilst awaiting his return; to trust securely in the God's proven generosity so that they will have the confidence to invest themselves, to expand the horizons of their responsibilities, and to be prepared to risk everything for the sake of love - in other words, to follow him in the way of the cross.

To Ponder

  • Is there any part of your life where you are fear-driven? What do you need to overcome that fear and live with confidence?
  • Have you ever tried to protect yourself from pain by holding back from loving? What was the result?
  • What would living life fully mean for you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Anna Bishop

Anna Bishop is a wife, mother and Methodist presbyter. She is currently without appointment while her two small children teach her a spirituality of interruption! She is living in the Salisbury circuit, where she leads Baby-interrupted Bible Study and Little Blessings, a service of worship for babies, toddlers, pre-school children and their carers.