The Parable of the Talents

Posted by Father Gordon Miltenberger on

Right away he who received went…

For us who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit there can be no waiting, no delay.

Behind all slackness in the Lord's service there is a misconception about God's character. There is a feeling that he is hard on us, asks more than is reasonable. We begrudge the labor and sacrifice which God asks for. How did we get the idea that God's work should be easy? We have the executive complex about religion - hire the priest to pray for us, to be religious for us. Or, if we do some work, it must be easy. A foam-rubber religion is no good.

When we can run to the Father with all the innocence and enthusiasm of a child who brings what he has made, then we are approaching the proper use of our lives. The peculiarity of the Kingdom of Heaven is that for work done more work is given, with the power to do it. The citizens of that Kingdom do their work because they love their Lord, and in doing their work lovingly draw closer to him.

What are they among so many? We recognize an inadequacy: obviously the demand is greater than the supply. The reaction is to draw back and make no effort to use what is available. But in any course of action there is no real alternative open to us except to use what is at hand. In financial matters of spending and giving, the demand is always greater than the supply. In personal generosity we need to know ourselves sufficient to give and not be destroyed.

What will be left if I give? Anything? Shall I lose something by giving? Am I actually destroying myself piece by piece? Above all, shall I lose my identity, as in a photograph jigsaw puzzle? So there are two more questions: What will it get me? and, Do I stand to lose anything by it? Such questions identify life and a business transaction. One could not possibly do business except on the basis of at least a return on the outlay.

By contrast, to give is to give away. To do is to deplete. There is a paradox: to do is the means of completing. When physical energy is expended it is energy gone. It must be replenished by nourishment. It is the same with spiritual energy. There must be nourishment. Where does it come from? From God directly and from God through other persons.

To do is to increase the capacity to do. To learn is to increase the capacity to learn, and even more, to teach is to increase the capacity to learn. Why do we balk at this: to give is to increase the capacity to give. For each of us the moment comes in our lives when we say, Now I am ready to begin my life's work. I have a sufficient store of education and training and strength. For each of us the moment comes at baptism and confirmation and adult age. St. Paul tells us of our sufficiency: "In Christ you will always be rich enough to be generous." Isn't this the assurance we are waiting for? Isn't it precisely why we hang back, that we are not sure where the generosity can keep coming from?

We know ourselves well enough to realize that we are not sufficient. Of course, we frequently bluff our way through. What is our capacity in the face of so many demands? Our capacity to give of ourselves is not at all adequate. But we are those who have received: we have more to give than merely ourselves. We have been given the gift of Jesus. It is now he whom we give, and because of it we shall always be rich enough to be generous.

We may now - we must now - give fearlessly. Jesus is the gift and he is the refreshment; he is the spending and the endless source.