“You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.” (Matthew 25:26-27)
Last Sunday, Jesus gave us the parable of the ten virgins. Five of them were foolish; they made several mistakes and ended up being kicked out of the wedding banquet. We know that Jesus is the bridegroom that would come at the end of time and only the wise ones who have gone the extra mile to live according to His precepts will be admitted into the eternal banquet of heaven.
Today, Jesus gave us another parable which is quite similar to the parable of the ten virgins, however, this time there is just one foolish servant who again ended up in a place of outer darkness; a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. How do we resemble this foolish servant? And what lessons do we learn from this parable?
1. How to Detect Signs of Laziness.
First, it is important to bear in mind that there is a whole world of difference between resting and laziness. While resting (after work) is a sign of wisdom, laziness (avoiding work) is foolishness. Scriptures teach us: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a vagabond, and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:10-11) Meanwhile, the same Scriptures declare: “Sweet is the sleep of a labourer, whether he eats little or much.” (Ecclesiastes 5:12).
The first sign of laziness is looking for excuses to avoid work. Trust me, when you don’t want to do something, you would always have an excuse (a valid reason) for not doing it. According to this foolish servant, the Master was a hard man reaping where he had not sown meaning that, for him, his Master did not deserve the profit. For this reason, the Master referred to this servant as a wicked person. Note that it is a sign of wickedness on our part if we fail to make use of the talents, gifts and abilities that God has given to us.
From the lips of this servant, we hear the second sign of Laziness. “I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” (Matthew 25:25). Fear is an acronym for “false expectations appearing real.” Fear paralyses and locks us down in our shells. This man’s fear was that if he traded with the talent, he might lose money so he buried the talent and gave back the exact amount. He was so scared of failing that he couldn’t even trust the bankers to deposit the money with them. Dear friends, never bury your talents; do not hide your gifts. If you are too afraid to fail, then just pray and trust that God will support your little efforts.
The third sign of Laziness is viewing work as a curse. A lot us view work as a curse. For instance, if you came into the church this morning and saw me sweating profusely while sweeping the church myself, what would be your reaction? (talk true oh). Our first reading today describes the good wife as one who works with willing hands. A lot of women today (even among devout Christians) are praying seriously to marry a man rich enough to employ for them a cook, a cleaner, a driver, a gardener and even a nanny so that all they would care about is how to look beautiful. Meanwhile, there are some baby-children (even in their thirties and forties) who do not want to work because their parents have placed them on a monthly salary.
2. To Each According to His Ability.
Another important lesson this parable teaches us is that even though we are all gifted, we do not have the same abilities. I mean, stop comparing yourself to others and stop getting depressed because you feel cheated by God. We do not all have the same talents and even if we may have similar talents, there is always a variety of degrees to which we possess these talents. While one servant got two, another was given five talents not because he was luckier but because the Master knew his potentials. Look inwards, discover what you have inside you and make the best of it.
Avoid pulling others down just so as to shine in their place, life is not a racing competition and even if it were, every single person has their own race tracks. If you are running to catch me, you may be running in the opposite direction of your own race track and you would end up missing out of your true calling. In the end, the one who got five talents did not do better than the one who got two as both of them doubled their investment. Likewise, the one who got one talent had the capacity of doubling his if only he made use of it. Believe me, no one is cheated by God in this life.
3. Walk as a Child of Light; Avoid Darkness
As the year gradually draws to a close, we are reminded that everything we see and know right now (including our very life) must surely come to an end. What makes death so disturbing is the fact that it happens without prior warning. St. Paul describes the day of the Lord’s coming in our second reading as “a thief in the night.” He then goes on to say that we are not in the darkness for that day to surprise us like a thief. This means so long as we remain children of the light, we have no reason to fear death.
St. Paul says: “So then, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” Our Psalmist this morning sings: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord.” When we fear God and do what is right in His sight, we are assured of His blessings both in this life and in the life to come. In his commentary for today’s readings, Dr Pitre Ryan explains that sin distorts our image of God. When Adam and Eve sinned, they started seeing God as a threat rather than a loving Father. When we sin, we start to see God entirely different from who He is and our poor image of God makes us behave like this servant who hid his Master’s talent.
Conclusion: Trust and Obey God.
Truly, God desires the very best for us. He wants to see us prosper, He wants to see us happy and fruitful and He always desires our good. We only need to trust and obey Him. Yes, the world would come to an end but in the meantime, we must be busy with our talents. Jesus would say: “My Father is working still, and I am working.” (John 5:17)
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, help me to discover and use my talents for your glory. Amen.
Bible Study: Prov. 31:10-13,19-20,30-31, Psalm 128, 1st Thessalonians 5:1-6 & Matthew 25:14-30).